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Meeting Report - September 2017

On Tuesday 26th September, Paul Harding and Helen Lee gave a fascinating talk to Romsley and Hunnington History Society on Medieval Medicine and Surgery. Paul, dressed as a Medieval Surgeon, complete with a blooded apron, explained, with his tongue in cheek humour, that the dirtier the clothes and instruments the more experienced and therefore the more qualified the surgeon! Hygiene was not a priority in medieval times!

If you were ill in those days the first place you visited was the Church, where prayers and faith were put to the test. Superstition too played a part and a visit to the Wise Woman of the village, with her charms to protect you from the plague, a dead man's shirt to cure a chest infection, or a dead mouse to cure an earache might be just what you needed! However, Wise Women were becoming rare as they were being eradicated as witches! Knowing your birth sign might have helped to make a diagnosis, as ancient charts showed that each sign of the Zodiac was afflicted by a certain weakness. Paul Share, a Capricorn, confirmed that he definitely had trouble with his knees!

Perhaps a visit to the Apothecary might have helped. He could cure but not diagnose. With a selection of plants and herbs, weighed on his scales, potions were made up to cure various ailments. Willow bark was used and we still use part of the willow, in the form of asprin, as a pain killer today. The Physician was the next person who might help. He looked into the inner man, analysing urine samples and blood letting with gruesome instruments, although they had hardly any knowledge of the circulatory system! He was also good at getting rid of the Tooth Worm, which ate into your teeth, thought to be caused by eating too much sugar,

Finally, when your illness became so bad that you were beyond caring, you would visit the Barber Surgeon. Paul showed us an array of surgical knives and saws, all faithful replicas of the originals, made for him by a blacksmith. There were curved knives for amputating arms and legs, and specially made pincers for extracting arrows. The patient sat in the dreaded Barber's Chair, held down by burly men, and without anaesthetic, the surgeon would cut off the offending limb. Remarkably, many of the unfortunate recipients recovered after their awful experience.

Thank goodness our health is in safer hands now and maybe the N.H.S. is not so bad after all! Paul looked at a different aspect of history and presented it in a very in a very entertaining and enjoyable way, much appreciated by members of the Society.

The next meeting of the History Society will be on Tuesday, 24th October, when Margaret Bradley will give a talk on, "The Cradley Women Chainmakers' Strike of 1910." The Court Rolls Group will meet on Wednesday 1st November at 2.30pm in the Church Hall.


Pat Evans

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