Smashing piece of history – Moody’s ‘Rathbone’ herbal potions and amazing sarsparilla

It is with great pleasure that we are able to showpiece a smashing piece of history – thanks to the granddaughter of a true Canning Town legend.

And it really is one to warm our hearts, writes Colin Grainger.

Janice Oliver got in touch to brighten our lives with stories of her grandparents that will stir memories in generations of Newham and East London people.

They were George Moody and his wife Annie who ran a sarsaparilla stall and a herbalists shop in Rathbone Market. Their story lives on in the memories of thousands of people in our manor.

Like me Janice is a former Plaistow Grammar School pupil – though she left in 1964, the year before I started my stint there.

“My grandfather George was born in Ramsgate in 1879 into a long line of seafarers, and became an officer in the Navy and travelled around the world,” said Janice, who later went on to become a ward sister at East Ham Memorial Hospital.



+ George Moody

After marrying Janice’s grandmother, Annie Andrews, who was born in Broadstairs in Kent, they moved to Canning Town in 1909, where they opened a herbalists at a shop in Rathbone Street and started making potions for everyday ailments, using the knowledge he had acquired on his travels.

Said Janice: “He also offered homeopathy and local people came in for consultations. I remember as child helping to put ‘Rathbone’ skin ointment into tins, and there was also a ‘Rathbone’ cough mixture and various other concoctions.”

But probably the magical mixture that was remembered and enjoyed by generations was just around the corner.

“Soon he formulated a recipe for making a sarsaparilla drink – sarsaparilla is a medicinal root which is reputed to help purify the blood,” said Janice.

“This was sold outside the shop from a stall which was equipped with barrels of cordial and a water urn. It was served hot in the winter and huge blocks of ice were put into the water barrel to cool it in the summer.


+ Annie Moody

Added Janice: “As a girl I used to ‘wash’ the glasses, which entailed dunking them into a bucket of cold water and leaving them upturned to drain. My mother told me that a famous drinks firm had offered money for the recipe but my grandfather would not part with it and I still have the secret to this day. So many people have requested it but it remains a family secret.”

George died in 1945, but Janice’s mother and then an uncle continued with the business until the late 70s.

Featured image: Vera Moody on the stall.

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