Nos 43 & 44

43 & 44, High Street.

In about 1903, No. 43 was acquired by Boots Cash Chemists (Eastern) Ltd., and combined with No. 44.

c1903 (Boots Cash Chemists (Eastern) Ltd.) (Boots the Chemists Ltd.) (Boots UK Ltd.)

Jesse Boot (1850 – 1931) was the founder of Boot & Co. Ltd., in Nottingham in 1883. Prior to this, he had been helping his mother Mary run the herbal business the ‘British and American Botanic Establishment’ at 6, Goose Gate in Hockley, Nottingham, following the death of his father John in 1860. John was born in 1815 in Radcliffe-on-Trent where he worked as an agricultural labourer for many years. John’s first wife died and he later married Mary Wills, the daughter of a Nottingham bookkeeper. In 1851, they were living at 71, Woolpack Lane, which ran parallel to Goose Gate. John and Mary prepared many of the herbal remedies themselves, at the same time running the shop. John became one of the foremost experts in medical botany, and undertook many lecture tours and organised promotional events. One of his advertisements from 1854 read:

‘BRITISH AND AMERICAN BOTANIC ESTABLISHMENT. 6, Goose Gate, Nottingham. J. BOOT takes the opportunity of thanking his numerous friends and the public for their liberal support during the last five years, in which period he has successfully treated almost every type of disease, and can confidently assert that the vegetable kingdom affords a remedy for all. The whole of the Vegetable Remedies used in the Botanic Practice can be had Genuine at the above Establishment; as can also the following Works:- Dr. Skelton’s Medical Adviser, the most brief but comprehensive treatise yet published on the practice, price 2s. 6d. …..Plea for the Botanic Practice, price 2s. 6. ….Treatise on Cholera. Price 6d. ……Botanical Record, price 1d. ….. Wholesale and Retail. J. B. can be consulted at his Residence, 6, Goose Gate, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.’

Jesse was only ten when his father died and he left school three years later to work for his mother. Besides shop duties, Jesse helped collect plants for his mother to make up some of the potions that they sold. In 1871, when he turned 21, Jesse became a partner with his mother and the business then became ‘Mary & Jesse Boot – Herbalists’. He began advertising widely and frequently, at the same time expanding the range of medicines and toiletries that he stocked, whilst always undercutting the prices of his competitors. In February 1871 he started running a weekly series of advertisements that listed 128 items on offer at M & J Boot’s shop.

In 1881 Jesse took the opportunity to expand and modernise his premises. He took a 99-year lease on Nos. 16–20 Goose Gate and engaged a local architect to design a new store. The impressive three-storey store was opened in 1883 and the business was registered as Boot & Company Limited. He adopted dramatic window displays to draw in customers and show off the new products on offer. One such display was composed entirely of Seltzogenes (used for making fizzy drinks – see William Henry Cockle at No. 59, High Street). Another innovation was the installation of a passenger lift to take customers up to the first floor showrooms. Now he started on a vigorous expansion campaign to open new shops across Nottingham and, in 1884 to other towns and cities. The first of these in October that year was in Sheffield, quickly followed by another in Lincoln.

Jesse’s success was achieved through his combination of ambition, business acumen and hard work. In 1885 he suffered a breakdown and he was so worn out that he contemplated selling the company. However, his sister Jane persuaded him to take a holiday in Jersey. He began to relax and to enjoy the scenery and socialising with new acquaintances, and he met Florence Rowe (1863-1952), the daughter of a bookseller. They married in 1886 and their first child John was born in January, 1889. Florence took an interest in the business and introduced a range of new lines including books, stationery, picture frames and artists’ materials. Boot’s pharmacies were now becoming department stores. In 1892 Jesse opened a magnificent new shop on a prime site in the centre of Nottingham, on the corner of High Street and Pelham Street. This flagship store was remodelled in 1903 with a splendid new Art Nouveau frontage. The manufacturing side of the Boots business had initially been confined to the premises and outbuildings in Goose Gate but Jesse now moved this into a former lace factory at Island Street, which backed onto the Nottingham Canal, enabling coal for the factory’s generators to be brought directly to the premises.

Jesse was by now one of the country’s most prominent businessmen and this was acknowledged in 1909 when he was awarded a Knighthood. In December, 1916 he was awarded a Baronetcy, taking the title of Lord Trent. Both Jesse and Florence were significant philanthropists, giving generously towards projects mainly, but not exclusively, in Nottingham, including a new building for University College.

In 1920 Jesse was made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Nottingham, but by this date he was unable to walk unaided and attended the ceremony in a wheelchair.  His failing health caused him to review the future of the business and he sold it to Louis Liggett, head of the United Drug Company of America later that same year. Jesse’s son, John, became a director at Boots and was able to take advantage of deteriorating economic conditions in the USA to buy the company back in 1933. John Campbell Boot (19/01/1889 – 08/03/1956) became the 2nd Baron Trent when his father died and continued the expansion of the company. He also continued the philanthropic work of his father at University College Nottingham and when it was granted full university status in 1948 became its first Chancellor.

By the turn of the century, there were over 250 shops across the country and by 1916 this had more than doubled to 555, increasing to over 800 branches by 1927. The 1,000th store was opened in 1933.

In 1968 Boots acquired the 622-strong Timothy Whites & Taylors Ltd. chain.  The Boots Pure Drug Company became the Boots Company Limited in 1971. Boots bought Clement Clarke Ltd. and Curry and Paxton Ltd. in 1987, and Boots Opticians became the UK’s second largest chain of opticians.

Jesse Boot died on 13th June, 1931, aged 81. Florence died in 1952, aged 90, and John died in 1956, aged 67.

The King’s Lynn branch opened in about 1903 with the acquisition of the adjacent premises of Nos. 42 and 43, High Street, previously occupied by R. T. Carter and T. W. Hayes respectively. The latter was still listed in the 1904 trades’ directory (Kelly) but may already have ceased trading. The two shops were demolished and a new Boots store was built, being set back to a line prescribed by the Corporation.

Boots rarely advertised locally apart from at Christmastime. In December 1913, their advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser read: ‘There are thousands of Xmas presents to select from at the nearest Boots branch, so that if you do not see what you want in this advertisement, you will be certain to see it there. Just walk leisurely round the establishment – you will not be pressed to buy – and you cannot help making a happy choice for your friend from all the useful and beautiful articles on view’. These included a silver-mounted jewel casket for 8/6; a silver-mounted hand mirror for 10/6; a sterling silver-mounted clock for 5/6; a collar box for 3/6; and a lady’s dressing case for 21/-.

Boots continued to trade from Nos. 43 & 44 until the early 1970s when they moved across to the other side of High Street, into new premises built on the site of Scott & Son’s old shop on the corner of Purfleet Street.

c1974 (Topshop)

After Boots vacated the premises, a branch of Topshop opened here.

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