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The Apothecary Ruby

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. Walk to the field and type the word 'Whimple' in the box below.
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.
E - go to the purple brolly
Chapter four

Lightning Brick

As you approach the stall you see a short french man holding a slug.The man had grey hair and dribbled a lot. He was wearing a blue vest and some camouflaged trousers. He placed the slug on a man's foot and then pulled it off again after about twenty seconds. The poor guy had a lot of slime on his foot so he started screaming loudly.

Why would he do that? Well, you soon realise that he is trying to heal a soldier's wart. The healer suddenly shouts, "Now I will rub this brick on the slime on you're wart, and bury it underground. Since there is lightning forecast, when the lightning strikes where the brick is, the zap will take the wart away too!"

The monk, who was standing nearby, took a deep breath and said, "I do not think that will work at all but we will monitor the situation for the next seven days!"

Remember to fill in the log sheet before moving away.
B - go to the orange brolly
Chapter five

Stranger Danger

As you approach the stall you see an Italian man in the medicine stall area and he is wearing a cooking apron and smiling even though he only has two black teeth. His hair is blue and stands up on end.

A soldier with the wart on the end of his nose is lying down on a dusty table and looking worried. Next the healer gets his saw and holding it by the handle, he pushes it and pulls it across the wart twenty times. the soldier gasps as he is in terrible agony.

"Stop, stop!" a watching monk cries and the crowd , looking terrified, also starts to move away from the scene.

Remember to fill in your log sheet before you move on.
F - go to the pink brolly
Chapter six

Eagle Heal

As you approach the stall you see a majestic golden eagle perched on a stand next to a water bowl. A pot of fine dust from a Russian football pitch was balanced on a gold-rimmed table. A healer, wearing a ragged black cloak and a stone white wig, stood tall.

Then the healer began work by sprinkling the water and then dust onto the waiting soldier's wart. Next he placed the golden eagle on the soldier's nose. The healer commanded the eagle to move about and to brush the dust away but he scratched at the dust and the wart instead. Suddenly, the wart started to bleed a lot.

The Monk soon exclaimed, "This unusual treatment will be monitored over the next couple of days."

Remember to fill in the log sheet before moving on again.
C - go to the green brolly
Chapter seven

Raven Attack

As you approach the stall you see a man with a bold patch and few strokes of grey hair. He also has round glasses and a boil on his nose. A couple hundred meters away was a brick house, with ravens perched on its roof, and soon they are swooping down. One takes off too fast and one of its feathers falls to the ground.

A few hours later, a healer (who makes a potion to cure warts) mixes 'fairy liquid' with the raven's feather. Then when the feather touches the wart, on the soldier who is lying down, there is a spark and then a thunder and lightning storm bursts out.

Soon, ants crawl all over the wart and dig to try to live up his nose as well.

"This does not look like it will cure the wart but we will see what happens over the coming week," sighed the monk.

Please write on your log sheet before moving on.

D - go to the blue brolly
Chapter eight

The Black Worm

As you approach the stall you see an ugly-faced woman wearing a nice clothes but she had really hairy skin she is friendly and tries her hardest to cure people of their illness.Her hair is really messy.Rather like a birds nest.

In a blink of an eye the healer mixed spices with a spider's body and some boy's toenails. Next she rubbed it on the wart and this poisonous, mushy lotion lay on top of the growth. After that she put a devil's horn on the end of the soldiers nose. The soldier did not enjoy this.

"Well, I think this was a bad idea," muttered the monk. The crowd members nodded and shouted, "We agree!"

Remember to fill in your Apothceary log sheet before moving on.
A - go to the red brolly
Chapter nine

The Old Man's Cure

As you approach the stall you could see a small table, a pestle and mortar, a black diamond with lots of exotic ingredients. Firstly there was a one hundred year old man's ear wax, then a plucked and slimy fingernail. Next there was the venom of an African spider mixed with the tooth of an adder, a toad that smelled like a cow pat, a feather in the shape of a flower and some shavings from a devil's horn.

Into this mix, she also added the tassel from a dress of a bull tamer and a wisp of hair from an angel. As the pestle moved around, she began to dance and sing to the mixture, then after singing some more, the ingredients formed a powder mixture. She dabbed a little of it on to the soldier's warty nose. She told the solider not to wash his wart for a week. After that she added a few drops of water into the powder and then forced the paste down into the soldier`s throat. She also said he should not eat for two hours.

"If the wart goes away, then it will be a miracle. We will follow the cure's progress over the next couple of weeks," said the lead monk.

Please fill in your log sheet before moving away.
go back to where our story began and type the word 'Wart' into the box below
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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