Master Christopher visits the Nineteenth Century and encounters the Parish Constable

The folk of Swords and Spindles are nothing if not versatile. Today Master Christopher was spotted in slightly more modern garb than usual, captured in a pillory. Had he been found drunk in the street? Was he guilty of selling underweight herrings? Will he spend his full six hours thus pinioned? More to the point, will the nails affixing his ears to the wood be removed gently, thus earmarking him as a criminal henceforth, or will he make his escape in a more painful manner and become a tearaway?

Amongst our many presentations, Swords and Spindles offer a session about crime and punishment.



If you go Down to #FamilyTreeLive on 26 & 27 April ………. Part 3: Sir William Tyrell

Tyrell 2 resizeSir William Tyrell lives at Pentargon Hall with his wife, the Lady Kateryn. He is the local landowner magistrate, having taken on the role from his father-in-law, the late Sir Edward Cardew. Whilst many of his cases are run of the mill village disputes, occasionally a case comes along with more wide-reaching significance…

In the 21st Century, Sir William is a character from the acclaimed play WITCH, written by Tracey Norman and performed by Circle of Spears Productions. He is portrayed by Tracey’s husband, folklore author and researcher Mark Norman. Mark is the creator and host of The Folklore Podcast and writes books, articles and a newspaper column on folklore and its interaction with our family and social history.



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.

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.