Wolverhampton's Listed Buildings

83 Church Street


Listing: Shop, formerly apothecaries. c.1810. Top parapet with bust of Aesculapius, snake and torch.

Comment: The shops is probably best remembered locally as Samuel Shelley Ltd., chemists.

Aesculapius was the great ancient Greek physician, often considered the father of modern medicine and very suitable for identifying a chemist's shop.

Far be it from me to doubt the attribution of Aesculapius (or to suggest that the item to the left is a club, not a torch);  but, if this had, in fact, been a bust of Hercules, the club and the snake would have been perfectly appropriate.  Aesculapius would have been more likely not to have had a club but would have had a snake wound round a staff (a caduceus).  One scarcely likes to think that someone bought a bust that was on the market and near enough to pass for Aesculapius if it was high enough up on the parapet.

But Noszlopy and Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, seem to accept this as Aesculapius who, they say, is "typically represented with a curly beard and a serpent wrapped round a staff. ... Since his staff cannot be shown in this case, the sculptor has chosen to show the serpent curled around Aesculapius's shoulders".  I remain unconvinced.