During the nineteenth century, pharmacists became a more defined occupational group, and established professional organisations to protect their interests. Pharmacists defended these interests against rogue practitioners, as well as against the medical profession, if it was felt the latter was encroaching on their areas of expertise.
The most significant development in this process was the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1841, which lobbied for greater regulation of the profession and supported the professional education of pharmacists. In 1852, the Pharmacy Act established a register of practising pharmacists, which the PSGB supported, and in 1868 further legislation effectively restricted pharmaceutical practice to PSGB members, and required new pharmacists to have passed examinations. Pharmacists were now required to pass a Minor examination in order to practise and a Major exam, if they wished to undertake more advanced work. In 1919, a defined pharmaceutical syllabus was agreed for educating pharmacists, and from 1967, new pharmacists were required to have a degree in their subject.
In Manchester the first occupational group for pharmacists was the Apothecaries, Chemists and Druggists' Society, established in 1828. This seems to have lasted until at least 1837. In 1841, following the creation of the PSGB, a local branch was set up in Manchester; whether this had any direct connections with the earlier society is unclear. This branch supported the work of the PSGB, the latter being mainly restricted to the London area in its membership. By the late 1840s, this branch was dormant, but appears to have revived following the passing of the 1852 Pharmacy Act, when it became known as the Chemists' Conversational Society. This body merged in 1855 with another local body, the Chemists and Druggists Institute to form a Manchester Pharmaceutical Association. Like earlier initiatives, this seems to have struggled after a few years of meetings, and was moribund by the 1860s. In 1868, in light of a new Pharmacy Act , the Manchester Chemists and Druggists' Association was established and in 1883 it changed its name to the Manchester Pharmaceutical Association.
The Association took a very close interest in pharmaceutical education in the local area. It helped establish the Manchester School of Pharmacy, which it owned until 1882. The School took the leading role for many years in educating pharmacists in Manchester. From 1883, Owens College provided regular pharmaceutical classes for aspiring pharmacists as well as medical students, and established its own pharmaceutical department. In addition, a Northern College of Pharmacy also provided teaching between 1890 and 1918. Both the School of Pharmacy and the Northern College were located close to the University of Manchester, but were entirely independent of it. In 1928, the Manchester College of Pharmacy (as it now as called) merged with the University's pharmacy department, which has played the leading role in pharmaceutical education in Manchester ever since.
As well as supporting educational work, the MPA helped regulate the pharmacy trade in the Manchester area, and promoted various social and charitable activities amongst its membership. In the 1920s, it was felt that there was a need to have stronger links with the PSGB and consequently the Manchester, Salford and District branch of the Pharmaceutical Society was formed in 1922. For practical purposes, the Branch and the Association operated as a single administrative body. In 2010, the regulatory powers of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (as the PSGB had become in 1988) were transferred to the newly formed General Pharmaceutical Council, and the educational work of the Society's branches ceased.