GN & WH Birks, Homœopathic Chemists

  • Date Established:
  • State:
    South Australia
  • Suburb/Town:

(Material researched & presented by Barbara Armstrong)


George and William Birks were the sons of George V Birks, resident medical officer at Angaston in the early 1850s. Because of poor economic times and competition from another doctor, he managed by opening a druggist business. George and William studied pharmacy under him. With the copper discoveries in the Moonta/Wallaroo area, George opened a business in Kadina, then a branch at Wallaroo which William ran.


                                    Advertisement for G.N. & W.H. Birks, 1876

In 1876 George Napier & William H Birks placed an advertisement in the Directory of South Australia, announcing that they had commenced business at 51 Rundle Street Adelaide. They were “chemists & storekeepers, Kadina, Moonta, Wallaroo; booksellers 60 Rundle Street”. They stated that: “Their confidence in making the above announcement is increased by the fact that they are favored with the patronage of Drs Miller and Magarey.”  (These were two of Adelaide’s homœopathic physicians.) Also: “They have secured the services (as Manager) of Mr TE Symes, a gentleman of long experience in the preparation and dispensing of Homœopathic Medicines.” They kept in stock “all the most useful homœopathic works”.  


The entry for 1877 stated “homœopathic chemists”. The business was so successful that they sold their country shops. William managed the stationery section, and George ran the pharmacy. The entry for 1892 was “Birks GN and WH, homœopathic chemists, 59 Rundle street”, while in 1893 they were advertised as “dispensing chemists”.


In 1893 George left for the new colony being established in Paraguay, New Australia, and died there in 1895. William took over the whole business till his retirement in 1905. The business was then sold to PR Magarey.


Birks Chemists is still in Adelaide, but no longer has any links with the family.


© Barbara Armstrong


  • Created:
    Wednesday, 17 June 2009
  • Last modified:
    Monday, 18 August 2014