We know that Beddome trained as a surgeon apothecary under Francis Labee in Bristol some time around the 1730s. Here we read that
Boys as young as 12 were “bound” by way of an apprenticeship indenture to a master for seven years - the usual term to serve an apprenticeship for any trade or profession. An apprenticeship indenture was a legally binding document and money was paid to the master by a parent or guardian in exchange for the master agreeing to train the boy in their profession, and to supply the apprentice with food, clothing and lodging for the duration of the seven-year apprenticeship.
During the seven-year apprenticeship a boy was taught to compound pharmacopoeia preparations, recognise drugs and their use and to dispense complicated prescriptions. Throughout the 18th Century, most medicines were derived from herbs, plants and vegetables and the Chelsea Physic Garden served as a place of instruction for the apothecary’s apprentice, providing simples and raw materials for the drugs manufactured in the laboratory of the Apothecaries’ Hall attached to the headquarters of the Company of Worshipful Apothecaries. An apprentice attended lectures and demonstrations in the hall of Barber-Surgeons and could participate in anatomical dissections if they wanted to. However, the Company of Worshipful Apothecaries did not require an apprentice to be examined on his expertise as a surgeon. So it was left entirely up to the apprentice to practice and become expert if he wished to use his skills as a surgeon - reason enough why barber-surgeons frowned on apothecaries who “crossed the line” and not only dispensed medicines and attended patients for general medical complaints but performed surgery - an extremely risky venture in the pre-anesthetic and unhygienic conditions of the 1700’s.
Masters usually took on one apprentice but there were instances of masters binding seven apprentices to his service. Given that parents paid a premium for their sons to be educated as apothecaries, these boys were less open to abuse. However, mistreatment at the hands of masters happened, and there are cases of boys being beaten, starved, worked almost death and made to live in appalling conditions. The usual place these apprentices lived out their seven years was at the back of the apothecary shop, in the workroom or “laboratory” with the herbs and powders, medicinals and apparatus needed for compounding. An unsafe and lonely place for a young boy if the master did not take the boy into his home and thus share his table and company of his friends and family.