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The Apothecary by Christopher Jelley

Welcome to the Apothecary Storywalk created for Exeter Daisi - Re Boot Project.

The 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 is the original story which the pupils revealed in their school grounds. They read it aloud to their peers before adding their own creative writing magic. Their versions of this story can be found by clicking the 'HOME' button above.

Instructions

This Storywalk begins in front of Exeter Cathedral, walk there now to reveal the first chapter.
 
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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.
The first chapter will open by walking to the marble statue of Richard Hooker.
 
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Chapter four

Molly the Myth and the Moth

As you approach the healer you see jars stacked on jars filled with beautiful red and black moths inside. They tinkle gently on the glass as a soldier (with a wart on the end his nose) sits in the chair ready for his treatment.

A jar is opened and Molly the healer removes a single moth and then perches it on his nose, its wings open and close gently before flying away. Molly then takes two oval shaped stones and puts one up each nostril.

‘The moth will take the essence of the wart away with it and the stones will rebalance the soldiers humors. I believe over the coming week the wart will wither and die' claims Molly.

The soldier seemed quite relaxed by the procedure and the friar checks the soldiers' wart which is unchanged.

‘We will monitor it over the coming week' said the friar.

He then turns to you to make a note on your monitoring slip before you move on.
The next chapter will reveal by walking around the periphery wall of Cathedral Green in a clockwise manner.
 
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Chapter five

Ringer Stinger

As you approach the stall you see the healer all dressed in yellow with a hexagon pattern on her top. She has a box on the table which is buzzing frantically and the friar thinks bees might be inside.

The soldier is guided to the chair, his wart stands proudly on the end of his nose awaiting treatment.

So the healer picks out one of the bees by its wings and then positions the insect so that it stings the soldiers' wart. He squirms with pain but holds himself tightly in position as another bee is brought over and that one stings him too. Again and again until his nose is red and swollen with bee stings and the wart is completely invisible due to the swelling. Tears of pain stream from the soldiers' eyes and he is thankful to finally get out of the chair.

The friar then approaches to see if the wart has gone, but to no surprise the wart is still their just more inflamed after being stung so much!

‘We will monitor it over the coming week' said the friar.

He then turns to you to make a note on your monitoring slip before you move on.
Continue beside the low wall which marks the edge of Cathedral Green.
 
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Chapter six

Pin Cushion

As you approach the stall you see the healers' workers dressed in red, laying out tools on a tiny table. Charcoal is added to a fire which is stoked really hot by hand pumped bellows as the soldier is escorted to a leather reclining chair in the middle of the crowd.

Then the healer himself makes his entrance, firstly two trumpets are blown, and a long banner unrolls which catches in the wind dramatically. Then the healer throws a handful of salts onto the fire which erupts in a fabulous cloud of green smoke, the crowd thinks this is amazing.

The healer then examines the soldiers' warty nose for a moment, before selecting some of the tools from the table which he places in the fire. A moment or two passes before a worker runs forward with evil looking pincers which are locked on the soldiers nose to keep it still.

Then with great skill the healer threads hot rod after hot rod through the wart and the soldier does well not to scream with pain. With all these needles in his nose he looks like a pin cushion! Then more salt is thrown on the fire and another green plume erupts before the healer begins to remove the needles.

‘Seven days before and the wart will be gone' the healer says confidently to the friar, but the friar is not convinced the wart will go. ‘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.
Follow the pavement on Cathedral Green which runs back towards the front of the Cathedral. The next chapter is not far along this path.
 
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Chapter seven

The Black Worm

As you approach the stall you see a table with a single wicker basket lashed down with leather straps. The healer stands nearby dressed in armoured protective clothing from head to toe looking like he is going into battle!

The soldier is instructed to lie on a bench nearby and is tied in with leather straps before the basket is opened. The healer then puts a gloved hand inside and pulls out a long black snake with diamond shaped markings all down its sides.

Oh no, what's he going to do with the snake!

The soldiers' eyes are popping out on storks with fear but then the healer begins a crazy snake dance around the soldier with the creature around his neck. Back and forth they go, around and around until everyone is quite dizzy.

Then finally the healer takes the snake from his neck and puts it around the soldiers' neck, it quickly slithers down his shirt, the soldier is petrified! Then you see the snake slip out the soldiers trouser leg and try to make an escape, but the healer snatches it quick and pops it back in the basket.

‘Is that it?' asks the friar and apparently it is, but the wart is still there on the tip of his nose. ‘We will monitor this over the coming week' he says.

He then turns to you to make a note on your monitoring slip before you move on.
Continue along the pavement on Cathedral Green, the next chapter is at an intersection of pavements.
 
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Chapter eight

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.
Continue along the pavement to the next path intersection which is only a few meters along.
 
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Chapter nine

The Claxan

The healer is wearing a red ribbon around his head and a dead toad on a string around his neck (obviously for his toothache!)

‘I could heal the wart with powerful stones from the Far East' announces the healer to the gathered crowd. ‘Inside my talisman here' he continues ‘are rare and precious stones, opal, malachite, turquoise and obsidian, all of which rescued from the grave of King Solomon himself to make a very powerful amulet.' The crowd oooh and visibly step in closer to hear more.

‘But, this' and he prods the soldiers wart with a silver spoon ‘will need a more focused and personalised treatment'. At which point from beneath his cape, he withdraws a musical instrument which looks a little bit like a clarinet. He lifts it to his lips and points the funnel end where the sound comes out directly in the soldiers' face. The healer then begins to make a curious noise which is half way between a pig screaming and a squeaky door.

The sound is hideous and it goes on for a long time before the treatment ends. The friar steps forward to examine the wart, which is completely unaffected by the treatment.

‘We will monitor over the coming week' says the friar.

Make a mark on your judging slip before moving on.
Now go back to where our story began for the conclusion of this tale.
 
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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.

End
Chapter thirteen

Questions

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

History

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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