Swords and Spindles Entertain and Inform in Schools

DSCF0565Our busy term is now drawing to a close and we have graced parched playing fields across the south-west. Wearing our woollen, seventeenth century costume has been a little cosy of late but at least it ensured that we brought the smells of the time to our audience. More visits await us in September. In addition to our a presentations to suit young people across the age range, we have updated our revision sessions to reflect the recent changes in the syllabus for GCSE. We can offer help with, Elizabethan England, Restoration England, the History of Medicine and Conflict during the seventeenth century as well as providing background information for those studying Shakespeare. We are already taking bookings for the 2018-19 academic year and as usual, the summer term is filling up fast, so please book early to avoid disappointment. We are offering 2019 bookings at 2015 prices. We also have a full programme of events booked with history societies, U3As, WIs and other social groups.

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Meet Swords and Spindles at Buckland Brewer Fete 14 July

Chris in Armour 1Some of the Swords and Spindles team will be at Buckland Brewer fete, North Devon on Saturday afternoon, with musket, pike and drum. In the afternoon, there will be an opportunity to try on costume or armour. Then, just after six o’clock, we will be mustering an army for the king on the amenities field. Pikemen (or women) of all ages required, no experience necessary, training will be given.

Mistress Agnes gets Nominated again

Jo Rutherford Photography_-6 2
Photograph by Jo Rutherford

Swords and Spindles are proud to announce that their very own Mistress Agnes has been nominated for an award. Should any good folk who have heard her wax lyrical on matters historical wish to cast a vote in her favour then though dost need the witchcraft that some do call t’internet and to press just about here to express your appreciation for what she doth do. She will most graciously thank you.

Mistress Martha writes of Master Culpeper

Nicholas Culpeper 1616-1654

Culpeper 1Nicholas Culpeper was born in 1616, the son of a clergyman who died before his son was born. He grew up in Sussex within the home of his Puritan grandfather. He studied at Cambridge before being forced to leave the university. He then became an apprentice to an apothecary in Bishopsgate, London.

He married 15 year old Alice and due to her wealth was able to set up as an astrologer and herbalist in Spitalfields. He was able to charge nothing or very little for his services. Here he began translating medical books into English, thus making them more accessible to those who could not read Latin. He used local ingredients in his treatments, many from his own herb garden.

As a Parliamentarian, he performed surgery during the English Civil War and during the First Battle of Newbury in 1643 he received a bullet wound from which he never fully recovered. In 1649 he published his Physical Directory beforeissuing his most important work, The English Physician in 1653. He died aged 37 in 1654. Culpeper was described as a radical, witty and eloquent as well as being prone to melancholy.

Culpeper contributed much to the corpus of knowledge. He was an early proponent of the importance of caring for the sick and the poor. He was of the opinion that all people who required it should be treated and social status should not prevent necessary care from being given. In his book The English Physician (now Culpeper’s Complete Herbal) he integrated astrological ideas as well as ideas from the Doctrine of Signatures (a ‘like for like’ theory that the medical use of a herb could be ascertained from its appearance) into herbal medicine. This book is an index of illnesses and herbal remedies has never been out of print.

Some Handy Cures for those who Ail

Mistress Agnes decided that she would share a few receipts from goodwives of her acquaintance in case any do be ailing.

Ground IvyDr Wadenfield’s Remedy for Lunacy, as penned by the inestimable Mrs Kettilby. Take of ground-ivy three large handfuls shred small, boil it in two quarts of white wine, till two parts in three be consumed. Strain and add to it six ounces of the best sallad oil, boil it up to an ointment; let the patient’s head be shaved, rub and chafe it with the ointment made warm. Then take fresh herbs, bruised and applied plaisterwise, tying it on the top of the head very hard. Repeat this every other day, ten or twelve times, give the patient three spoonfuls of the juice of ground-ivy every morning fasting, in a glass of beer for the first ten days.

Mrs Kettliby’s own receipt for an ointment for the back of a ricketty child. Pick snails clean out of the shells and prick them full of holes, hang them up in a cloth and put a bason to catch what drops from them; which you must boil up with speracity and blades of mace, of each one ounce. Rub this ointment along the back-bone, round the neck, wrists and ancles. Use this constantly night and morning and chase it in by the fire. This with the drink that follows has recovered many weak children from sickness, lameness and deformity.

To make the Ricketty Drink: Put an ounce of rhubarb, three hundred live wood-lice, sassafras, china and eringo roots of each three ounces; roots of Ismond-royal, two ounces, raisins of the sun ston’d two ounces; Hart’s Tongue, two handfuls. Put these into six quarts of small ale and drink spring and fall, no other drink; tis almost infallible for weak children.

Mistress Agnes be gathering wood-lice this very minute.

Halberds in the Hall

Halberd.JPGThe summer is a time for polishing armour and honing our swords. Actually we don’t do a lot of honing. True, we have Master Christopher to re-attach severed appendages but it plays havoc with the public liability insurance premiums and doesn’t go down too well with our audiences. Our latest acquisition for our armoury is a halberd, acquired by armourer in chief Master Christopher (multi-tasking you see) at a local farm auction. Allegedly ’tis a garden tool but what do farm auctioneers know? Fortunately Master Christopher was the only one in the crowd who recognised its true purpose, or indeed had a use for it, so very few groats changed hands. The many talented Master Arthur fashioned a new haft for it and Sir Francis, as the officer within our ranks, will be wielding it to good purpose.

Of Frogs and Foreign Parts

Mistress Agnes has not put quill to keyboard lately but rest assured we have not been idle. Armour is being polished, shifts are being darned, herb gardens are being tended, research is being done. The diary is looking very full for 2018, those who are responsible for the education of young folks are advised to book early to be assured of enjoying the ministrations of our wonderous characters in the forthcoming school year. Our presence amongst older folks has also been requested in places near and far.

DSCF3080In preparation for next year’s voyaging to continents unknown, Mistress Agnes has been looking out some new cures. We need to be in good health to be travelling hither and yon. We will therefore be concocting a mouthwash by boiling frogs in vinegar. Should we become jaundiced we will be eating the fresh dung of a grass-fed goose or cutting open a live trout and laying it on our stomachs. Other ailments will be suitably ‘cured’ by the deployment of items in Master Christopher’s surgeon’s kit.

* With grateful thanks to Evans, Jennifer and Read, Sara Maladies and Medicine: exploring health and healing 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017)