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The Apothecary Camo

Welcome to the Apothecary Storywalk created for Exeter Daisi - Re Boot Project.

The cathedral monks have had enough of the 'folk' cures which are being sold to innocent and vulnerable locals, so they set a competition and invite local healers to test their skills and find out if any of their unorthodox cures actually do work.
This Storywalk begins at the entrance to Whimple Parish Field
Chapter one

Cathedral Green

As you cross the cathedral green your basket is overflowing with a bushel of fragrant new herbs and spices, all fresh off the boat from Exeter quay after their journey from distant lands.

If correctly mixed and prepared these very plants could remedy ills, remove aches and pains, fix troubling coughs and perhaps even repair a broken heart. But if used wrongly then they would do nothing, or worse hurt the very person they were trying to help.

Today inside your basket you see a small wooden box of dry twigs, a neat bundle of seed pods (which smell very sweet) and several stone jars of oils with wax seals on top. You carry this valuable cargo across the green to the cathedral apothecary where all manner of poultices and tinctures are being prepared by the friars.

Today the cathedral green is both a garden, where many herbs are being grown and a graveyard, as by law, all who die in the city must be buried here. Some of the herbs grown are good for cooking, others good for brewing, some are good to keep food from spoiling, others are good to eat with spoiled food. None of the herbs are grown for no reason at all, everything here has a use and a purpose.
Chapter two

The Quacks

Inside the apothecary a friar precisely mixes ingredients to a recipe he knows by heart, whilst another is telling him about local rogue physicians who are brewing up hedge back weeds to cure all ills. The head monk listens quietly and shakes his head in agreement and wonders what should or could be done about these quacks.

But as he thinks he has a bright idea.

‘Why don't we have a competition, we can invite all the local healers and physicians to provide a poultice or system to cure an ailment, like a wart or something and then we put it to the test? You never know what knowledge is out there and this may be just the way to find it. It could also uncover the charlatans for what they truly are and if any succeed then they will have our blessing and by default that of our lord.'

‘Oh very good, I shall send out word immediately.'

And so a decree was announced, the word was put out about the city and outlying villages for all healers and physicians to come display their skills on St Panteleons feast day.
Chapter three

The Competition Begins

It is St Panteleons feast day, the patron saint of physicians and the cathedral green is swarming, there are stalls everywhere and each has a different wart cure solution. The friars have a team of soldiers all with warts on the ends of their noses, ready to be healed.

Take your monitoring slip and follow the friar around the green.
D - go to the blue brolly
Chapter four

The Warty Issue

As you approach the stall you see an old man, wearing a long, black dress and round glasses, selling various medicines. He is speaking with a Brazilian accent but he is addressing the crowd in English!

Suddenly, he pulls a large splinter from a plank of wood and next he wrestles a pure white cat and plucks out its longest whisker from one side of its face. After he has done this, he mashes up some cherries, apples, pears and bananas. Then he puts this fruity mixture into a large shell.

After a few moments, the healer places the shell on to the soldier's warty nose and says that it needs to stay there for two hours. Finally, you will need to take off the shell and stick the splinter into the wart and leave for two days.

"i am not impressed," said the monk, "but we will monitor weather the wart gone or not,nobody said a word.

Remember to fill in the apothecary log sheet before moving on.
A - go to the red brolly
Chapter five

The Cow Tongue

As you approach the stall you see a barrel of cow tongues beside a grassy path and a cat with short white and brown fur wandering nearby. An old woman ,wearing a stained white apron and pastel yellow dress, hobbled out of an orange tent with a fabric door so people couldn't sneak a peek at what the special, secret treatment for warts was that she kept inside it.

By now, the healer was getting ready to cure the poor soldier.The healer poured some rattlesnake venom onto the cat's tail.The soldier was worried as he's allergic to cats and HATES snakes. The cat walked up and down the man and rubbed venom all over the wart. Carefully, the healer picked up the venom - covered cat and put it in a cage before soaking a cow's tongue in slimy liquid. The woman then slapped the tongue on the wart and left it there for quite a while.
" It is a very different type of treatment and does not seem like it will work, but we will hopefully find out in about two days," uttered the monk in disbelief.

Remember to fill in your log sheet with the name of the chapter the cure and your rating.
E - go to the purple brolly
Chapter six

Warts or not

As you walk to the stall you see a hunched back woman with a long white robe. The woman is tall and skinny, with crazy hair and no teeth or lips. On the stall, the healer keeps lots of things , including a chest full of bugs and spiders. Rarely, you see a tic or two crawling over the chest.

A slab of wood is then placed on the floor. You see a lot of weird potions and herbs in jars, sitting proudly on the shelf alongwith soap and acid.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, feast your eyes on this as I will show you a medicine to cure all of you with warts," explained the healer in her croaky and hollow voice.

The crowed murmurs and gasp as they have never found a medicine for warts that works!
The women walks further away from the crowd into the stall she grabs a few things. When the women turns around you see that her hands and arms are full of jars and a snake? You wonder what the woman could be doing with a snake. A soldier walks into the light from the shadows with the biggest wart you have ever seen on his nose.

The soldier walks to the wooden slab and lies on it. The woman takes an eyeball with tics covering it and smashes it all up so its nice and mushy. The lady puts the mush onto the soldier's nose. The soldier gulps as it smells terrible. Next the woman takes ears ,tongues,huntsman spiders and one nice shiny thing a crystal. She puts all of this stuff into a big bowl and makes the soldier eat the mixture.

"We will have to wait on whole week to see if this works and cures the wart," said the friar.

Please write on your log sheet before moving away.

B - go to the orange brolly
Chapter seven

Poisonous Pain

As you approach the stall you see dead animals, such as guinea pigs, staring out into space and a deer, with fright still frozen on its face, hung upon wooden frames.

After staring disgustedly at them, the people watching turn to the healer named Alastor Moody, who is clothed in rags and limping around, His glass eye is spinning and he is muttering croakily under his breath.

A solider is soon directed to a bench. Moody flips a mesh mask over his eyes and begins spooning out the medicine.
The medicine consists of several things:
melted crystal from Thor's Cave, one feather from a pigeon, juice from a rowan berry, blood from the area of the wart (in this case the nose) and a chopped up horse's heart. The complex mixture is then quickly dabbed on to the wart.

Eyes bulging, which shows his pain, the solider waits for the healer to acknowledge him.
"You will be in pain for a couple of days but on the fourth day the wart will release its self and it will no longer trouble you," says Moody.

"Well, this is an interesting remedy. We shall monitor it over the coming week,"concludes the Friar.

Please write this on your log sheet before moving on.
F - go to the pink brolly
Chapter eight

The Apple Splinter

As you approach the stall you see a healer taking a splinter out of some rancid apple juice. He has a long, straggly and ginger beard. His tunic is green and white and he only has three teeth. It seems that he is from Saudi Arabia but speaks good English.

A soldier with a old and brown wart is lying on some cushions and looking worried. Suddenly, the healer pushes the apple juice soaked splinter into the wart. "Leave this in the growth for twenty four hours," he said.

"This cure could be okay but we will monitor its effect to see if the wart disappears," muttered the monk as he moved on to the next stall.

Remember to write on your log sheet before moving on to the next event.
C - go to the green brolly
Chapter nine

Pin Cushion

As you approach the stall you see the healers' workers dressed in red, laying out tools on a tiny table. Charcoal is added to a fire which is stoked really hot by hand pumped bellows as the soldier is escorted to a leather reclining chair in the middle of the crowd.

Then the healer himself makes his entrance, firstly two trumpets are blown, and a long banner unrolls which catches in the wind dramatically. Then the healer throws a handful of salts onto the fire which erupts in a fabulous cloud of green smoke, the crowd thinks this is amazing.

The healer then examines the soldiers' warty nose for a moment, before selecting some of the tools from the table which he places in the fire. A moment or two passes before a worker runs forward with evil looking pincers which are locked on the soldiers nose to keep it still.

Then with great skill the healer threads hot rod after hot rod through the wart and the soldier does well not to scream with pain. With all these needles in his nose he looks like a pin cushion! Then more salt is thrown on the fire and another green plume erupts before the healer begins to remove the needles.

‘Seven days before and the wart will be gone' the healer says confidently to the friar, but the friar is not convinced the wart will go. ‘We will monitor it over the coming week' he says.

He then turns to you to make a note on your monitoring slip before you move on.
go back to where our story began
Chapter ten

The Finale

The following weekend all the healers gather with a large crowd to await judgment here on the cathedral green. They are all eager and confident and are now ready for the friar to announce the winner.

There is quiet as the friar stands and begins to address the gathering.

‘Good healers of Exeter city, thank you for taking part in this unique experiment. This commission was designed to unlock knowledge for the good people of Exeter.'

The crowd nod to each other in approval.

‘The criteria for successful eradication of the wart is as follows'.

He then lifts up his first finger ‘point one, will be if the wart has been completely removed after the week is up.'

‘Point two' and he lifts up his second finger ‘will be how inconvenient it was for the wart sufferer to under go the treatment.'

He then lifts up a third finger ‘point three will be what complications the treatment created for the inflicted during the treatment and beyond.'
Chapter eleven

The Treatments

‘So there were many great treatments which have not worked, the first was to sever the head of an eel, rub the blood on to the wart and then burry it beneath a full moon.'

The crowd nod as they have tried this one themselves or a similar one with a potatoe.

‘This was tested and did not work' said the friar.

The crowd look very surprised, but the friar continues.

‘The next was to wear a live toad in a bag around your neck until the toad died'. Again the crowd nod, but the friar continues ‘that didn't work either.'

‘Then we have the selling and buying of warts of which many of the healers claimed to be effective. The most common of these was to put as many pebbles as warts you had in a cloth bag and leave it by a cross roads. An unsuspecting traveller would pick up the package and therefor own the warts.' The friar waits a moment before saying ‘this was tested and also does not work.'

The crowd mumble in surprise.

‘Then there was the selling of a wart to the dead, which was generally done by rubbing the wart on the shoe of a pallbearer (person carrying the coffin) in the belief that the dead would then take your wart to the grave.'

The friar looks across the crowd before saying again ‘this was tested and does not work.'

The crowd mumble in surprise again, then the friar finishes.

‘In fact, of all the remedies, therapies and treatments not a single one has worked. Every single cure or procedure which you healers have brought to this reputable place was either useless or worse.'

The crowd gasp in surprise, the friar then looks across at all the healers and says simply, ‘what we really need . . . . is a cure for rogues, thieves, con-artists and quacks like you' and the crowd begin to boo the healers.
Chapter twelve

In the Name of Science

‘But in the name of science, next year on St Panteleons feast day we shall pursue this seam of knowledge again, as all the soldiers still need curing of warts.'

‘Until then, you know where to come for help' he says and then turns towards the apothecary to continue his good work.

Chapter thirteen


Which cure do you think was most likely to work?

Do you think any of the healers should have won the competition?

How would you like to cure the wart?

What insects would you like to use?

How would you prepare your remedy?

What would you expect the patient to do in order for the cure to work?
Chapter fourteen


A few facts about this story.

Firstly, the cathedral green was a cemetery until 1637 when due to overcrowding it was moved. At that time the green itself was believed to have been a few feet higher than it is today due to these internments.

There has been a presence of apothecaries and healers across Exeter with the first being credited to the friars of the cathedral.

The ‘cures' in the final chapter were drawn from historic accounts many of which had a time element inbuilt as warts have a natural life cycle and generally disappear as the body reacts to the virus.

The images from the Welcome Collection are fabulous windows into the minds of the people of the time. The etching of a surgeon removing ‘stones' from the head of their client is testament to the desperation and general crudity of the physicians procedures.

The Toad in the Silk bag was obtained from the Exeter area in 1930 from the Edward Lovett collection of amulets and charms.

There is no evidence there was ever a competition set up by the friars or cathedral (it is very unlikely they would have). But this narrative construct enabled pupils from local schools to engage creatively with the history of Exeter and get beneath the cities skin in a rather different way.

I hope you have enjoyed the stories.

These are the schools who have been involved.
Chapter fifteen

images Copyright

Image 1 - The Apothecary - Martin Engelbrecht - Welcome Collection

Image 2 - Stone Folly - P Quast - Welcome Collection

Image 3 - Apothecary Riding a Horse - W E G - Welcome Collection

Image 4 - Moth - C Jelley

Image 5 - Cricket - C Jelley

Image 6 - Pearls - C Jelley

Image 7 - Toad - C Jelley

Image 8 - Snail - C Jelley

Image 9 - Flute - C Jelley

Image 10 - Silk bag with Frog - Welcome Collection

Image 11 - The Dentist - Watercolour - Welcome Collection

Image 12 -The Apothecaries Wife - Martin Engelbrecht - Welcome Collection

Image 13 - Corn Cure - Welcome Collection

Image 14 - A Country Apothecary - Welcome Collection

Images from Welcome Collection under Creative Commons Licence.
Images from C Jelley for sole use by Storywalks.
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