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The Apothecary Skye

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.
C - go to the green brolly
Chapter four

Doberman blood and shell

As you approach the stall you see a tortoise shell, on a stand, by a healer. The shell is very big and army green. The animal it comes from was once very much alive but not any more. Soon the soldier gets strapped down to a leather chair. After that the healer starts a crazy dance and because of how fast he is moving, his shorts and t- shirt sway around in the wind. Then, he starts massaging the tortoise shell.

Suddenly and weirdly he pulls five doberman out of a decorated bag and then he traps the dogs in the large tortoise shell. A few moments later, after hypnotizing them, he kills them by using a sharp knife.
Simply and slowly, he spreads the dobermans' blood on the tortoise shell and then puts it on the soldiers head and says," keep it on your head for a week and your wart will disappear!"

"This treatment is stupid and clearly will not work,''said the monk. Nobody in the crowd moved because they did not now what was going happen.

Please complete the log sheet before moving away.
E - go to the purple brolly
Chapter five


As you approach the stall you see an attractive woman wearing posh gloves, a dress and the new bonnet. Beside her is a crate of apple pies and some whipped-cream. She is next to a soldier with a wart on the end of his nose.

Next, the woman starts chucking and throwing apple pies, with whipped cream on the top of them, at the soldier's face.
"At last there will not be anymore warts on my nose," cries the soldier.

"Well, I will monitor the effect of this treatment and check it after seven days," replies the monk.

Please write on your log sheet before moving away.
A - go to the red brolly
Chapter six

The Fire and the Blood.

As you approach the stall you see a dirty man in a black cloak and behind him is a fire and half a dozen people all chained up. The man's eyes were as dark as the night sky.You would not usually think about going any closer but if you had a wart on your nose, you would.

Before getting further involved, I took a deep breath and then was soon a soldier lying there on a bench, looking at the healer preparing the procedure. He went over to a cauldron that was filled with dancing fire, a sprinkle of salt and some juice from a leaf. Next a spoonful of the mixture was put on to cover the soldier's wart. From 100 metres away, you would hear a piercing scream that you could hear from miles away.

Then the healer began to walk over to the soldier. From one of his drawers he pulled out a long instrument with a big hole at the end of it. As the soldier lay still, wondering what was happening, the healer put the end of the instrument to his ear and blew into the soldiers' ear until his ear drum burst.

Next, the healer put some blood into a bucket and then the healer stuck his hand down the throat of one of the chained up prisoners and pulled out their food tube! As the soldier was still lying there, the healer slowly poured the blood through the food tube and then dribbled it over the wart. The soldier was soon smelling the worst smell he had ever smelt.

Just before the monk was leaving, the healer called out to him.
"Come back in a week and see if the fire and the blood potion has cured the wart," he said.

Remember to write in your log sheet before moving on.
F - go to the pink brolly
Chapter seven


As you approach the stall you see a stinky pile of cow pat and a fly that can suck your blood. There is also a soldier there and he is lying flat on the floor.
"They are horrid so try not to get them or you might die!" GASPED THE HEALER!!!!!

After a few moments, the healer starts plopping some of the smelly cow poo on the solider's body. He smelt even worse when he was covered in the poo all the way down to his feet.
"Why do I have to do this? It's horrid! Please stop it. Please just stop!"cried out the soldier.
In case you are not sure, the solider needs this cure because he has a wart on the end of his nose.

"This stinks! I am not sure that it will work to cure that wart either but we will monitor things for the next seven days," said the lead monk.

Remember to complete your log sheet before moving away.

D - go to the blue brolly
Chapter eight

The Snake Of Doom!

As you approach the stall you see a solider lying on a bench and a healer mixing some poison, blood and a holly leaf together. You may think this is weird but it is normal for him to be doing this. The poison is from a python and the blood is from a lion which used to live in a rain forest.

Then the healer proceeds by getting some more poison out of the python and then the soldier started to worry because he could die or the snake could eat him. The healer started mixing the poison, blood and leaf even more so the solder got more and more worried.Then the healer poured the liquid on the soldier's nose. Next, he put him in a deep box and said he had to stay there for a week.

"I will monitor the situation for seven days and see what happens," muttered the lead monk.

Please write on your log sheet before moving away.
B - go to the orange brolly
Chapter nine

7 Gold Coins

As you approach the stall you see a weird looking guy who is wearing a long, white t-shirt and some sky blue shorts. He seems to be selling pieces of gold to people .

Next, he dramatically took seven gold coins out of a red silk bag and showed them to the crowd. The he started to explain that each one had to be rubbed on the huge wart on the end of the soldiers' nose every day for a whole week and that this would be a great cure.

"Let's see if this unusual cure really works over the next few days," muttered the lead monk. The soldier was also frowning and looking scared and unsure.

Remember to fill in the log sheet before moving on again.
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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