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Local History


A further documented reference to syphon-filling at Richard Doble’s shop occurred in October 1916 when he asked the Urban District Tribunal, an appeal board for those opposing their conscription into the military, for the exemption of an employee, Alfred Arthur Hicks, aged 22, chemist’s assistant and aerated water maker. He told the tribunal ‘This was the only male assistant he had, and he was dependent on him for operating the syphon-filling machine, which was used entirely for the manufacture of carbonated waters of the British Pharmacopoeia. Four men had left him to join the colours, and he would not have asked for exemption of this man had he been fitted for general service or garrison duty.’ The exemption was granted providing Hicks joined the Devon Volunteer Reserve in his spare time.


In October 1920 came the announcement that Richard Doble had sold his business. This did not altogether come as a surprise to those who knew him. The war period had been an extremely exhausting and stressful time for him. Also his wife, Leila, had become seriously ill, and died in 1917. Before closing-up Richard Doble needed to get back his stock of syphons for transfer to the new owner, and so a notice was placed in the Tavistock Gazette. I expect the appearance of this notice would have caused some of his customers to start frantically searching their cellars, sheds and outbuildings for missing syphons. I have a blue glass syphon etched PURE TABLE WATERS, MANUFACTURED WITH FILTERED WATER BY QUALIFIED CHEMISTS, DOBLE & SON LTD, TAVISTOCK which I suspect was one that could not be found.


The chemist’s business was bought by William Arthur Burnage who continued to trade under the name H.T. Doble & Son. In 1935 he sold out to Boots-the-Chemists who took over the adjacent shop in 1987, and today Boots still occupy both the 5 and 6 Duke Street premises. Richard Doble and his second wife, Dorothy, left Tavistock in 1921 for Babbacombe near Torquay, but returned in 1926 to live at 5 Marshall’s Cottages, Whitchurch Road, Tavistock. Richard Doble died there at the age of 80, on the 17th October 1943. Alfred Hicks, the assistant exempted from military call-up, went on to work for the new owner, William Burnage, and later Boots, and retired after nearly 50 years service in 1959. On the day of his retirement he recalled starting work in 1909 for Richard Doble when his wage was 3s 6d per week and his working hours were 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays. Those were the good old days.


I have been unable to find a photograph of Richard Doble or his chemists shop. If anyone has any photographs I would very much like to borrow and scan them.


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Doble & Son syphon


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