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Apothecary Camo

Welcome to the Apothecary Storywalk.

Exeter 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 outdoor learning classroom.
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.
F - Go to the red brolly
Chapter four

The poisened pig

As you approach the stall you see on the field an ugly old hag who is short and fat. She has grey, greasy and maggoty hair as you look down you see a draping cloak which partly covers up the diamond shaped patterns on a shirt with amulets dangling down as you look up there is a long, curled nose. Then she starts the cure. She spun round to get a bag filled with mushed owl iris, hornets poison and pigs heart.
Then when the soldier wasn't looking she knocked him out and began to pour the mixture in. After that she cut the pig's heart in half and put each half in each of his shoes. When he woke up she lied and said "You ate a scone."

The monk didn't think the cure would work and said "we will look at it in a week."

Remember to record the cure on your log sheet before you move on.
A - Go to the orange brolly
Chapter five

Drowning Ants

As you approach the stall you see a tall , limping figure. All you see of this figure is their long , bony fingers ,covered in ancient rings and you could also see a crooked nose with a large wart on the tip. The reason these are only parts of the figure you see is because they are clothed in a sweeping cloak of ebony black. The figure does not talk but starts work at once. The figure collects a few dasies and sprinkles the pollen into some freezing wine. Then grinds up some poision ivy . The soldier fidgets slightly as they add it to the wine.Now he drowns RED ANTS then extracts them from the remedy. The soldier bathed in it as instructed .But as the friar said this does not work and the wart remains intact. Rerember to fill in the information on your sheet before moving on.
B - Go to the green brolly
Chapter six

sweet venom

As you approach the stall you see a man dressed in grey trousers, black top with a hood you couldn't see his face he also had a belt with a pouch. He was holding a bottle incrusted with pearls which had water in

The man tells the soldier the method it used scorpion venom and honey the man mixed the two ingredients together. The man told the soldier to sit down the soldier looked left and saw a tank with a scorpion devouring a insect. the man dipped one of his long bony fingers in the mixture then smeared the mixture all over the soldiers wart. The soldier wasn't sure about the mixture. The healer said wait one week.

Two days later, a monk commented on the mans mixture and said that it didn't work.

Write in your log sheet before moving on.

C - Go to the purple brolly
Chapter seven

Agatha the leech queen

As you approach the stall you see Agatha the leach Queen is sitting at a wooden stool and is practicing her potion on a practice dummy. she is dressed in a long black skirt and a grey,crinkled t shirt with a long, drooping, black cape her face was covered in wrinkles and her eyes were as black as charcoal under here charcoal eyes were big baggy purple bags and on her long crooked nose sat a proud looking wart. Sat next to this old hag was a soot, black cat which was excavating a dead rat. Clearly she doesn't dress or act like a queen.

Agatha is just about to serve her first customer "Please lay down "croaked Agatha. The soldier lay down on the most hard and uncomfortable bed he had apparently laid on Agatha gave what some people would call the teenage death stare Agatha then takes out a cauldron and a handful of leaches then she sqirted some juice that looked like wasp nectere in the cauldron that made the leaches angrier than a pack of wasps. Next Agatha picked one of the squirming leaches and demonstrated on her wart that it works "Leave the wart for a couple of days and eventauly it will fall of" Then she put he leach on the soldiers nose and it sucked out all the blood until it was a harmless blood blister.

"We will monitere this over a couple of days" anounced the Monk.

Before you move on to the next chapter please make a note of the cure and mark it out of ten on your log sheet!
D - Go to the blue brolly
Chapter eight

The sweet doc

As the you approached the stall you see a small glass cup of this tacky liquid and an odd looking man with an ugly face owning a lost, short and stubby nose. He was tall and lean. He had a disgusting moustache with odd bits inside it. He goes by the name of Jonathan you heard. You were disgusted by his awful appearance.
As you lie down the healer picks up the glass. You become very anxious and sweaty. As the liquid moves from the glass onto your nose the substance slides ever faster. When the liquid reaches your wart the pain on your face really shows up. In pain your tounge is bitten which is like a bird falling from the sky.
On the day of the announcement the friar declared that none of the attempts of curing the wart did not succeed. All of the healers that you tried were disappointed .
Before you move to the next chapter, make a note of the cure on the long sheet .
E - Go to the pink brolly
Chapter nine

Well Well Well

As you approach the stall you see very little indeed, just the healer dressed in a simple cape and a stool for the soldier to sit on.

Without speaking the healer guides the soldier to the seat and takes a long look at the wart. It is big and ugly and sits on the end of the soldiers' nose like a shrivelled prune. The healer prods it about a little with a wooden spoon before asking the soldier to put his head back and look up towards the sky.

The healer then pulls out a tiny flask of special ‘curative water' which he gathered from St Nectans well in Cornwall. One tiny drop of the fluid is sprinkled onto the wart which glistens slightly in the sunlight.

But not much else happens, so the friar asks ‘how long will the treatment take?'

‘A while' the healer says vaguely, but the friar is not impressed ‘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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