Corbyn & Co., chemists and druggists, London

  • Corbyn & Co.
MSS.5435-5460, 8094 & 8101
  • Archives and manuscripts

Collection contents

About this work


Papers relating to the business, including deeds, correspondence, wages books, recipe books and accounts. Also includes the papers of the Clutton family.



Physical description

26 volumes Partly printed. Partly membrane.


The items are arranged as follows:

MS.5435 Deeds and papers relating to the firm's premises 1726-1891

MS.5436 Papers of the Clutton family, and of Thomas Corbyn in partnership with Mary Clutton and Morris Clutton, 1738-54

MS.5437 Morris Clutton deceased. Papers of Thomas Corbyn as joint executor of his will 1754-69

MS.5438 Co-partnership agreements 1762-1890

MS.5439 Papers of Thomas Corbyn, and of Thomas Corbyn in partnership with John Brown, Nicholas Marshall and John Beaumont 1755-80

MS.5440 Papers of Corbyn, Brown, Beaumont and Stacey, and of their successors in co-partnership, 1782-1910

MS.5441 Correspondence and papers relating to the firm's overseas trade with North America and the Caribbean c.1745-1831

MSS.5442-5443 Foreign letter books, containing copies of out-letters to customer overseas, 1741-55 and 1809-51

MSS.5444-5445 Wages books 1762-1825

MSS.5446-5450 Manufacturing recipe books 1748-1851

MSS.5451-5452 Inventories and valuations of stock 1754-73

MSS.5453-5456 Private account books of George Stacey I and George Stacey II, successive partners in the firm 1772-1857

MS.5458 Papers of Josiah Messer I as an executor of the wills of John and Elizabeth Brown, John and Mary Beaumont, and Mary Rickman, 1783-1820

MS.5459 Papers of Josiah Messer I and George Stacey I as joint executors of the wills of Joseph and Mary Smith, 1768-1829

MS.5460 Biographical research notes concerning Thomas Corbyn and partners in the firm, c.1982

This is followed by the additional two accessions comprising MS.8101 and MS. 8094.

Acquisition note

Purchased from Richard Hatchwell, 1986 (acc. 347667 and 347693). Additional items were acquired at Phillips, 11 Dec. 1986, lot 65 (acc. 347677), and from Richard Hatchwell in 1991 (acc. 348807). Accession 1179 was given to the Library in September 2003 by Christopher Stacey (MS.8101). Accession 1220 was purchased from Mullock Madeley, Chartered Surveyors and Auctioneers, Church Stretton, in April 2004 (MS.8094).

Biographical note

Thomas Corbyn (1711-1791) began his career as an apprentice to Joseph Clutton, a London apothecary. After the latter's death in 1743, Corbyn entered into partnership with Mary Clutton, subsequently with Morris Clutton (d.1754). From these beginnings Corbyn & Co. developed rapidly as a major London firm of wholesale, retail and manufacturing chemists and druggists. Of particular importance was the firm's expert trade, especially with North America. In developing this and other concerns, Corbyn and his successors in partnership made ample use of their connexions as members of the Society of Friends. Successive partnerships from 1762 onwards brought various changes in the firm's name (see ms. 5438). In the late nineteenth century it was known as Corbyn, Stacey & Co., and this name survived until 1927, when the company went into liquidation.

Related material

In other repositories:

A further, small group of papers concerning Corbyn's relations with Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), chemist, druggist and American Revolutionary General, has been sold separately by Richard Hatchwell.

Additional items from the Corbyn archive, relating to the annual stock-taking in the years 1789-99, were acquired by the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain at Phillips' London saleroom 28 March 1985, lot 89. The Society also holds a material medical cabinet and drug jars formerly belonging to the firm.

Copyright note

Copyright in MS.8101 transferred to Wellcome Collection.

Finding aids

Database description transcribed from that in Richard Palmer, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine: Western Manuscripts 5120-6244 (London: The Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine, 1999).

Appraisal note

The papers which survive represent only a fraction of the firm's original archive. Severe losses must have occurred prior to the firm's liquidation, for in an article in the Chemist and Druggist in 1896 Henry Stacey deplored gaps in the firm's records. The items which he proudly displayed at that time appear to correspond, more or less, with what survives today. Regrettably, a number of items have been damaged by mice or rats.

The papers when received were in disarray, and the order in which they have now been arranged is artificial.


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Accession number

  • 347667
  • 347677
  • 347693
  • 348807
  • 1179
  • 1220