Our History

Hatton & Laws (established 1825) is in fact Australia's oldest Pharmacy!

The following photos are from a poster compiled circa 1970 by Ken Atherton (we believe) when he took ownership of the pharmacy from his father, F. Atherton.

history of hatton and laws building

proprietors over history of hatton and laws pharmacy

The following is the full write up from the aforementioned poster;

The Men Involved In Its History

Behind the establishment of Hatton and Laws is the incalculable learning of the men who made it grow.

Science has achieved much since early in the 19th century (1800's) when a pharmacy called "The Corner" opened on the intersection of Brisbane and Charles Streets, Launceston

But despite the great advances in the research laboratories, the family chemists of the past left behind them a legacy of achievement and public service.

As the grand old lady of Australian pharmacies, Hatton and Laws remains a tribute to these men.

For the story behind the establishment of "The Corner" pharmacy, the records go back to 1825, only 19 years after the founding of Launceston, when Mr Michael Bates of Halifax, Yorkshire, opened a "Chemist and Druggist's" shop in the city where Birchalls are situated.

Among others, a Mr. Towers was encouraged to come to Tasmania by Mr. Henry Reed, one of the most successful businessmen in Launceston at the time, who was in England on a visit.

Because of the prosperity of the city, Mr. Reed had made arrangements through a friend in England to interview anyone interested in migrating.

Mr. Towers was a good prospect because of his training, and when arrived in Launceston in 1842, proved a valuable asset to Mr Bates' pharmacy business.

In 1847, Mr. Bates died and Mr. Towers succeeded him.

Soon after, Mr. Towers was offered a section of the premises on the corner of Brisbane and Charles Sts, known as 'The Corner".

"The Corner" had previously been used by Mr. Reed, the man who persuaded Towers to leave England.

Mr. Towers moved into his new premises in 1848.

He had since married a Miss Hatton who emigrated from Halifax.

The marriages prompted the emigration of another member of the Hatton family, Mr. J. D. Hatton, whose name was to remain a part of Launceston for at least the next 120 years.

Mr. Hatton left England in December 1850, on the 352 ton Sarah Ann. The voyage took 105 days and he arrived in Launceston on April 4, 1851.

On his arrival, Mr. Hatton joined his sister and brother-in-law in the pharmacy business. He had previously undertaken an apprenticeship (in pharmacy) in Bristol.

Much was happening in Australia in 1851.

When gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851, Mr. Hatton had many offers to go with friends to the diggings, but he felt his duty lay in assisting his brother-in-law in the pharmacy.

In 1853, amid fabulous tales of wealth, a Mr. Hiles, formerly of Launceston, returned to the city on business. He met Mr. Towers and persuaded him to return to Geelong with him.

Mr. Towers arranged for a Launceston doctor, Dr. C. G. Casey, to hold the business in the name of Mr. Horace Laws.

All was well until Mr. Laws applied for registration.

Mr. Laws had left his apprenticeship papers in Yarmouth, England, and was prevented from taking over.

But Mr. Towers had made all his arrangements to leave Launceston and had take over premises in Geelong.

So, Mr. Hatton was left with the responsibility.

In October 1853, Mr. Hatton passed the necessary examination with credits which enabled him to carry on the business in his own name.

An agreement was arranged between Mr. Hatton and Mr. Laws that as soon as Mr. Laws received his deed of apprenticeship from England and passed the necessary examination, the business would be carried on as a partnership.

Mr. Laws passed his examination in November 1853 and so was established the firm Hatton and Laws.

In May 1857, an old chemist and druggist, a Mr. Hughes of Longford, died and Mr. Hatton moved to Longford and developed a lucrative business.

The following year, Mr. Laws took charge of the Longford business and Mr. Hatton moved back to Launceston.

During the later part of the 1850's, following Mr. Laws' moving to Melbourne, Mr. Hatton took on as an assistant, Mr. J. W. C. Laws, who stayed on until long after the business was disposed of in 1880.

In 1887, great changes took place on "The Corner".

The first was the purchase of the property by Hatton and Laws.

A Mr. Mackay of Sydney had proved ownership and indicated that he was willing to sell.

Hatton and Laws agreed to pay the price asked for the property, which is understood to have been 100 pounds and back rates.

In 1875, Hatton and Laws took over the old Launceston family business of Mr. F. B. Spicer which was carried on under the management of Mr. F. Holmes.

On June 30, 1877, Mr. Horace Laws decided to make a trip to England and the dissolution of the old firm of Hatton and Laws was arranged and the business fell into the hands of Mr. Hatton.

At the same time the firm disposed of the Longford business to Mr. Arthur Whitfeld.

From 1877 to 1879, "The Corner" flourished and in 1879 Mr. Hatton retired and returned to England.

The business and all its old associations was handed over to Mr. Hatton's two most trusted and devoted colleagues, Mr. J. W. C. Laws and Mr. F. Holmes, who took control of the business in February 4, 1879.

Mr. J. C. Laws retired in 1886 and Mr. Thos. Carr became a partner in 1887, and remained until he retired in 1986.;

During the turn of the century, under the control of Mr. F. Holmes, business on "The Corner" increased rapidly.

In 1914 Mr. Holmes admitted his two sons, Mr. F. T. Holmes and Mr. C. O. Holmes into a partnership which ended on their fathers death in September 1916.

Mr. L. A. Holmes then joined the business and became manager of the St. John St. pharmacy.

In 1926, Mr. L. A. Holmes died.

Eight years later, Mr. F. H. Atherton, a grandson of Mr. F. Holmes, (senior) joined the firm as an apprentice.

Mr. Atherton qualified in 1939 and moved to Henry Francis and Co., Melbourne for experience.

In 1940 Mr. Atherton joined the R.A.A.M.C. and was captured with the 8th Division A.I.F. in Singapore and remained a P.O.W. until September 1945.

In 1946, Mr. Atherton re-joined the firm and the St. John St branch was sold to Mr. P. F. Holmes.

In 1952 Mr. F. T. Holmes retired and Mr. C. O. Holmes became the sole proprietor.

Mr. C. O. Holmes retired in 1957 and Mr. Atherton bought the business. Mr. Holmes died in 1963.

In 1968, Mr. Atherton's son, Mr. K. J. Atherton joined the firm as a student after completing his academic course.

He qualified in 1969 and returned to Hatton and Laws the next year after a period of relieving work.

The progress of the firm since 1825

Thirteen years ago a toothbrush manufacturer began a search for the oldest pharmacy in Australia.

It found Hatton and Laws.

the investigations went back to 1825 when a pharmacy was established in Brisbane Street on the site now occupied by Birchalls by Mr. Michael Bates. It was established in 1825 and moved to "The Corner" in 1843.

this pharmacy, known since 1853 as Hatton and Laws, has built a tradition which has spread throughout Northern Tasmania and to the mainland.

Later the Launceston druggist and chemist, Mr. J. G. Towers move to the corner of Brisbane and Charles St and in 1848 a new building was erected.

In 1848, a Mr. Towers, who was then the proprietor, gave instructions to a Mr. William Tyson (senior), to prepare plans and build a pharmacy known as the Corner, which remained until 1927, when it was rebuilt.

The store served Launceston throughout the remainder of the 19th century and well into the 20th.

In 1927 the first section of the present building was completed.

The second section was completed in 1938.

In 1958, a company was formed by the proprietors of the five retail businesses occupying the building and purchased the freehold from Messrs F. T. and C. O. Holmes. 

In 1875 Hatton and Laws extended its Launceston business to Brisbane St where Joseph the Jeweller's now and several years later moved next door to the corner.

The pharmacy (now called Kelly and Larke's Pharmacy) was bought from Mr. F. Spicer and remained part of Hatton and Laws until 1946, when it was sold to Mr. P. F. Holmes.

Hatton and Laws pharmacy remains - the longest survivor in Australia.

According to the investigations fo the toothbrush manufacturer, printed in the Australian Journal of Pharmacy in 1957, the next oldest pharmacies were -

- South Australia: Freeman Chemists, Theatre Royal Building, Adelaide - operating at the same address since 1840.

- New South Wales: McCarthy Pty Ltd, 7 Hunter St, Sydney - run continuously since 1853

- Victoria: Well's Pharmacy, Kyneton - established by Mr. J. J. Wells in February 1855.

- Queensland: E. R. Row, Rockhampton - founded by Mr. E. R. Row in 1862.

- Western Australia - Allan McWater, Guildford - founded in 1894 by Mr. J. H. Tindale.

Hatton and Laws service has not been confined to Launceston.

In 1867, Hatton and Laws extended its service to Melbourne and Mr. Horace Laws took charge of a business at 61 Bourke Street, bought from a Mr. Dunstone. After some years it was sold to a Mr. Dukall, Mr. Laws remaining in Melbourne.

Other Tasmanian centres have also had Hatton and Laws pharmacies.

Longford is one.

In May 1857, a man named Hughes, a chemist and druggist at Longford, died.

A request was made that Hatton and Laws buy the pharmacy.

S. Mr. J. D. Hatton took over the business.

In 1877, the business was sold to Mr. A. Whitfield. It is now owned by Mr. N. Hunt.

Hatton and Laws established a business in Deloraine under the management of Mr. Hammond Laws in 1859.

The business was carried on for some years with success and ultimately disposed of to Mr. H. W. Laws.

Now it is Winkles Pharmacy.

In 1887 Hatton and Laws moved into Latrobe.

The business was bought from Mr. George Padman and Mr. J. McIlwaine was appointed manager.

Mr. L. E. O. Ready was apprenticed to Mr. McIlwaine.

Mr. McIlwaine was moved to Victoria in 1891 and A. H. Turton became manager.

In 1892, Mr. Albert Roche succeeded Mr. Ready as the apprentice. Mr. R. F. Johnstone succeeded to the management in 1899 and acquired the business soon after.

Mr. Johnstone later moved to Devonport, leaving Mr. Harry Coventry in charge at Latrobe.

The Latrobe pharmacy is now owned by Mr. L. Coventry.

The pharmacy business in Ulverstone was bought by Hatton and Laws in 1919 from the trustees of Mr. G. C. Jackson.

Mr. W. H. Brookman was manager for a while, being succeeded by Mr. L. E. O. Ready.

The pharmacy was later bought by Messrs A. J. Collins and Co. and is now owned by K. L. Gilham and E. T. Talbot.

Sheffields first chemist was Mr. Sam Breaden.

In June 1888, the business of a Mr. Nicholas was bought by Hatton and Laws, who sent Mr. George Padman as manager. Mr. Padman held the position until his death in 1922.

Sheffield's doctor, a Dr. Davis, did his own dispensing and a Dr. Smythe, of Latrobe, travelled to Sheffield occasionally.

Later Drs Steward and Payne made alternate weekly visits until Sheffield obtained its own resident doctor.

The first premises were opposite the Post Office and owned by Mr. Thompson of Launceston.

Mr. Padman built new premises in 1891 which were later enlarged and improved.

Hatton and Laws business in Sheffield (now the Don Ralph Pharmacy) was under different managers until sold to Mr. P. F. Holmes in 1929.

Despite the tradition of service and dedication to pharmacy over the years, Hatton and Laws history has not been with out humour.

A news item in The Examiner on Thursday, April 21, 1857, was one occasion. It read-

A SMASH - On Friday evening, a young female in a helpless state of intoxication reeled across Brisbane St and fell through the shop window of Messrs Hatton and Laws. Having "got in" in this most unconstitutional way, she evinced a desire to effect her egress in the same manner by making a dash at the opposite window; the attempt was only partially successful. She was unfortunate enough to knock a show globe through the pane of glass and capsize three or four bottles containing snakes preserved in spirit. The lady was eventually sent to the watch house.


Monday - Friday 9.00am - 5.30pm
Saturday 9.00pm - 5.00pm, Closed Sunday
us today
Corner of Charles & Brisbane Streets, Launceston, Tasmania, 7250
Phone 03 6331 4333   Fax 03 6331 2573
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