Saturday, 4 July 2020

Sanitiser maker's links back to Victorian cough cure

source - BBC News

Sanitiser maker's links back to Victorian cough cure

Perhaps unsurprisingly there has been very little in the way of interesting vintage-inspired news to come directly out of the coronavirus crisis so this article about an historic company making hand sanitiser for the NHS is a rare and welcome example.  There are many facets of this story that make it worthy of inclusion here, not least the historical interest surrounding the Victorian "cough cure" that started the company in question on the road to where it finds itself today, taking inspiration from its founder and helping to provide much-needed equipment for those dealing with Covid-19 in hospitals up and down the country.

source - Flickr

As with so many all-purpose medicines that began to appear in the 19th century, Brown's Cough Bottle included among its ingredients several classic Victorian standbys such as laudanum (opium + alcohol), cannabis and chloroform.  The result, as was to expected, was a rather addictive drug as the accompanying article explains.  The classic style of advertisement from the time (above) using its alternative and more accurate name of Chlorodyne, shows just what wide-ranging a treatment it was marketed as - able to treat anything from a simple cough right up to gout and rheumatism (probably would have shined the furniture up a treat, too).

Nevertheless it was obviously doing something right (beyond getting the user hooked on opioids!) as despite changes to the content causing an initial downturn in its popularity the medicine still lives on today - albeit under the control of a different company - as J. Collis Browne's Mixture for coughs and stomach complaints (and with a slightly less addictive 1mg of morphine).

BCB International, which can still trace its origins back to Collis Browne and his cough medicine (BCB originally standing for Brown's Cough Bottle), now owes more to his other major interest - yachting and open air pastimes - by manufacturing adventure equipment and emergency supplies, with the cough mixture now produced by a separate but still family-owned branch of the business.

source - BBC News

Now BCB has stepped up to the crease during the pandemic and used its facilities and experience in producing emergency equipment to swiftly start production of hand sanitiser and PPE for use in hospitals and by key workers.  In a fine tribute to the man who started it all for them 172 years ago - and who I'm sure would be proud and astounded were he around today - they have branded the hand gel Dr Browne's Hand Sanitiser.  All in all then a splendid piece of good news for these trying times, with a vintage twist; I take my hat off to BCB International for taking inspiration from their past in helping to produce equipment that will help ensure many people's future.

To finish on a somewhat humorous note the name J. Collis Browne was not unknown to me before this news item appeared on my radar, although from a rather different source quite unrelated to its actual origin.  Without doubt one of the more bizarre CDs in my music collection, Collis Browne's Jamboree contains an eccentric selection of songs and performances by the creator of The Chap magazine Mr Gustav Temple and some of his chums.  Produced back in 2003, when The Chap movement was but a mere 4 years old, it was originally only available to order through the magazine but I was able to pick up a used copy online a few years ago.  It truly is an eclectic mix of ukelele covers (Champagne Charlie and The Kinks' Dedicated Follower of Fashion among others) and weird recitals such as Collis Browne's Recipe, above.  Quite where Mr Temple and his cohorts got their inspiration for this frankly weird record from I don't know but clearly they must have come across the name J. Collis Browne somewhere along the way (I sometimes wonder if they found a stash of Dr Browne's original mixture, necked the lot and came up with the CD in an opium-fuelled stupor one afternoon...).  The result is this strangely appealing disc, which is a valued part of my chappist musical collection and my first introduction to the name of Collis Browne.


  1. Hello,

    I recently finished watching all of Poirot while in lockdown. While looking up something I came across your older posts about Captain Hastings which I really enjoyed. I'm a big fan of his and is fashion sense. Did you ever consider starting those up again? Did you ever cover 'Curtain' and I just didn't see it?

    1. Hello Robyn,

      Thanks very much for your message. I can think of few better things to do during lockdown than re-watch all of Poirot and I hope it kept you entertained. I'm glad you enjoyed my Captain Hastings posts - I certainly intend to start doing them again, especially since you've asked; in fact I've just finished screen-capping the next episode (The Dream) so hopefully it shouldn't be too long in coming. I haven't done Curtain yet (only just got used to the idea of it being all over!) but did jump to The Big Four when that came out, as you may have seen. Anyway, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog and the Captain Hastings posts, thanks.


Don't just sit there, type something! I enjoy reading all comments.


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