Tribute: John Owen Herbert Newstead

John Newstead led a rich and long life, typified by one particular aspect: that of service to others.

He attended the City of Norwich School from 1942 until 1949, and went on to do national service in Austria. He served in Klagenfurt and visited Vienna. It was from there that he applied to study pharmacy in Leicester.

After qualifying as a pharmacist, he spent a year at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. He then worked in Folkestone before moving to Peck’s, a prestigious pharmacy in Cambridge. There, an inspector for the then Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain told John that Sprowston, a suburb of Norwich, was expanding and needed a pharmacy. He lost no time in establishing his first pharmacy in Blenheim Road, becoming a valued member of the community.

In his younger days, he was an active member of the Round Table and later the Rotary. He travelled widely to support them in various ways, collecting pennants from the places he visited. 

He had many hobbies, notably antiques (especially guns), target shooting at Bisley and fine wines. He studied wine at both the French School of Wine and the German Wine Academy. Always an entrepreneur, he turned his hobbies into successful businesses — one of which was leading wine tours to some of his favourite vineyards in Germany and France.

John noticed that pharmacy was changing in the late 1960s and 1970s, and that many traditional pharmacies were closing. He made it his life’s work to preserve that heritage. John and his wife, Janie, became regular attendees at events involving the history of pharmacy and he was on the national committee set up for this purpose. He built a Victorian pharmacy as a museum in the garden of their house in Boundary Road. He was familiar with older pharmacy techniques, such as pill making, and refined techniques for use in museum demonstrations. John maintained his involvement by going in each Friday for many years to catalogue the collection. The contents of the museum were eventually gifted to the City of Norwich Bridewell Museum.

More recently, John helped the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth with their collection of pharmaceutical items.

He recorded his passion for the history of pharmacy in a book called “A Pharmacist’s Tale”. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in 1978 in recognition of his work in this field.

John’s dedication to pharmaceutical heritage was acknowledged earlier in 2019 when he was awarded the British Empire Medal by Queen Elizabeth II. Due to ill health, he was presented with his medal at home by Richard Jewson, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, and he was rightly very proud to receive it surrounded by his family.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2019, Vol 303, No 7930;303(7930)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207030

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