When I was in London recently, I got to wondering if the building that housed the London Office of H. H. Warner was still standing. The London Office was one of the most successful of the foreign offices and existed from 1882-83 until well into the 1930’s. However, unlike the iconic Warner’s Remedies Building in Rochester, the London Office did not grace the company’s advertising. Indeed, I have only one almanac that depicts the London Office.
The back cover of the 1888-1889 British Safe Cure almanac featured sketches of all of the foreign office buildings, including the London Office located at 86 Clerkenwell Road, EC1. Unfortunately, the sketches are not great quality, but they gave me an idea of the type of building I was looking for. The question was whether the building had survived the last 115 years. London is a remarkable city that has existed since at least 43 A.D. Since that time, it has grown and expanded, endured invasions, plagues and great fires.
We know that the London Office moved several times during its existence. It was originally located at 81 Southampton Row, WC, which would have placed it near Russell Square and the British Museum. It apparently remained at that address until 1889 when it moved to 86 Clerkenwell Road, EC in the Borough of Finsbury. A few wooden shipping crates bearing that address have surfaced over the years.
Using the GPS on my phone, I was able to locate the site of the Clerkenwell Road office, but still was not sure if the building that had housed Warner’s London operation until about 1902 was still standing. After all, it might have fallen victim to the Nazi blitz during World War II or even to urban renewal. I wasn’t quite sure what I might find. However, as I rounded the corner of St. John Street and headed down the hill on Clerkenwell Road, I recognized it instantly. The drawing on the almanac was spot on. The rounded front corner of the building was unmistakable.
Not only was the building still there, it was in remarkable condition. There is no telling through how many hands this building has passed since 1902. It is currently the home of Club Zetter Wine Room & Kitchen, which looked to be a very upscale establishment. Indeed, the only significant change that I see when comparing the current building to the 1888 sketch is the fact that the front door has been moved to the side.
I was delighted to see that, much like the Safe Remedies Building in Rochester, this building has been restored and preserved. Bravo! As I was packing up my camera to head back to my hotel, I noticed on my London map that within a few blocks of the old Warner building was Warner Street and Warner House. Perhaps this is coincidence, perhaps not.
After 1902, the H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd moved to 18 Laystall Street, EC1. The location is less than a half mile from 86 Clerkenwell Road. There it remained until the mid-1930’s. My schedule did not permit a visit to the Laystall Street address, nor would I have known if the building there was the one occupied by the Safe Remedies company. It was, however, nice to know that Warner’s footprint in London remains.
When I first wrote about Warner’s Safe Pills over six years ago, I had assumed that the marketing of Safe Pills was limited to the United States from the Rochester Office. Indeed, Safe Pills were one of Warner’s original line of products along with his Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, Safe Bitters, Safe Nervine and Safe Diabetes Cure. Turns out, I was wrong.
In addition to his original Safe Pills, Warner also marketed his Cathartic Pills and later his Log Cabin Liver Pills. Of the three, the Cathartic Pills seem to be the hardest to find. Indeed, the pills are less common because, unlike the embossed bottled Safe Cure products, the pills were packaged in an unembossed vial with a paper wrapper. All of the Safe Pills seem to have been a purgative designed to relieve constipation.
Warner’s foreign offices clearly marketed his products in the pint and half pint bottles, which included his Safe Cure as well as Nervine, Diabetes Cure and Rheumatic Cure, until fairly recently, I had not seen evidence that the Safe Pills were sold abroad. It is now clear that his Safe Pills were sold abroad in London and Frankfurt. One would expect that they might also have been available in Melbourne and Toronto, but I have yet to see bottles to prove that.
As I have said many times, every time I think I have a complete handle on what Warner sold and where he sold it, I am surprised to find something new. If you have run across Safe Pills from foreign offices other than London and Frankfurt, please let me know and send pictures. Sometimes it’s fun being wrong.
Every so often, a really rare Warner’s Safe Cure surfaces for sale or auction and, if your timing is right and your wallet is well-endowed, it’s yours for the right price. You are looking at one such bottle. The Safe Nervine Half Pint from London in aqua or ice blue is on my “‘A’ List” of top shelf Warner’s. This particular gem was in the recently completed Glassworks auction. I wish I could say that I was the successful bidder, but, alas, I was not. I hope it ended up in a nice Safe Cure collection. Thanks to Glassworks for the use of this photograph.
In June of 2008, I did a post featuring some of the varieties of wooden shipping crates or boxes used by the Warner’s Safe Remedies Company to transport its Safe Cure and Safe Yeast to market. At the time of that post, the only wooden box I had seen from one of the foreign offices was a box from the Melbourne Office that I included in the post. Most of the Warner’s wooden boxes are scarce and those from foreign offices are downright rare. It is reasonable to assume that other foreign offices used wooden boxes to ship the Safe Cure products, but, for whatever reason, those boxes rarely surface. Until recently, I had not seen a wooden box from the London Office.
The London Safe Cure box pictured here is courtesy of Jeff Warner in England. It seems that the box was given to Jeff as a practical joke given his last name, but instead he ended up being the beneficiary of a nice Warner’s Safe Cure go-with. Jeff has also done some research into the history of the London Office and I will pass that along in a future post. Please note that this box is embossed “H. H. Warner & Co.”
The box also includes the London Office address as 86 Clerkenwell Road, E.C., London. The London Office operated at that address from approximately 1889 until roughly 1902 when it moved to Laystall Street. Amazingly, the London Office survived until the late 1930’s or early 1940’s.
If you follow this blog with any regularity, you have heard me say more than once that my favorite Safe Cures come from the London Office. That is not a slight against the cures from Frankfurt, Pressburg or Melbourne, but rather an acknowledgement that London offers, perhaps, the widest variety of types and colors, second only to Rochester. For example, the London Office offers us the remarkable sample in amber and green or the Safe Compound in 6″ or 5 1/2″ strap sided varieties. Also, the colors run from amber to ice blue aqua.
Although I have never had the opportunity to dig in Great Britain, I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance (virtually) of Frank Romanowski. Frank lives in the north of England and is an avid bottle digger. More to the point, he has had occasion to dig some nice Warner’s Safe Cures over the years. One such dig yielded some nice Safe Compounds pictured above. I asked him to share the story of that dig and he graciously agreed to do so. Here is his unedited account of that dig:
The ‘Compound’ Dig
It was February 28th 2010. A day in my digging career I will never forget! This is how the story began. My sister Helena is what we call here in the UK a ‘rambler’. That doesn’t mean she talks endlessly! It actually means that she is a member of The Ramblers Association, a national group which organises group walks through the countryside and takes pride in protecting rights of way. The previous weekend, my sister had been on one such ‘ramble’ and had spotted broken glass and stoneware at the bottom of a stream bank. I had asked her to look out for such tell-tale signs of possible old dumping grounds whenever she was out walking and had several leads which turned out to be false starts in the past. So I didn’t hold out much hope when she offered to take me to the spot.
It was quite a long drive and then a hike on foot, so it was mid-morning when we finally arrived at the site. It was just as she had said, broken stoneware jam pots and fragments of codd bottles could be seen in the stream and it was clear that they had come from the eroded edges of an ashy bank above it. I cut into the banking with my shovel and after removing about a foot of hard clay ash and bottle fragments began to appear. It looked promising! A few minutes later my heart sank a little as clear glass machine-made sauce bottles and jam jars began to surface. ”Another horrible late 20s site” I thought to myself. My sister took her dogs off for a long walk and left me to get on with the dig. Three hours and a ton of fruitlessly shifted ash later my mobile phone rang. It was my partner Catherine calling to enquire how I was getting on. ”I’ve got nothing” I told her ”I doubt I’ll be hurrying back to dig this place again”. A few minutes after ending our conversation I decided to fork in the sides of the trench. A small amber bottle fell face down on to the ash. ”Another Jeye’s Fluid” I thought to myself, picked the bottle up and turned it around. A Warner’s Compound!! I couldn’t believe it! A moment later the base of another appeared, alas it was only the base. An amber hair restorer had my heart racing again for a moment as i pulled it from the ash thinking it might be yet another Compound! I dug with renewed vigour for a few minutes untill suddenly the top of another small amber bottle appeared, sticking out of the wall of the trench. I gently eased it out….Warner’s Compound number two!! My sister returned shortly afterwards to find me one excited and happy digger! Upon returning home, Catherine couldn’t believe my good fortune. ”I want to dig one” she said, ”Shall we go back there tomorrow?” I didn’t need a second invitation to return.
March 1st, we set off good and early and upon arrival set about starting to dig each side of the trench I had dug the day before. Hopeful of yet more success, I quickly hit the bottom of the site in my trench…for little reward. Meanwhile, Catherine had been struggling a little with the hard clay that capped the site. ”Here, let me have a go” I said, quickly cutting off the clay in her trench to get down into the ash. As I lifted my shovel, a small amber lip appeared. ”Can I dig it out?” she said and then carefully lifted the bottle from the ash. Another sparkling Warner’s Compound! Elated we dug on, but unfortunately no more Compounds surfaced that day. I have since returned to the site on several occasions and have dug a further five broken Compounds. There is very little left of the site to dig now, but I live in hope!
Thanks for sharing Frank! I hope to have the opportunity to dig with Frank some day. Cheers.
About three years ago, I did a post on what I referred to as the “Big Print Safe Cure.” My selection of that term was because of the rather unusual size of the words “Safe Cure” in comparison to other half pint London Safe Cures. There is also a certain crudity that is not evident in the garden variety London Safe Cure. This particular specimen just sold on eBay for the tidy sum of $1,175, which may be contrasted with a normal amber London Safe Cure half pint that would fetch less than $100.
This is only the third example of this particular bottle that I have seen in over 30 years of collecting Warner’s. I saw the first one about five years ago and wrote it off as a “freak.” A desirable freak, but a freak nevertheless. The size and crudity of the words “Safe Cure” made me think it had been made by an unsupervised apprentice. Because I have now seen two more examples, I must conclude that this particular bottle was produced briefly (how briefly we don’t know) for use by the London Office, but discovered and pulled as unsatisfactory. This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems plausible and is similar in that regard to the “No Safe” Safe Remedies bottle, which must have met a similar fate.
This particular example came to the seller from London and originally sold on eBay for $25. Not a bad investment with a nice 4600% profit. Thanks to bean5024 on eBay for use of his pics and the background on this unique Safe Cure.