Header Image
Are you sure you want to open the next chapter?

Apothecary Pink

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.
D - Go to the blue brolly
Chapter four

Maggot Mania

As you approach the stall you see a girl who is dressed in dark blue jeans and a light pink T-shirt. The soldier asks her where the healer is. Surprisingly, she answers him saying "I'm the healer!" She startles him with her American accent. Then she begins the cure.

She starts by stinging the wart using a stinging nettle. Then she places some MAGGOTS on it. The wart splits in half and the healer puts a few drops of honey inside. She then stitches up the wart with a needle and lets the soldier go. She shouts after him;"Come back next week!"

You aren't surprised because you say "How would stinging nettles cure it! It would only make it worse!"
You agree that this cure is a complete fail.

Now move along but before you do remember to write some notes down on your log sheet about this cure.
E - Go to the pink brolly
Chapter five

Sweet Pollen

As you approach the stall you see a tall man dressed in a yellow suit protecting him from all harm. As he approached, you could see his wrinkled face and deep blue eyes, making him look both young and old. Beside him is a large stone bowl filled to the top with a yellow-orangey liquid made of a mix of honey and tree pollen covered with an iron top to stop dirt getting in.
He begins the procedure by, first, putting on gloves and, second, giving the mixture a stir with a long wooden spoon. When he thought the solution was ready, he carefully applied handfuls of the liquid onto the patient's wart, trying not to spill any up his nose(because he believed if the potion falls on the skin it would cause itchiness) and tries to cause minimal pain to the soldier.
After the treatment, the monk comments " Give me a week and it should work." Before you move to the next chapter, make a note of the cure on the log sheet.
A - Go to the orange brolly
Chapter six

Crushed spider web.

As you approach the stall, you notice a tired man, scars reach up his face like vines up a sad, dying tree. Blood stains his lab coat, turning the pure white material into a dark red, hair explodes from his head like a volcano, making his appearance more weird than ever. Pedestrians hurry from the street and children sprint towards the other side of the street, far away from the danger.
Despite the swift escape from the public, you continue to walk towards the healer, attending the risk of any harm. Birds gathered to watch, still a far distance from the mad scientist. You remain calm and brave, walking normally; but you notice the peculiar a ingredients labelled on the colourful jars balancing on wooden stakes. After what seems forever, you reach the herd of strange cures.
"Would you like a cure to remove your wart?" asked the old man. Your nose twitches awkwardly, as if offended by the speech of the healer. You try to ignore the strange feeling, but when you open your mouth to speak no words come out. You simply nod your head an eye the jars, as if they were about to tumble of the thin wooden stakes. He pulls a thick, mucky blanket from his bag an lays it on the dirty street floor. You hesitate for a few seconds, before laying on to the stone-hard material.
Chapter seven


The healer struggled to shove his hand into the slim jar; you watch uncomfortablely on your greasy blanket. Finally, the mad scientist's hand devoured the unpleasant mixture. The label read: Inferno crushed spider web, tears from a leprechaun, early morning dew from a rose bush.
You twitch as you view the curly writing and your face screws up in pure disgust. The man pulls out a gigantic, sharp needle out of a greasy case, and you want to rewind your options. He dips the needle into the jar you selected, and raises it high above your face as if he is about to stab you. Finally, he lowers the blade so it is just above your face. The raiser needle stabs you gently on the nose, just beside your ugly wart. It stings in pain for a minute before he raises the needle. If a police was walking by at the time, he would be more than suspicious. You roll swiftly of the greasy duvet and eye th healer, wanting to shout vicously at him, but your thoughts are interrupted.
"Fifty pounds please." Fifty pounds? You can't afford that! You want to ask him to repeat himself, but think better. Reaching inside your wallet, you pull out a soggy fifty pound note and hand it to th ugly man.
The wart was gone.
F - Go to the red brolly
Chapter eight

Sweet Stinger

As you approach the stall you see, the healer ,she is dressed like a bee ,her hair is bright blonde and her eyes are bright blue. Behind the healer's stall, is a bee hive she tells you to lay down . I was very suspicious.

First she makes the bee sting my wart . Then she places the mixture on me and rubs it in . I think It will work ...

''Give it 2 days and see what happens ''
''It doesn't work don't try it ''

Before you move to the next chapter make a note of the cure on the log sheet.
C - Go to the purple brolly
Chapter nine

the honey and ivy

As you approach the stall you see a man with ivy around him and endless amounts of honey and poison. his name is Mr poison he has the biggest dark emerald eyes in the whole city and eyebrows like snow. you walked slowly to the stall. Mr poison said" i will be ready in a minute."

Mr poison cut off some ivy and put the juicy poison in a jar and took some honey and put it in the jar. 2 hours later, the cure was ready Mr poison put the cure on the wart.

you said are you sure this will work Mr poison? yes. just give it a week and if it doesn't work come back and we can do it again.

Before you move to the next chapter make a note of the cure on the log list.
B - Go to the green brolly
Chapter ten

slimy black death

As you approach the stall you see a 70 year old man dressed in navy-green with little torn holes so he with little pieces of wool embedded in the corks' of the little potions strapped on his shirt and trousers. He is sat on a short wobbly, wooden stool with a brown, wobbly table that is covered from left to right with hundreds of potions scattered all over the table, he had shoulder length blonde hair with a outstanding name which is Gyus . "Can you cure my wart?" he suspiciously the physician. "I am sure I can. Just take a seat and I will begin my procedure."
First Gyus dipped 1 whole leech into a pot of snail slime and waited 10 seconds took it out and placed it's mouth on the wart and let it slowly eat or try to eat the wart. Soon they discovered that it did not work.

Please remember to write in the log sheet before moving on or away.
Go back to where our story began
Chapter eleven

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 twelve

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 thirteen

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 fourteen


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 fifteen


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 sixteen

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.
Footer Image