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Apothecary Ruby

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 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 purple brolly
Chapter three

Scorpion soldier

As you approach the stall you see a girl with rosey cheeks standing by a broken shed . She was covered with rags that stole away her body only leaving her head peaking out. By her side was a large basket filled with jars containing horrible and nasty things and next to it was a dirty cloth that looked like it had not been washed for months possibly more. As you moved closer you realise that the dainty girls hand was pocking out only to reveal that the girl didn't have a thumb. Terrified as you were you edged forward nervously as you wanted to get rid of the horrible wart that you had. She beckons you in the shed and asks you to pass the basket in which the nasty things were and as you take a better look fear comes over you like a wash of the waves. A scorpion lies at the bottom of the jars scutter ling and creeping trying to get out. She asks you to lie on a bench that looked like it would break if anybody even sat on it but you have to and luckily u don't get a nasty bump. Freakishly she takes out the scorpion leaches and honey and squashes them together on a chopping board which gives you child hood night mares.

You scream as she rubs the sickening mixture over the wart .

A month later we checked on the soldier but the wart is still there.
F - Go to the red brolly
Chapter four

Poison and Bacteria Combined

As you approach the stall you suddenly see a healer with creased skin with an unusual shaped face which gives a sinister feeling and scruffy hair. He is wearing a dirty waistcoat and broad trousers. Dead bugs are smeared everywhere. Including his shoes!

He uses a bony finger to lure you in and make you witness the operation.

In his broken sack, He begins by grasping a cup filled with a block of ice and seizes fungus from mushrooms with his antique black gloves. After that, he also gets out a tube of bacteria and launches onto his procedure.
He grabs the block of ice and spreads the fungus and bacteria all over the wart. The healer then wakes up the soldier.

The friar says "Let's leave it for a whole week."

He turns to you to make a note on your monitoring slip before you move on.
E - Go to the pink brolly
Chapter five

Prepare For Death

As you approach the stall you see a healer walking back and forth around a wart remover/adder stall. The healer looked like some kind of hidden murderer. As you become closer you see a workman heating a knife with fire and the healer had a suspicious smile on his face and with binoculars hanging from his neck.the healer had red eyes ,blond hair ,a shirt and dungarees and has 5 pints of blood on his apron.(Not finished.)
A - Go to the orange brolly
Chapter six

Crushed maggots and a sting

As you approach the stall you see a man with wrinkly skin and a crooked nose. He had big beady eyes and a deep mouth. The healer was wearing a blue and silver striped waistcoat and black trousers which are covered in mud from his toe to his waist. Black bear coloured shoes overlapp plain grey socks which kept the smell of his big feet from killing a man in less than a second.

He had a brown, leather bag with the mixture insideWith a scarce beat of his heart, the soldier put the bag full of maggots and the wasps sting over his nose and prayed. He held it on his nose for 5 minutes and all of a sudden the solid wart got bigger and bigger and bigger. Juicy blood poured out. It was getting messy.

The monk said " Lets wait a week and we'll see if it improves."

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

Sweet squirmy bites

As you aprouch the stall you see an old man,his mouth is wrinkled he has long hair but a weak mind.Arther ,which is his name works at the hospital it is very busy there but not always, one day there was an old , dirty and slitly scratched solider his name was Tom, Tom was in the army and he had an infected mole on his nose and Tom wanted to get rid of it, EMEDEATLY! Arther took Tom to his room, room 377 Tom was slitly sceard but not that much.As Arthur put Tom to sleep gust so he wouldn't scream like mad.Arther put him to sleep as soon as he was asleep Arther got the engreedeants ready wich was red ants, honey and magnets

D - Go to the blue brolly
Chapter eight

The uncueing cure

As I approach the stall, I saw a unfamiliar lady staring at me straight in the eye. She looked rather strange and suspicious for some reason and dressed much different than other people in the village. She had long black hair nearly as long as herself and a long crooked nose with a wart at the end of it. She wears long black heels on each foot that you can hardly see because of her manky old cat is always standing nearby and hisses at every victim and her eyes look like pools of blackness.

This lady was standing hear because dieses were taking over the world and cues needed to be made. The worst cure yet was the wart dieses which over one million people had and the lady was there selling that cue you would think that there would be people after people lineing up one bye one trying to purchase this product for such little prise but only a soldier stood there alone.
Well... the lady said impatiently
Umm I changed my mind said the soldier curious of what she was trying to sell

It's a very good product I highly recommend it! Said the women

The soldier left and ran as fast as he could away from this horribly beast.
Go back to where our story began
Chapter nine

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 ten

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 eleven

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 twelve


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 thirteen


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 fourteen

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.ha ha
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