10 Feb 2020

Apothecary Anecdotes: Some Soap and a Castle in Wales

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

At the far end of the Apothecary’s Hall ( behind the baby scales, top left) is a small collection of boxes that once contained soaps.

The boxes are made of very strong card, and were often used for storage for things such as labels when the original contents had been used.  I also remember seeing several similar boxes in an old DIY shop in Pontarddulais, containing screws and nails.

A couple of the boxes would have held Pears soap.  This was created by Andrew Pears,  a London based barber, around 1800, who had a sideline making cosmetic creams and powders. He noticed that many of his products were being used to counter the effects of existing cleansers; the fashion in high society was for very pale skin,  as exposure to the sun indicated that you were a labourer.  The pale skin was often achieved by using compounds containing arsenic or lead, which will eventually cause skin damage ( or worse).

His translucent, mildly scented soap, became very popular, and is still available, although now made abroad.

Amongst the many endorsements for Pears soap were the actress Lillie Langtry, and the Italian opera singer Adelina Patti, who had bought Craig y Nos Castle on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in the late 1800s.

Craig y Nos is now fully functioning as a hotel and events venue, although there is still ongoing restoration.  I spent a couple of days there once, and was lucky enough to go on the historical guided tour on the morn of our departure.  We thought it well worth negotiating a series of ladders for the view from the roof adjacent to the clock tower.

Here is Adelina Patti singing “No Place Like Home”