Phosphorous Pioneer

Phosphorous Pioneer

The famous apothecary and fire estinguisher inventor lived here.

Location: 30-32 Southampton Street, Covent Garden

Description: Ambrose Godfrey (1660-1741) was a German-born (Godfrey Hanckwitz) chemist and inventor of the fire extinguisher. He moved to a house here in 1703 (whose address was on the corner here with Maiden Lane) and opened a laboratory and pharmacy on this site between 1707 and 1741.

He was brought over from Germany to assist the renowned philosopher and chemist, Robert Boyle in his scientific experiments.

The buildings were very different as his garden backed on to the Strand and he could experiment in peace. He was Master of the laboratory in the Apothecaries Hall. From his private laboratory he supplied the apothecaries of London. He called his store 'Golden Phoenix'.

In his lifetime he was known primarily as a phosphorus manufacturer and he is credited with inventing the fire extinguisher. His idea worked by suffocating the fire - a miniature wooden barrel was filled with fire-extinguishing material, then gunpowder was inserted into a pewter sphere in the centre with fuse attached. It was first tested on Hampstead Heath in 1723 and was successfully used in fire fighting for at least5 5 years.

After his death in 1741 his son continued the business and its name became Godfrey & Cooke, until 1863. The company survived making patent medicines until the late 19th century.

The laboratory here was still in use in 1859, when one of the original furnaces was making charcoal. The Roman Catholic church Corpus Christi, just down Maiden Lane, was built on its site.

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Phosphorous Pioneer

The famous apothecary and fire estinguisher inventor lived here.

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