Class 4 - Thackray Medical Museum

Class 4 had a great time learning about Tudor medicines at the Thackray medical museum, the boys taking on the role of apothecaries and the girls that of Wise Women. We learnt that Tudor medicine consisted mainly of herbal remedies, for example, a mixture of sage, lavender and marjoram was recommended to treat a headache, chamomile was taken to help ease a stomach ache, and feverfew was consumed to help with colds and high-temperatures. Herbal remedies were often known as ‘simples’ and most Tudor women would have known how to make them. We were shocked to hear of other more outlandish remedies, for example, it was thought that smallpox could be cured by hanging red curtains around the patient’s bed, and jaundice could be cured by drinking lice mixed in ale every morning for a week!

‘Bleeding’ was a common practice in Tudor England, people believing that illness was often caused by having too much blood, so ‘bad blood’ was let by cutting a vein or by applying leeches to the skin. We visited the leeches displayed in the museum and were surprised by their length, and astonished that they are only fed every three months!

Our studies involved learning about how astrology played a key role in diagnosing a patient’s illness and looked at the qualities the Tudors would have believed we possessed based on when we were born.

Thankfully, we were on hand to make poultices to treat King Henry VIII’s ulcerated leg. Using muslin, bran, marigold flowers and vinegar, we carefully assembled the treatment ready to apply to his leg. To mask the horrendous smell of the rotting flesh, we made pomanders using rose petals, rose water, fennel, lavender, cloves, benzoin resin and gum tragacanth.

Having spent our time studying Tudor remedies and beliefs, we are all relied that we live in the 21st century and have our GP to call upon in times of medical need!