Ernest Lionel Hinde: Stoke Ferry’s Chemist & First Convicted Drug Dealer, by Jim McNeill

As a Member of the Pharmaceutical Society, Ernest Lionel Hinde MPS lived and ran his business on the High Street, Stoke Ferry in the first half of the 20th Century. His shop was quite large; carrstone faced with plate glass windows and his name ‘HINDE’ above the entrance doorway. Above this was a further, larger, now sadly lost, sign painted onto a bricked-in window which read; ‘HINDE CHEMIST, STATIONER and TOBACONIST’.

Hinde’s shop and the building on today’s High Street, Stoke Ferry.
Mr Hinde’s business changed from time to time as he tried providing various extra services including; hairdressing, seedsman, wine merchant, stationer, cycle dealer, motor engineer, and fancy goods dealer. His service as a hairdresser was rather common for chemists who often produced their own lines in toiletries, perfumes, lipsticks, hair dyes, etc., though Ernest may have bought in such items from elsewhere. Ernest’s shop would have had racks of medicine bottles graduated in half-fluid ounces, drawers full of corks of many different sizes, a powder folder, sets of apothecaries weights and racks of white wrapping paper for powdered medicines, with the red sealing-wax just waiting to be used, or, perhaps he had a new-fangled pill-making machine.
The village doctor, until 1928, was Henry Frederick Steele who lived in The Lodge; directly behind Mr Hinde’s chemist shop. I imagine that he could have used Ernest Hide as a source of medical supplies, at least from time to time. In the early 1900s over 90 per cent of doctors’ prescriptions were dispensed by the doctors themselves. Then, the National Insurance Act of 1911 brought around 14 million employed persons into a scheme which required general practitioners to write prescriptions for patients who were covered by new Act. Consequently, from January 1913, patients were able to present their prescriptions at the pharmacy of their choice. This must have brought increased trade to Ernest Hide for, as The Pharmaceutical Journal, remarked, “the business of pharmacy entered upon a new era”.
And so, to Ernest Hinde’s drug dealing scandal.…Ah, but first a little background on the opium involved (Laudanum) and the changing laws of the land.
Laudanum was made by dissolving opium in alcohol and was first introduced by a Swiss physician, Paracelsus, in the 16th century. Thomas Sydenham, a celebrated 17th century doctor, had a recipe that contained “one pint of sherry wine, two ounces of good-quality Indian or Egyptian opium, one of saffron, a cinnamon stick and a clove, both powdered”. In others, fruit juice, sugar, spices and opium were fermented into an alcoholic syrup. In fact, “Opium, and after 1820, morphine, was mixed with everything imaginable: mercury, hashish, cayenne pepper, ether, chloroform, belladonna, whiskey, wine and brandy.” (1) In the 19th century it became a very popular treatment for a very wide variety of ailments, and particularly as a painkiller.
The taking of opium has long history in our region. In the early 19th Century, travellers to Norfolk were warned to treat their pint in the pub with caution as their beer could be laced with opium to ward off the malaria that flourished in the Fens. Yet you didn’t need to go to some back street or drug den to score a hit: opium was available without restriction or any kind of prescription at your local chemist and druggist’s. It was possible to walk into a chemist, such as the one in Stoke Ferry, and buy not only opium and cocaine, but also arsenic. Even Mrs Beeton’s famous Household Management contained recipes for opium-based remedies!
Opium, laudanum and, opium-based patent medicines were widely available to Ernest’s clientele. The most popular patent medicine was Godfrey’s Cordial, advertised as “efficacious in most of the complaints incidental to young children”. It was recommended for soothing babies to stop them crying, and “if the mother of an infant takes an occasional dose, … she will find it most beneficial both to herself and child”. It became infamous for causing the deaths of young babies. Overdoses were not uncommon and some infants dying of malnutrition, because they were too drowsy to feed.
From 1914, in post First World War Stoke Ferry, there will have been a demand for affordable pain killers from returning injured and traumatised soldiers to soothe their inner and outer pain. In 1916, the army council enacted a Defence of the Realm Act regulation to prohibit the sale of cocaine and opium to troops. The legislation was widened to criminalise civilian possession of those drugs without a medical need.
The over-the-counter service finally ended when the UK’s Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, changed drug dependency, which had been treated by the medical profession as a disease, to that of a penal offence. The costly ‘War on Drugs’ had started and who was the first person in Norfolk to fall foul of this new Act? Why, none other than our very own, Ernest Lionel Hinde, who, for whatever reason, financial/medical/compassion, was brought up on charges at Downham Market’s courthouse in 1923:
“Legal Reports: Irregular Sale of Laudanum. — At Downham Market, on May 28, Ernest Lionel Hinde, chemist and druggist, Stoke Ferry, was summoned under the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, for having supplied laudanum to Morley Thomas Croot, Colin Mackenzie, and Victor George Eugene Manders, who had no licences. Croot and Manders were also summoned for aiding and abetting Mr. Hinde. All the defendants pleaded ‘Guilty’. Mr. D. Jackson, who appeared for Mr. Hinde, said it was a purely technical offence, as Mr. Hinde did not realise that the Act was in force. It was the first prosecution of the kind in Norfolk, and he suggested the case might be dismissed on payment of costs. The other defendants were quite ignorant of the Regulations. Mr. H. G. Lemmon, who appeared for Croot, said the case exhibited very clearly the difficulties of legislation by Regulations. These Regulations were not accessible to everybody. The Act was aimed at the more dangerous drugs. He supposed that if anyone suffered from toothache, he would have to apply to the superintendent of police for a certificate. The object of the prosecution would be fully met by the publicity that would be given to the proceedings. Mr. Hinde was fined 2s. 6d. in each case, with costs, making 27s. 2d. in all. The cases against the other defendants were dismissed.” (Source: THE CHEMIST AND DRUGGIST, June 2, 1923.)
(1) In the Arms of Morpheus: The Tragic History of Laudanum, Morphine, and Patent Medicines”, by Barbara Hodgson. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books, 2001, page 104.

Hopefully, when Stoke Ferry’s Blue Bell pub reopens (fingers crossed) local stories such as that of Ernest Lionel Hinde will be on display and available to all who visit, eat and enjoy their (hopefully) opium-free drinks!
Feel free to visit my local history blog at https://norfolknotesblog.wordpress.com
Take care everyone, Jim McNeill, Stoke Ferry

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