My Favourite Forgotten Fact About London


Until 1916, Harrods used to sell customers cocaine over the counter.

My pal Mike Jay is currently curating ‘High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs In History & Culture’ at the Wellcome Institute Gallery, Euston Rd.

6 comments on “My Favourite Forgotten Fact About London”

  1. Jon says:

    After 1916 it was mail order only?

  2. Alan Morgan says:

    All part of the the Great Binge. To quote Stephen Fry: ‘This was the time it’s . . . I think we’ve covered before: It was during the time of what they called The Great Binge, the period from the, sort of, 1880s up until the First World War, when everyone was on drugs, seemingly all the time. And you could go to Fortnum and Mason’s at the beginning of the First World War, and you could order a hamper for your boys at the front, which included heroine, cocaine, syringes . . . It was all legal’

  3. Steve says:

    Yes, but this was Horrid’s, after all. Can you imagine the price???

  4. Helen Martin says:

    If you have to ask – or imagine – the price you can’t afford it.

  5. Steve says:

    Wouldn’t want it. Cocaine never did a thing for me. Er, that is, you know, the way the effect has been described uh, never appealed to me. Yes, that’s it.

  6. Anne Fernie says:

    There is a fascinating book by Richard Davenport-Hines called ‘The Pursuit of Oblivion: The Social History of Drugs’ that charts some pretty weird and wonderful drug ‘fads’ over the years: arsenic, ‘ether frolics’, laughing gas and of course the opioids in all their forms (cough mixtures, grains, laudanum etc). The sheer ubiquity of intoxicants (alcohol included)in various guises and the sales figures cited really make you realise that the massive majority of UK citizens in all stratas of society in the years 1880 to 1918 were let’s say, not sober/straight……….

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