Blue plaque unveiled for cold and flu remedy inventor Thomas Beecham

Picture Ed Nix
Picture Ed Nix

The founder of a pharmaceutical company that became a household name for its cold and flu relief products has been honoured with a blue plaque.

Thomas Beecham, manufacturer of patent medicines and inventor of Beecham's Powders, was born at Beecham Cottage, Lew Road, Curbridge.

Villagers and associates of the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board, including Cllr Susanna Pressel, new Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, were at the unveiling at the weekend.

Professor Catherine Jackson, associate professor of the History of Science at Oxford University, gave a speech on the rise of Mr Beecham from humble shepherd boy who sold herbal remedies as a sideline to founder of Beecham's, the famous pharmaceutical giant.

Oxford Mail:
Oxford Mail:

Eda Forbes, Blue Plaques Secretary, said: "The plaque was unveiled jointly by Professor Jackson and Linda Hole of Beecham Cottage who also laid on wonderful celebratory hospitality for the guests."

Born in Curbridge in 1820, Thomas Beecham received one year of schooling before becoming a shepherd boy at the age of eight.

At 11 he moved further away to Cropredy as a shepherd at Lawn Farm. Here he began to make herbal laxative pills based on his observations of plants and animals.

Around 1840 he moved on to Kidlington to live with his uncle, working variously as mail carrier and gardener at Hampden House, all the while making and selling his pills.

By 1842 he was living in Witney and travelling around the market towns to sell his wares.

In 1847 he made the decision to move to the industrial north to make his fortune.

His son Joseph Beecham succeeded him and made the business global.

Joseph used his wealth for philanthropy in the arts, especially for opera and ballet, for which he was knighted and made a baronet.

His son, Thomas’s grandson, was the famous conductor Sir Thomas Beecham.

Oxford Mail:
Oxford Mail:

In the 1920s Beecham’s became a professionally managed joint-stock company and then ventured into antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, which resulted in takeovers.

In 1989 the name was still visible in SmithKlineBeecham but finally submerged in 2000 in the new company GlaxoSmithKline.

GSK still uses the Beechams brand name in the UK for its over-the-counter cold and flu relief products.