Colin Grainger

Memories are made of this – Moody’s ‘Rathbone’ herbal potions and amazing sarsparilla

It is with great pleasure that I am able to showpiece a smashing piece of history – thanks to the granddaughter of a true Canning Town legend.

And in the midst of this cold spell, it really is one to warm our hearts.

Janice Oliver got in touch today to brighten our lives with stories of her grandparents that will stir memories in generations of Newham and East London people.

They were George Moody and his wife Annie who ran a sarsaparilla stall and a herbalists shop in Rathbone Market. Their story lives on in the memories of thousands of people in our manor.

Lke me Janice is a former Plaistow Grammar School pupil – though she left in 1964, the year before I started my stint there.

“My grandfather George was born in Ramsgate in 1879 into a long line of seafarers, and became an officer in the Navy and travelled around the world,” said Janice, who later went on to become a ward sister at East Ham Memorial Hospital.

+ George Moody

After marrying Janice’s grandmother, Annie Andrews, who was born in Broadstairs in Kent, they moved to Canning Town in 1909, where they opened a herbalists at a shop in Rathbone Street and started making potions for everyday ailments, using the knowledge he had acquired on his travels.

Said Janice: “He also offered homeopathy and local people came in for consultations. I remember as child helping to put ‘Rathbone’ skin ointment into tins, and there was also a ‘Rathbone’ cough mixture and various other concoctions.”

But probably the magical mixture that was remembered and enjoyed by generations was just around the corner.

“Soon he formulated a recipe for making a sarsaparilla drink –¬†sarsaparilla¬†is a medicinal root which is reputed to help purify the blood,” said Janice.

“This was sold outside the shop from a stall which was equipped with barrels of cordial and a water urn. It was served hot in the winter and huge blocks of ice were put into the water barrel to cool it in the summer.


+ Annie Moody

Added Janice: “As a girl I used to ‘wash’ the glasses, which entailed dunking them into a bucket of cold water and leaving them upturned to drain. My mother told me that a famous drinks firm had offered money for the recipe but my grandfather would not part with it and I still have the secret to this day. So many people have requested it but it remains a family secret.”

George died in 1945, but Janice’s mother and then an uncle continued with the business until the late 70s.

Featured image: Vera Moody on the stall. Courtesy Janice Oliver


  1. Anthony Wickham
    September 8, 2019

    From 1955/1956, at the age of 10 or 11, I worked at Moody’s, herbalists, and was responsible for making the undiluted sarsaparilla sold in the street. I also served in the shop and remember the requests for Rathbone cough mixture, a formula created by the founder. People from far away requested this cough mixture. I still remember the ingredients for the sarsaparilla and tried to sell wholesale the made-up product to a sarsaparilla vendor in Petticoat Lane. My boss was a lady name Vera who lived in the same street as myself in Clifton Road, Canning Town. Memories!

  2. I remember Rathbone Market very well. Born 1951. Can just about recall Old Rathbone Market.
    Can’t beat the East End humour. Love it. Had wedding reception in Public Hall.
    There was another herbalist called Baldwin’s I think. Near Mulcasters. Top end Star Lane.
    Remember Staddons. Went to Star Lane school, Ravenscroft school ( Denmark Street) and Burke Secondary, Balaam Street. I lived in Fisher Street. Remember Forimos shop on corner, and the Bombed Odeon. Kids played in there. I hated it. Very Creepy! Used to play in old Black cab abandoned on corner. Many other memories. Can share.

  3. Julie Brett
    October 11, 2023

    My Dad’s family, the Allen’s, owned Allen’s Shoe Shop next door to Moody’s at 58 Rathbone Street from about 1921 until it was demolished in the early 60’s. The Shop was mainly run by my Uncle George. My Dad, John Allen was actually born upstairs. I jave so many really jappy childhood memories and a few photos of being in the shop. I would love more information but unfortunately my Dad and his brothers and sisters are all passed so no one to ask.

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This article was written on 02 Mar 2018, and is filed under Moody's, Plaistow Grammar School, Rathbone, Rathbone Market, sarsaparilla.

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