Messrs Rickard, Lane and WH Box

William Henry Box was a Cornish herbalist, who opened his first herbal shop and manufactory in 1875. It was called the Giant Pill Manufactory.

Advert from 1893William Box had discovered the wonders of herbs by chance. He had been diagnosed in his teens as a consumptive - now called pulmonary tuberculosis – and the doctors thought that he would die. He was cured by a old Cornish herbalist and this inspired him to devote his life to herbal medicine. He studied for years in his free time before establishing the business when he was 30 years old. 

He wrote of his early illness "I had a strong impression that there was something in nature that could cure me, and eventually the herbs I fixed upon were gathered and prepared, and in the course of a few weeks, I mended so wonderfully that I was able to return to my work." 

In 1888, WH Box moved to Plymouth, expanding his business. His shop remained there for the next 70 years with his slogan "Box's Pills Save Doctor's Bills" emblazoned across the front, becoming an enduring Plymouth landmark. It was from this sailing port that early herbalists had departed to America in the days of the Pilgrim Fathers and WH Box was very influenced by the Quaker ideals of good, simple nourishment and abstinence from alcohol. He endorsed the principles of good, simple fare that nourished the body and kept it healthy. 

Mr Box made a wide range of herbal tablets for a range of conditions. His pills were famous and he was awarded two Gold Medals and three Distinction Awards in the Paris and Rome Exhibitions of 1912 for his work. William Box also made these tablets for his friend and colleague Duncan Napier, the famous Scottish Victorian herbalist from Edinburgh, such as his Napiers Anti-Fat Pills with bladderwrack and clivers! 

Herbalists at the heart of our business

Advert from 1937Over time, William Box's business was amalgamated with that of Henry Lane, and taken over by his apprentice E.J. Rickard. We also run a clinic for the people of Leigh, also with a strong herbal tradition from the famous Lancastrian herbalist Charlie Abbott. The centuries of knowledge we have inherited from these herbalists, combined with the legacy of Duncan Napier, is kept alive by our medical herbalists who practice in the Napiers Clinics. We are led by our patients' needs and not by fad and fashion, no matter what 'new discovery' is made in the rainforest!

Present time

In the Victorian times, adulteration and poor quality were real problems and William Box set himself the highest standards with full control over purity at every stage of production. He grew and dried most of the herbs used in his tablets himself, from farms and moors in the Cornish and Devonshire countryside. They were then carefully packed and sent by train to his manufactory. 

His formulas were first registered as medicines in the late 1960s by E.J. Rickard and his son John Rickard, who still runs a herbal shop in Mayflower Street, Plymouth to this day. 

These days all THR herbal medicines are manufactured under strict quality controls and pharmaceutical standards called GMP, the same standards that conventional licensed medicines are made to. This ensures the correct identification and strength of the herbs that we use, consistent quality and the highest standards. We uphold the Victorian herbalists' traditions and philosophy that "the best herbal ingredients provide the truest and most effective medicines". 

WH Box and Lane's herbal medicine licences were acquired by Napiers in 2008 after the government introduced the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD 2005) which required all herbal medicines to be licensed. We started to upgrade these vintage PL licences to THR registrations in 2010. This is an ongoing process of modernisation which has required huge investment, commitment and patience along the way.

No matter what research papers are published, customers buy products that work over and over again and don't buy products that don't work. That our Box's Herbals and Napiers formulas are still marketed, over a century later, is a simple testimony to their success with our customers. 


Birth of William Henry Box in Cornwall. He was consumptive in his teens and the doctors had given up hope. His search for a herbal cure resulted in a dramatic cure and started studying herbs in his spare time. He gave up his career at the age of 30 to devote himself entirely to herbalism. 


Birth of Henry Lane, another Victorian herbalist from Devon.


William Box opened his first shop in St Teath and started manufacturing Box’s Far Famed Indigestion Pills. He adopts the advertising slogan “Box’s Pills Save Doctors’ Bills!” 


WH Box’s expanding business moves to premises in King Street, Plymouth. Henry Lane opens a Botanic Drug Store in Old Market Street, Plymouth and starts to sell ‘Free Breath’ (now Cut-A-Cough) and Sage and Garlic Catarrh Cure. 


Death of Henry Lane. 


Two of Box’s medicines are awarded Gold Medals and Diplomas of Merit in the Paris and Rome Exhibitions. 30 people were employed. 


Death of William Box. 


EJ Rickard, a former Lane’s apprentice acquires Lane’s and merges it with his own herbal dispensary. His son, John, later joins the business. 


Rickard Lane’s moves to Mayflower Street, Plymouth. 


Merger of W.H Box to form Rickard Lane’s and WH Box.


Rickard Lane’s licensed medicines moves to Edinburgh, joining Napiers the Herbalists. The Plymouth shop, Rickard Lane’s, continues to be run by John Rickard.


Distribution of licensed herbal medicines starts again.


24 THR Lane's and WH Box licences granted by the MHRA

© Napiers Herbals Ltd 2020 • Bathgate, Edinburgh & Glasgow • Herbalists and Medical Botanists since 1860
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