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Norfolk pharmacist’s aroma of Cromer

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Increasingly finicky legislation has more or less put paid to community pharmacists’ ability to devise and sell their own medicines, toiletries, perfumes and other formulations.  (Callie Jones)

But back in the 19th century many pharmacies offered a range of their own products, some of which became highly successful. One was Poppyland Bouquet, a flowery perfume devised by Daniel Davison, a pharmacist and a prominent figure in Cromer, on the north Norfolk coast.

For most of the 19th century Cromer was a quiet little fishing town, but from the mid-1880s until after the 1914–18 war it was a favourite holiday destination for well-off Londoners. Behind its popularity was Clement Scott, a Daily Telegraph journalist. Scott first visited Cromer in 1883 — probably given a free trip by the Great Eastern Railway, which was keen to generate publicity for its main line from London, which ended at Cromer.

Impressed by the town and its surroundings, Scott wrote a series of glowing articles. He called the area Poppyland because while walking along the cliff-tops he had seen a mass of poppies (now adopted as Norfolk’s official county flower). The interest aroused by Scott’s articles led to a boom in hotel-building in the 1890s to accommodate the town’s many London society visitors.  

Railway advertisements boosted the Poppyland theme, and in the late 1890s a new local railway line was dubbed the Poppy Line — a name still used by a five-mile heritage railway west of Cromer.

Daniel Davison took advantage of the Poppyland identity in naming his perfume. Poppyland Bouquet became a popular purchase to take home after a visit. Its fame spread until it was being sold around the world. It remained available until 1930.

A rare unopened bottle of Poppyland Bouquet can be seen in Cromer Museum, which also has the pharmacy’s recipe book containing the perfume’s complex formula, which included lily of the valley and violets

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