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The Apothecary Pink

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.
B - go to the orange brolly
Chapter four

Wart in a Bucket

As you approach the stall you see a white horse trotting around in a small pen nearby. You observe the scene as your eyes fall upon the absurd healer who is dressed in a red tunic with mint-green trousers. Her eyes are a deep purple and she has long, shabby and bright- yellow hair.

A solider, who has a wart on his nose, is directed to a wooden chair. The healer starts cutting chunks from the beautiful horse and chucks them into a rusty bucket. Slimy, ruby-red and gross, the animal's heart is also removed from its dead body. The solider thinks of all the other soldiers who have died in wars.

Stumbling a little, the healer carries the bucket over to the poor man. "Put your face in," she commands croakily. Shuddering, the nervous soldier lowers his face into the meat. "You need to leave your face in there for two days and then you can eat what's inside the bucket. It is all edible."

"We will monitor his progress over the coming week," the Monk states to the crowd.

Please fill in the log sheet before moving away.
C - go to the green brolly
Chapter five

Feather Tickle

As you approach the stall of a healer, you see a feather fluttering down through the air and it has black spots on it. The feather is also small and it lands on the solider's warty nose. He sneezes and the feather floats away.

Then a wart cure is made, by the healer, out of spices and cat sick. It is put it on to the wart that is on the end of the soldier's nose.

"We will see if this cure works and will monitor the soldier for the next seven days," said the monk as he shook his head.

Please fill in your log sheet before moving away.
F - go to the pink brolly
Chapter six

The Claxan

As you approach the stall you see a black labrador weaving through the table legs. It's moving cautiously towards the cathedral. Then suddenly the labrador disappears.

The cure quest starts off well and the soldiers like the idea of it but then out of nowhere it becomes dangerous.

They have to get something new to cure the wart instead and then one of the healers shouts, "This instrument and noise will do fine." A noise is then heard by everyone.

Then the monk exclaimed, "I do not think this will work!"

Please fill in your log sheet before moving on again.

D - go to the blue brolly
Chapter seven

The death fight

As you approach the stall you see a man with a dark blue jacket and dark blue trousers.When he starts to talk his voice is high, but then it goes deep and then high again and so on.

Walking behind the stool, he shouts, "I can heal any thing from warts to boils."

A soldier steps forward and lies down. He squeals with fear as he sees the healer start to put tics on a nearby cat. After a wait of ten long minutes, the tics have become round, fat and full of blood. Next the healer places the tics on the wart and then puts the cat on top of the soldier's face. Once the cat vomits, the treatment is over for the soldier.

"Let's see if this cure works and keep a check on this soldier over the next seven days," says the Friar.

Please fill in the log sheet before moving on.
A - go to the red brolly
Chapter eight


As you approach the stall you see a soldier lying on the ground and part of a wart flying in mid air that is covered in green and purple spots. Next to where it lands, you notice a snake charmer, a hypmotist or is he a healer? He plays a tune and then says, "start to feel tired and sleepy."
Suddenly, out of the air, the soldier starts to feel sleepy. The healer continues to speak, "you will awaken when I click my fingers and you shall have no wart."

After a few moments, the healer brings out an eel from a felt bag. He begins to rub on the hide of a nearby dead cow before ripping open the stomach of the cow and saying, "the intestine shall be taken out."
The intestine is then added to poo, blood and sick (and I shall continue by the way even if you have thrown up). As you can imagine, the soldier watches carefully and feels scared but he is also in a trance so he doesn't actually know fully what is happening.

When the soldier wakes, a few hours later, the disgusting wart is still there on the end of his nose so he announces that it will look ugly forever! The friar looks at him and says, "I failed in my quest to rid us of warts but I guess I'll have to try again next year with a more suitable cure. "

Now you should write on your log sheet and move on.
E - go to the purple brolly
Chapter nine

Frozen Solution

As you approach the stall you see a small black chair and a lady in a black tunic and a pair of cork healed sandals. She has one ear and where the other should be is still dripping with blood and puss.
Her dog, a ferocious greyhound, has pointy teeth and a tongue as sharp as a dagger. Saliva is also dripping from the dog's jaws.
The healer approaches with a small jar between her bony fingers. She opens the jar with a flick of her wrist. The soldier flinches back in alarm for the frozen blocks in the jar smells horribly like puke.The solider wants to run away screaming but her finger, long and sharp, beckons him back onto the ripped, black chair.
The woman's hand reaches inside the jar and pulls out one of the frozen blocks and gently strokes it over the wart on the soldiers nose and tells the soldier in her husky voice that the soldier should frequently apply this to his wart.

"Continue this process for a week then report back to me so I can check on the progress of your wart healing," she says.

One week later...
"My wart is still here! This is outrageous. It's been a week and my wart is more puffy and more red! Plus, there are now purple and green warts on my original wart and don't you dare cut it off," the soldier screams, as the woman approaches him with a sharp, polished knife in her strong grip...

Please write on the log sheet before moving on. Good luck.
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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