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Apothecary Skye

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.
E - Go to the pink brolly
Chapter four

Queen Bee

As you approach the stall you see a tall, slick woman dressed in a forest green dress. As you get closer you can see the dress is entirely made out of fresh leaves. You shake her hand and her skin is all sticky as you touch it.
" Good morning ." she says. The woman had a very strong northern accent. You sit down to spectate her method.
The woman takes out a bowl and a stone. Then she finds a crate. She also gets out three doc leaves and a jar of honey. The woman starts to mix the doc leaves and honey together with the stone. She opens the crate and out flies a wasp. The healer feeds the mixture to the wasp and then puts some on the soldiers wart. The wasp flings himself at it and eats it all up. When the wasp leaves, the wart is still there. The soldier sits there, petrified.
"Is that all?" asks the Friar. The healer nods her head.
" Well, we shall observe the wart over the upcoming week." He bade her good day and left.
Before you move to the next chapter, the Friar asks you to make a note of the cure in your log book.
C - Go to the purple brolly
Chapter five

Conquering the tree

As you approached the stall you see a tall man stood next to the wooden table. He wore a shirt made of leaves and trousers made of twigs intwined in such a way he could move freely as though it was made of silk. You could not see his face for he wore a mask of ivy. His hands were covered in roots weaved carefully to make gloves. He had a rusted bucked half full of conquers and a bottle of Oak sap. He never spoke a word.

The man took out three conquers and began to grind them between two perfectly round stones. Once the conquers were at a powder the man poured the entire bottle of oak sap into the mixture. He the mixed the concoction until it was a smooth purée. Then he applied the cream to the wart. Then he spoke for the first time,"Leave this for three days."
The monk replied," We will give it a week."

He turns to you and asks,before you move on take a note of this cure on your log sheet.

D - Go to the blue brolly
Chapter six

Crunchy, Venomous Sap

As you approach the room, you see a quack, greasy with sap and covered in crushed cockroach shell. The healer also has 3 warts at the tip of his nose. In the middle of the small room, there is an untidy bed with an untreated blanket. there is a table in the corner with a potion that looked an unpleasant bright red and had small bits of crushed cockroach shell in a pestle mortar. The tall man looked young and skinny. He had a crooked nose with beady black eyes.
When the soldier approached the room, he couldn't believe his eyes but he but he tried to hide the feeling. He assumed it would be unsuccessful due to the number of warts at the end of the healer's nose, "The tree sap," the quack began, "Is to burn the wart away," said the quack, showing his patient the potion. The poor soldier looked horrified. The quack carried on, trying to ignore the soldier's reaction, "The venom has come straight from a Black Widow and is used to poison the wart," he pointed to the pestle mortar,"And the crushed cockroach shell will be used to hold the potion in place. Are we ready to begin?" The soldier nodded. he didn't know what to say. The healer jabbed the potion up the patient's nose but the soldier immediately blew his nose spraying the fluid everywhere. The quack was bitterly disappointed but said,"Leave the wart for a week and it should be healed," the healer said.
The silent friar in the background was scribbling away. This is what he said,'An experiment was carried out to see if Professor 'Healing Quack' could achieve the disappearance on a wart on a soldier's nose. It was unsuccessful due to how horrible the potion was.'.
Before you move to the next chapter, make a note of the cure on the log sheet
B - Go to the green brolly
Chapter seven

No sweeter than stinging

As you approach the stall you see a suspicious looking lady asking people if they need a special treatment to get rid of warts .Suddenly she came up to the solider and asked him if he wanted the wart on the end of his nose removed. He paused then had strange feeling that everyone was watching him so he looked around but everyone was busy looking at other stalls. When he turned back around the lady was checking her watch. When she looked up she said "Well then?" the solider trembled,

"y, y ,yes..."The solider followed the lady behind a curtain and a lady was sat at a desk drinking something and she jumped when the other lady said you've got a visitor that was when the solider realised she was drinking some thing because she spilt it. Curious to see what she was drinking he leaned to the side and saw a label which read 'wasp poison' before the other lady grabbed him painfully by the shoulders and took him painfully to the spot where he was originally standing.

the healer turned around; she was wearing a tiger-skin coat which came down to her knees and in her pocket is a bottle that is blacked out so you can't see what's inside it and the label on it reads wasp poison , pure white gloves and black trousers which stopped above her ankles. on her right ankle is a detailed tattoo of a wasp and covering her feet were navy high-heels . Her face is covered in wartsand she has puffed out lips that are smoothered in dark red lipstick but her beady black eyes do not have the sight of the crecent moon birthmark on the back of her neck .

the healer tells the soldier to lay down on a rotten wooden bed covered by a blanket. As he could feel the cold breeze on his rosy cheeks he went under the fraying blanket but the
healer snapped at him do he had to lay on top of it.When he looked at his barearms he realised he had grubby marks on them from the blanket. Then the healer started by squeezing juice from a dictionary leaf on his

F - Go to the red brolly
Chapter eight

stinging and burning

As you approach the stall you will see a fire with burning hot knifes as hot as a volcano . Standing next to it was a tall man with spiky mettle shoes and dark green T.shirt and green trousers . In his left hand he had a old worn out lamp.

He told the solider to sit on the bed he got one hot burning kitchen knife and placed it on the wart . After a minute he took of the knife and placed on poison ivy on a different knife and held it above the soldiers head he let the poison drip on the wart .

A monk stood in front of the solider and said this cure did not work .

Before you move to the next chapter remember to write write the cure in your log sheet then move on to the next chapter.
A - Go to the orange brolly
Chapter nine

Turning up the heat!

As you approach the stall you see the healer wearing a large, blood covered apron. His face is covered in scars; his voice booms out loud and behind him is a knife lying on a stove and a thousand glass jars each one with a leech in from different shapes, sizes species and nationalities.

The soldier is bound to a wooden chair with thick leather straps and his head is held still by an assistant.

As soon as the knife begins to glow the healer grasps it by the leather wrapped wooden handle; raises it high and with deft accuracy separates the the wart from the nose and just to make sure lets the leech feed on the spot where the wart once lay and with that was done.

Sadly, the soldier has tears streaming down his faces and as the wimp is released he runs to his house as fast as his legs allow.

At last you say "Lets leave it for a week in case the wart grows back if it doesn't you would be lucky enough to help with the cause of science and could have won the competition!"

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

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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