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Apothecary Scarlet

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.
B - Go to the green brolly
Chapter four

bite to the blood

As you approach the stall you see a huge crowd surrounding a soldier lying down on a brown, broken bench. Beside the soldier is a healer who was slightly tilted on him and in the healers smooth hand were three items that can maybe cure a bad wart. Mosquitoes,doc leaves and slime of a slug.The healer had a gold necklace with jewels on it also his teeth was as white as a star shining in the night sky. He was so clean he look like he had a wash in the shower every hour.

The healer straight away started trying to heal the poor soldiers wart. He first took out ten mosquitoes from a leather bag and they sucked all the remaining blood out of the wart.The soldier expression were out of control as he suddenly passed out! Next he put a slug on the mans wart then cleaned up the slime with a doc leaf.

After one hour the man woke up and the wart was still there and the monk said it was a FAIL!

Before you move on to the next chapter,make a note of the cure on the log sheet.
D - Go to the blue brolly
Chapter five

Sweet and sour

As you approach the stall in a small dark room,you see the healer waiting for the soldier with the pot of honey and squeezed lime juice on a table next to her. She looks friendly with shiny and sparkly eyes which made her look caring . When she was welcoming the soldier to the room and introducing herself, her voice had a gentle and soft accent which was calming. The soldier didn't feel like he needed to worry anymore about the procedure.

The healer talks the soldier through the procedure and then after about five minutes, she smears the honey and lime juice cure onto the wart. The soldier thinks it is a fifty:fifty chance that the cure might work but was not sure. The healer said to leave it untouched for four days and then it would get better.

After a week, the monk said to the crowd that there was a soldier who tried out the honey and lime juice cure and left it for four days like the healer had said but unfortunately, it didn't work like all of the other cures.

Remember to write in the log sheet with the spaces in to put the facts you found out about the cure and mark it out of ten.
F - Go to the red brolly
Chapter six

The sweet sting of sour

As you approach the stall that is colourful and bright,you see a little girl no older than twelve years old,mixing lemon,honey and wasp stingers together whilst smiling in your direction. The soldier starts walking towards the little girl and smiles. The soldier starts looking at the ingredients placed at the stall. Suddenly, the girl asks if the soldier is ok. She has bright flowery clothes and her emerald - green eyes glisten in the sun light and her hair is gingery blond. You ask if she knows how to get warts off noses. She tells the soldier that he have come to the right place!
She tells the soldier to lie down on the bed and to shut his eyes as it could get in his eyes. The soldier lies down and he shuts his eyes. The soldier thinks it is pretty amazing as it doesn't hurt him much only a bit of stinging. It must have felt quite nice and the soldier sighed a sigh of happiness.
Then she tells him his treatment is done. She was about to tell him something important but he just grabbed a mirror and said "this is horrible treatment!" "It doesn't work!" He sees the little girls face turn from a smile to tear drops dropping down her eyes. He had made a big mistake.
E - Go to the pink brolly
Chapter seven

sticky stinger

As you approach the stall, you see a squirrel with a bushy tail running across the frozen tiles and a tall young lady wearing the finest gold and jewellery with honey- colour clothes . the lady is young and has diamond blue eyes that sparkle in the moonlight but her swarm of bees bring fear into your eyes as the scent of honey reaches your nose .

The soldier is scared when he sees the bees . As the lady pulls out the mixture from her pocket the crowed gasps ,she shouts for him to sit .Then she smuthers the mixture on the soldiers wart. The lady picked up a bee; as the soldier began to squirm and scream, the bee stung tabloid blister. Then she dampened the wound but nothing happened.

The monk says "Let's leave it for a weekend see what happens."

Before you move to the next chapter, make a note of the cure in your log sheet.

A - Go to the orange brolly
Chapter eight

stickey wrigglers

As you approach the stall you see wriggling worms in a tight box along with honey in another and lots of pots of the deadly cure inside. There is a white cloth on the table and then lots of containers with the mixture. There aren't many people in the queue... Actually, there's none. The healer looks angry yet bored and he has lots of warts that he hasn't even tried the cure on. That's making people think that it doesn't work.

The healer firstly gets a flannel and pours the mixture on it and aggressively smears it onto the wart. The soldier looks disgusted as the brown goo smeared across his face.

"This cure doesn't work but it did give the soldier a deadly, permanent RASH!,"

"Don't use 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


As you approach the stall you see a man doing some kind of spells on a scared looking man next to him.The sorcerer, who has fire dancing in his eyes, looks at you. He is wearing a black cloak, black gloves and black mask.He walks slowly and strangely towards you.
The man says "This will only hurt a lot." And then says "ABRACABRA zing zang wartagoner!!!!!!" He tells the man to come to him everyday until the wart is gone or he will die.
The monk says "Lets leave it for a week and see what happens."

Write down in your log sheet before going to the next chapter.
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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