Website of the Laceby History Group

Horace Watson 1813 - 1899

As the last century grew to its close, a man who can only be referred to as a "grand Victorian" died. He was the very image of what Victorian businessmen have become known for - hard work, energy, enterprise and compassion. This Victorian gentleman lived and worked in Laceby. His name was Horace Watson.

Much has been written about this man, and so that he can best be recorded for posterity in the Chronicles of Laceby, what follows are extracts about him from other writings. Starting first with three newspaper accounts recording his death in September 1899.

GRIMSBY NEWS 29th September 1899 - 

Lacehy has sustained a great loss in the
death of Mr Horace Watson which took
place early on Wednesday morning at the
advanced age of 86.

The deceased gentleman was well known by
every man, woman and child in the
neighbourhood, and by his kind acts had
endeared himself to all. He will be
interred at Laceby on Saturday.

GRIMSBY NEWS 3rd October 1899

LACEBY - Interment of Mr Watson.
The mortal remains of Mr H Watson were
interred on Saturday amid signs of deep
mourning. Mr Watson was born at
Kirton Holme, near Boston on July 24th
1813, and had consequently reached the
ripe age of 86. After leaving school
he was with his father, a druggist at
Laceby, until 19 years old . At that
time Mr Henry Oxenden (afterwards
Sir Henry) made him a present of £3 3s Od
worth of medical works , and a letter of
introduction to an eminent London Surgeon
who gave him the privilege of assisting in
dispensing and taught him to blee.
Becoming very ill with Asiatic Cholera, he
returned home, and after a few months was
bound apprentice to Dr Richmond of
Grimsby. He was there for two years
when Dr Richmond failed, and he returned

He first introduced his famous "Family
Pills" (made from his own recipe) to
the public in 1837. In 1846 he added
to his other business that of printing,
and in 1852 he bought a two-horse steam
engine and a super royal press, and
issued Grimsby and local time-tables.
In 1854 he first published the Grimsby
Advertiser, with a circulation of
one thousand copies weekly .

In 1860 he took offices in Grimsby and
published a monthly magazine .

In 1889 he gave up his retail business,
which was carried on until 1897 by
Mr G R Cook (now Postmaster at Cleethorpes)
and since that time by Mr Edward Darley
(an old apprentice with Mr Watson), and
devoted all his time and energy to that of
pill-making, the business having grown
very considerably.

GRIMSBY NEWS 6th October 1899

The funeral of Mr Horace Watson, Pharmac,
eutical Chemist of Laceby, took place
on Saturday last amid every manifestation
of grief at his demise. The deceased,
who was 86, had died from senility. He
was of a most benevolent disposition and
in his quiet unostentatious way had been
a very great friend to the poor, who will
miss him sadly.

He was always anxious to join in any
movement having for its object the general
welfare of the parish, and was held in the
highest of respect by all classes, being
a man of broad and generous sympathies.

In order to show the esteem in which he
was regarded on the day when his remains
were consigned to the, grave in Laceby
Churchyard, the business premises in
Laceby were closed, and the blinds of
dwelling houses were drawn whilst the
inhabitants of Laceby and district
generally attended the funeral.
The first portion of the service was held
in the Parish Church, of which the deceased
had been a Warden. The Rector (the Rev
H W Knight) officiated as well as at the
graveside .

At the Church, the hymn Abide With Me
was rendered, and the mournful congregation
departed to wend their way to
the churchyard, the Dead March in Saul
being feelingly played on the organ.

A number of floral tokens of regard
were sent .

The large attendance at the funeral
included Messrs M Cook (Grimsby)
S Macauley (Aylesby), VI D Field (Laceby),
G Croft (Grimsby) and R Walker (Aylesby) .
Deceased leaves a widow to mourn his

To put an account of his life in a more concise form, this account is taken of him from the Laceby Chronicle 1977.

'His reputation as a Pharmaceutical Chemist has gone beyond the bounds of the village, and world-wide his famous Family Pills have brought relief from suffering for many thousands of people. But in other respects he has been a stalwart of Laceby Village for more than fifty years. In 1840 on the death of his father, Edward Watson, he took over the thriving business, of grocer and draper, and in a few short years had also become a druggist and printer. He modernised the printing plant by installing a steam driven press, and for many years issued an annual Laceby and District Almanac which was much in demand. In the 1850's he became the village sub-postmaster and later an Insurance Agent. He became a qualified chemist and thus started producing his various patent medicines. When the farming slump came in the 1860s Mr VJatson became the Emigration agent in the area for New Zealand, thus helping some villagers find a new life beyond the shores.

He was also one of the cornmillers of the village, and acted as the village dentist . In later years he concentrated more on the

chemist si de of the business, but continued actively in the printing works. An advertis ement in 1896 stated "Watsons Local Time Tables - will be sent free for twelve months to any part of the United Kingdom on receipt of sixpence for Postage to the Proprietor, Horace Watson, Laceby, Grimsby."

But it is as a Chemist that he will be remembered. His famous Pills will still be talked about in seventy years time, and for this reason we reproduce one of his own advertisements from his Laceby Almanac, extolling the virtues of this famous product'.

From the llHistory of Freemasoning" in Grimsby 1939, this extract shows another side to Mr Watson.

'Another member worthy of particular mention is Bro. Watson, an apothecary of Laceby, whose shop was a landmark of that village until a few years ago. He was the original dispenser of a patent medicine widely advertised for many years as "Watsons' Family Pills." Bro. Watson, who was an ardent Freemason as well as a poet and musician, compiled a book of Masonic songs, which was in constant use at the Lodge. This book came into the possession of Bro. Anderson Bates, and the volume now in the archives of "Pelham Pillar" Lodge may he reasonably accepted as either the original or a copied version of it.

He attended his Lodge regularly, and although it was held on a day nearest the full moon, he invariably carried a lantern when he walked through the lanes, and across the ditches, back to Laceby, and on arrival sounded blasts on a horn. This not only heralded his safe return, but disturbed the peaceful dreams of his few neighbours.'

Even in the autobiography of an Edinburgh Doctor "Simpson the Obstetrician" Mr Watson puts in an appearance on page 139

Simpson -the Obstetrician a life of the great Edinburgh Doctor by MYRTLE SIMPSON


Not only vets, but butchers too began to reach for the bottle of chloroform. Christmas is a fatal period for pigs, and a Mr Horace Watson of the village of Laceby, near Grimsby, found it easier to use than a hammer.

The animals were bled, scalded, cut up and salted - "apparently not a bit the wiser for what had passed".

Further details of his printing and publishing enterprises can be seen in an article from the Grimsby News 12th August 1977, where his newspaper is described -

... way back in 1858 the Grimsby, Louth and North
Lincolnshire Advertiser was printed and published
at Laceby on a steam press by a man called Horace

This was 16 years before the present Grimsby News was
first published and a copy loaned to me gives a very
interesting peep back into Victoriana.

The paper, twelve issues of which cost two shillings -
payable in advance - is in good condition and has
London gossip, some poetry, and fine illustrations,
one of which shows the queen and Prince Albert looking
very young and attractive. Poor Albert was to die
tragically four years later.

In the Laceby History Group archives there are also copies of his Laceby and Grimsby Almanacs for 1875, 1876, 1896, 1897, 1898 and 1899. These almanacs were published for 30 years and even recei ved a mention in the Laceby Church Parish News December 1894 -

Mr Horace Watson' s Almanack, which has reached
its twenty-fifth year of publication, is better
than ever. The account given of Laceby, which
now contains a list of all the interments in the
cemetery since its opening in July 1 875 , is
especially good . It also contains an excellent
likeness of Mr Watson, which all Lac~by people,
as also those who have from time to time been
benefited by his marvellous "Family Pills," will
be glad to possess.

To conclude this section on Horace Watson here is another of his own adverts from The Laceby Almanac. It shows the range of products sold at his chemist shop, and at the bottom "Teeth Carefully Extracted. " There was no end to the man's talents!

After his death his famous "Pills" continued to be sold for several years, and although unfortunately there is none now in existence, one of his pill boxes has been kept. Here is a reproduction of the lid greatly enlarged to make for easy reading.

An unsolicited letter appeared in the Grimsby Gazette and General Advertiser, Vol 1, No 5, dated Friday October 7th 1853 listing some of the varied cures brought about by "Watson's Family Pills".

Three Thousand Boxes of Watson's Family Pills - I have calculated have been sold by me in Louth during the short period of my agency. Extraordinary cures of various diseases through their use have come under my own personal observations. The following are some of the most striking -

ANTHONY SNOWBALL cured of a bad leg by six boxes after being unsuccessfully treated by four eminent medical men.

ROBERT MUMBY cured of Tic Lumbago after being dreadfully afflicted for four years.

ROBERT REED cured of inveterate sick headache.

MRS REED cured of weakness of the stomach and billiousness.

MRS DAVEY cured of violent attack of Tic in a few hours by one 7 1/2 d box.

Edward Squire Bookseller Eastgate Louth
12th Se ptember 1853