Army veteran cuts the ribbon as historic Havant chemists shop is reopened

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HE fondly remembers visiting the chemists with his mother on a pony and trap.

That was in 1922 and 90 years on, Rob Harmer was all smiles as he opened the refurbished Davies Pharmacy in West Street, Havant, yesterday.

The opening ceremony

The opening ceremony

The 98-year-old, the shop’s longest-serving customer, was delighted to be asked by the new owner Keith Seston to cut the ribbon on the shop, which has undergone a £200,000 transformation.

Davies Pharmacy is the oldest independent pharmacy in Hampshire, having opened in 1879.

The building is so old that it sits on one of Havant’s original springs and under the floor boards Roman coins and pottery have been found.

A year ago the property was on the brink of collapse, but pharmacist Mr Seston and his wife Anu have renovated the building and made it structurally sound.

Mr Harmer now lives in Havant but used to live in Northney on Hayling Island.

The Royal Artillery veteran said: ‘If my mother wanted a tube of Germolene, she used to get her pony, hitch it to the trap, and trot over to Davies Chemist.

‘We trotted over nearly as quickly as a car.’

Mr Harmer said he was ‘astonished’ when Mr Seston asked him to open the shop when he popped in for something.

‘It’s magnificent today,’ he added. ‘It’s no mean undertaking.’

Mr Seston, dad to four-month-old Elisia, said it had been a ‘challenging’ year with all the building work.

He added: ‘I want to say thank you to my staff who have endured a horrendous time in there and never failed to work with good humour and enthusiasm – and I am proud of you all.’

He wanted to thank Nutbourne builders and Havant architect Martin Critchley for helping to transform the premises.

Much of the original building remains, however.

It contains a stone wall, thought to be remnants of Warblington Castle.

Mr Seston discovered an old medicine spoon made from cellulose, one of the earliest forms of plastic. Invoices from London going back to 1870, including one from Crosse & Blackwell, have been found, as well as a musket ball that could date back to the English Civil War.

Mr Seston said: ‘In Victorian times, this place was beginning to thrive. The history is phenomenal.’