The incorporation of The British Drug Houses Ltd. in 1908 may be regarded as a natural step in the evolution of the pharmaceutical trade. When a number of businesses have been conducted separately for over 150 years, they do not come together, join forces, and amalgamate through just a passing whim. Something must be happening in their industry to account for this.
From 1714 to 1908 – nearly 200 years — the firm of Hearon, Squire and Francis had an uninterrupted and successful existence; from 1750 to the same date, the firm of Barron, Harveys and Co; from 1755 and 1760 respectively, the firms of A. S. Hill and Son, and Davy, Yates and Co, later combined in Davy, Hill and Co; and from 1762, Hodgkinsons, Clarke and Ward.
All firms of long and honourable record, therefore of great tradition, and consequently of reputation and strength. They formed the nucleus of The British Drug Houses Ltd., under the leadership of Mr. Charles Alexander Hill, B.Sc., F.I.C.
Similarly, in 1919, after the war, the world shortage of goods in all countries stimulated British manufacturers in all industries to quickly re-establish their pre-war connections in all parts of the world, and the B.D.H., hitherto a mainly domestic institution just emerging from its infancy, also turned its attention to overseas markets. Thus, to extend these markets, an important addition to the company was made by incorporating the old-established business, founded in 1798, of George Curling, Wyman and Co, and John Wyman, export wholesale druggists.
The pooling of resources effected by this amalgamation resulted in a great increase in the overseas trade of B.D.H. and sent its products practically everywhere in the civilized globe.
The B.D.H. main factories were extended in 1935 and they occupied an area four times greater than in 1908.
The company appears in the 1947 British Industries Fair Advert for Laboratory and Fine Chemicals including Analar Reagents for Research and Analysis (Dorset) and Medical Products and Pharmaceutical Chemicals; Manufacturers of Medical Specialities including Liver Products, Insulin, Sex Hormones, Vitamins, Penicillin Preparations.
By the 1960s, laboratory reagents and chemicals had become the core business, so the drug ranges were sold to Glaxo and the business became BDH Chemicals, then subsequently BDH Ltd.
Along the way, the company had acquired a host of British instrument and apparatus companies, merged under the Baird and Tatlock name and these were integrated with BDH Ltd in 1987.
1973 The BDH group was acquired by Merck, but the UK company name was not changed until 1990 when all the businesses were consolidated as Merck Ltd. The BDH name is still retained as a brand name.
By Paul Green