An Excellent Oyntment for a Blast or Heat in the Face Braking Out in Pimples

What on earth am I on about this time? Well I am on the way to ticking something off my ‘to do’ list. About four years ago, I became aware that Totnes Museum (well worth a visit incidentally) had a Receit (sic) Book dating from 1680. Before you think receipt as in ‘thank you for paying your bill’, this is what we would now call a recipe book. Not how to cook the dinner but recipes for herbal cures. Just up Mistress Agnes’ street. At the time I thought ‘that would be great to transcribe one day’ but Totnes is just too far from home for this to be easily accomplished.

Finally I managed to do something about this, thanks to Devon Family History Society’s wonderful digitisation equipment and to Totnes Museum too of course. If you have documents that need preserving do get in touch with Devon Family History Society to see how they can help. It is likely that your precious document won’t even need to leave your sight.

Book of Receits 1680b

Oh, you want to know how to cure your pimples – well take ‘Mouse eare and boyle in oyle of creame or May Butter.’ If you were wondering, ‘A Blast is a red fiery swelling for the most part in the face, if it be not killed runnes into scabs all over the face,’ Please don’t go ripping the ears off small rodents – mouse-ear is a plant, a type of chickweed.

I have offered to transcribe the whole book. Actually, I made this offer before asking how long the book was. Fortunately for me, it is not thousands of pages so you may be regaled with further cures in the future.

A particularly rewarding seventeenth century session this week. Our audience were rather younger  than sometimes so I was in best storytelling mode and trying not to sound too much like Joyce Grenfell. Part of my role was to walk through the streets of Torrington on the night of the battle of 1646. The emphasis is on night, logically this means it is quite dark. It is no mean feat to persuade 50 seven and eight year olds to brave our version of the ‘town’, even with the aid of my magic lantern. First I have to persuade them that there aren’t actually going to be shot at. Sometimes they like to hold my hand for reassurance. This is very difficult as I like to wave my hands about when I am storytelling but we managed and every child stayed to the end. Conducting four half hour monologues in succession can be exhausting but oh so exciting to see the young people really engage with the past.

Image with permission of Totnes Museum and Devon Family History Society


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