Dr. Giles Lawrence Roberts  1766-1834
 
This page shows the  'Dr. Roberts' Poor Man's Friend ointment pots originating from Plymouth in Devon
 
 

The son of Richard Roberts, Giles L. Roberts was born on 21st April 1766 at 'The Ship Inn' in West Bay, then known as Bridport Harbour. The Ship Inn was known locally as 'The Sloop', but in 1822 was renamed the 'Bridport Arms'. In his early years, Giles Roberts helped his parents run The Ship Inn. However, as his interest in medicine developed, Roberts set himself up as a chemist, opening a shop at West Street in 1788 and his trade and reputation grew. Although he had obtained a licence to draw blood, extract teeth and cauterise wounds, Roberts was criticised for his lack of formal medical qualifications.

Giles Roberts was persuaded to enroll as a student at Guy's and St Thomas hospitals in London, where he obtained certificates to practice as a surgeon, physician and apothecary. Two years later in 1797, at 31 years of age, he was awarded an Honorary Medical Diploma (MD) from the Royal College and University of Aberdeen.

In 1805, Doctor Giles Roberts opened his shop at 9 East Street, formally the Old George Inn where Charles II was almost captured by troops in 1651. Here he was able to set up a laboratory and give lectures. 

On a panel of the stone seat in Bucky Doo Square, there is reference to a pharmacist shop at 9 East Street.

Roberts married Phoebe Brown from Shipton. They had one child, but died in infancy. In 1807, Dr Roberts was appointed Medical Attendant to the poor in Bridport, taking the opportunity to campaign for better hygiene and during a cholera epidemic, distributed at his own expense, a pamphlet on healthy living.

He was known not to charge for giving medical advice. Dr Roberts was also a devout Methodist, actively preaching the gospel and opening chapels.

He died in 1834 and was buried in St Mary's churchyard in Bridport, where a large obelisk marks his grave inscribed 'His Memory is Cherished Especially by the Poor with Grateful Feelings'. The pharmacy continued to manufacture his ointment under the names of Thomas Beach and John Barnicott until 1903, then under Edgar Beach until 1946. Dr Roberts Close, off South Street, was named in remembrance of his work.

In the 1970's, a pharmacist bought Dr Roberts' old shop and discovered the original copy of the recipe for the 'Poor Man's Friend' in a sealed envelope marked 'Private'. It was bought by the Bridport Museum in August 2003 for £480. Other key pieces of Dr Roberts paraphernalia purchased by the museum included the dispensing cabinet at £2,185 that used to be in the East Street shop, his Medical Diploma and gas lights, which in 1832 had been the first in Bridport.

The 'Poor Man's Friend' ointment consists mainly of lard and fine English beeswax, plus calamel, sugar of lead, salts of mercury, oxide of zinc, oxide of bismuth, venetian red, oils of rose, bergamot and lavender. It would have been effective for the treatment of eczema and minor skin infections, mainly due to the zinc oxide.

The earliest pot state an inscription  'Prepared only by Dr. Roberts, Bridport'.  Following these pots, Beach & Barnicott appears as successors to the late Dr. Roberts. A black print variation is produced after 1910 with adiffernt print style.  Two type of pot exist, one with a recessed rim, and the other the normal flared lip type.

There are three prices for the pots.  A very large size with a price of 4/6, a mid size pot with a price tag of 2/9 and the common pot with the price of 1/1½. 
The pots carry a blue print and slight variations of print type are used, bold lettering, hollow lettering for example.
 
The Dr. Roberts SALE!

In 2003, an Auction house in Dorchester was instructed to sell items relating to Dr. Roberts including portraits, chemists equipment, books relating to the business, share certificates and some of the 
ointment pots amongst other things. An interesting and detailed article concerning the sale appears in BBR magazine no. 99.,
 


 

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1 1½

Earliest pot

Very rare

 
Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts

 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Very early pot, taller than norm.

 
Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts

 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Size comparison

 
Dr Roberts

 
Dr Roberts

 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Very early pot.

 
Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts

 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Hollow lettering, rolled lip

 
Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts

 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Bold lettering, flared lip

 
Dr Roberts

 
Dr Roberts
 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Hollow lettering, fat rolled lip

 
Dr Roberts

 
Dr Roberts
 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 2/9

Mid size

 
Dr Roberts

 
Dr Roberts
 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 4/6

Large size

 
Dr Roberts

 
Dr Roberts
 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

 Three prices & size comparison

All the pots are printed on both sides

 
Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts




 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors 

to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Recessed rim

 
Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts

 

 Beach & Barnicott, Successors to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Indented rim

Later variation

 
Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts

 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors 

to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Price 1/1½

Recessed rim

 
Dr Roberts

 




Variation with a black triangle either
 side of the company name blotting 
out the 'Ltd'

 

Beach & Barnicott, Successors 

to

Dr. Roberts, Bridport

Two closure comparisons 

 

Dr Roberts
 
Dr Roberts


 




John Barnicott 

c1804 - c1860


 
(c) Bridport Museum Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation



 


Thomas Edgar Beach 
 
1863 - -1955


 
(c) Bridport Museum Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation



 
 

There is a Museum located at Bridport, 
Dorset that displays artefacts relating to 
Dr Roberts.

The original premises that sold the Poor 
Man's Friend Ointment is now a cafe.
 



 

Two Annual Almanacs issued by
Beach & Barnicott

1882 & 1883
 



 


The famous recipe of the Poor Man's 
Friend Ointment.

This was a closely guarded secret but the formula of its contents is now public,
 



 

A large Poor Man's Friend ointment pot 
that is displayed at the Bridport 
Museum in Dorset.

Probably had a plain cover.
 

   
 
 



A very nice milk glass advertising plaque
for the Poor man's Friend Ointment

 





Auction Sales 
  • Dr Roberts, Poor Mans Friend,  early variation (without Beach Barnicott) stained, sold BBR auctions for £350 
  • Dr Roberts, Poor Mans Friend,  early variation (without Beach Barnicott) smudged transfer & hairline, sold BBR auctions July 2011 for £350 plus add ons.
  • Dr Roberts, Beach & Barnicott,  black print variation, good condition, sold Ebay BIN £26 + P&P
  • Dr Roberts, Beach & Barnicott,  black print variation, good condition, sold Ebay Australia AU$33 (£22) + P&P
  • Dr Roberts, Beach & Barnicott,  black print variation, good condition, sold Ebay BIN £26 + P&P
  • Dr Roberts, Beach & Barnicott,  black print variation, good condition, sold Ebay BIN £28 + P&P
 
Further detailed information regarding Dr. Roberts and the Poor Mans Friend pots can be obtained from the Historical Guide to Delftware and Victorian Ointment Pots book  produced by Messrs. Houghton & Priestley pages 109 to 113.