Harvey’s Gripe Mixture: an imagined ghost sign

Freshly painted lettering on cement rendered wall

So the old faded peeling lettering has gone from Harvey Scruton’s old premises on Barker Lane. Instead it advertises the business of the new owners, and includes a web address. Nicely done.

Faded painted lettering on cement rendered wall

A message on Twitter asked if I’d seen ‘that Nurse Harvey’s gripe water has been painted over.’ This seems to have been a popular and well known product. As far as I know they never advertised it on this wall, which only included the company name. But I’m imagining an ad for them, in the style of the famous Bile Beans sign. Right across the wall at the end of the building they occupied for so many decades: ‘MAKERS OF NURSE HARVEY’S GRIPE MIXTURE’. Perhaps with a slogan underneath: ‘Makes your baby burp’, or ‘Bring up those burps!’

It would have nicely complemented the Bile Beans ad on the other side of town, particularly as both were designed to bring relief to digestive system problems, though from opposite ends.

Maybe a reader with graphic design skills could create a digital version of that ‘Gripe Mixture wall’ we never had, in belated recognition of the fact that Nurse Harvey’s Gripe Mixture was a proper local product.

Detail of lettering

‘Very spooky place at 6am on a misty morning was Barker Lane, and we never knew what we would find next in the carpark! … It was a family run manufacturing chemist. Inside, it was really old fashioned, but there was something about the place that just made it homely and happy. The inside walls were painted dark brown to waist height, thin black line, then cream on top, very old fashioned, but just looked right. At the back of the building, out on Tanner Row, there was still the marks on the wall where hay racks used to be.’

– extract from an email sent to me in 2004. Full text on this earlier page

Historical and background notes

I’ve just spent some time reading about gripe water, and discovered that in the past some popular gripe waters contained alcohol, and that made them popular with some mothers too. And that there was in recent years a problem with supply, all rather mysterious, reported in the Daily Mail.

More pertinent to our particular Harvey’s gripe mixture, and working at Harvey Scruton, the information in comments under this photo on flickr.com. And a photo of another of their products, Nurse Harvey’s ‘fairy fine’ baby powder.

Googling also lead me to a man called Arthur Oglesby, and more information on the business in decades past: ‘Arthur Victor Oglesby was born on December 23 1923 in Scarborough, where his father ran the family pharmaceutical company, producers of Nurse Harvey’s Gripe Water. In 1928 they moved to York, where the boy enjoyed a “semi-Victorian” upbringing, learning to coarse fish on the Ouse and Derwent …’
(Arthur Oglesby – obituary, in the Telegraph)

Arthur Oglesby took over the firm in 1955, after his father’s death. There’s more information about him in this extract on Google books.

The documents relating to the planning application to redevelop the site include historical information on the building: a 1922 directory is the first to mention Oscar Scruton & Co (manufacturing chemists) on Barker Lane, and the name Harvey is added to Scruton’s in the 1957 listing.

Perhaps others know more. If you have further information, please add a comment, or email.

Elsewhere on this site

Changes on Barker Lane: Harvey Scruton buildings (2013)
Harvey Scruton building (2012, and 2004)

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on www.yorkstories.co.uk. She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories
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  1. Roger Lee

    An interesting article Lisa. Arthur Oglesby was a noted fly fishermen and in 1961, the year of my birth, founded The York Flyfishers Club. In the 50th year of the club ( mine too!) I became a member of YFFC

    On subject of ghost signs, have you seen the Red Lion near Monk Bar?

  2. YorkStories

    Hi Roger – yes, the link to Google books above is to ‘On Fishing’ by Brian Clarke, which includes a chapter on Arthur Oglesby. (It also mentions his ‘Brylcreemed good looks’ – a look we’re maybe not so familiar with these days!)

    I have seen the Red Lion sign, but I have to confess only recently, about a month ago. So many things still unnoticed in this city even after all these years.

    (Update: since added, on this page: http://yorkstories.co.uk/ghost-signs-gillygate-and-goodramgate/)

  3. Frank Archer

    I found the item on Harvey Scruton factory in Barker Lane interesting.I well remember the pleasant smell of baby powder, I always thought of it as Johnsons baby powder smell. I also remember meeting Mr Ogelsby once in Micklegate Motors when he brought his Jaguar in for a service, he complained the car was not fast enough and the mechanic found that a spring on the throttle was stretched from him having his foot down to the floor when driving.. I recall a smart looking man.. That was a long time ago, 1956.

  4. wendy cook

    i have many happy memories of working at Harvey-scrutons. I new Arthur oglesby well and often typed up manuscripts of his fishing books. when I lefted in 1971 to have a baby, I wasn’t short of gripe water and baby talc.

  5. My brothers and me were brought up on Nurse Harvey’s Gripe water and I also gave it to my children about 35 years ago. My mother preferred it to Woodwords which I believe contained alcohol at the time and which I understand some babies did not like. I remember reading about a woman who had become addicted to gripe water and it turned out that the alcohol content was higher than most beers. I did try to buy Nurse Harveys a couple of years ago for my grandchild and although I found a picture of the box on line it was listed as out of stock and no date was known when it would be back in stock. It seems it was another example of the big boys having better marketing which forced out the small guy

  6. Nurse Harvey’s Gripe Mixture. I remember my mum saying baby had some then some for mum.
    Thought you might be interested I’ve still got my baby book which was free from Harvey’s. 65 year old this year. I do have photos I could send if you want them.

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