April 30, 2021|Reports

“Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of our seventeenth century ancestors” – Janet Few

On Tuesday 27th April over fifty members of Wickham History Society were due to hear a talk by Dr Janet Few only to find at the last minute that her place had been taken by Mistress Agnes and Master Christopher who had kindly time travelled through Zoom in order to give us the real low down on 17th century life.

This wasn’t ‘gentry’ life, and Agnes and Christopher weren’t impressed by their audiences inability to identify twenty-seven practical uses for their urine, or their squeamishness about 17th century medical practices like trepanning (drilling a hole into the human skull). Life was busy: about eight buckets a day of water had to be brought from the nearest well or stream for a family, a fire was kept going constantly and most items for day-to-day living were hand made.

Bluebell bulbs made a good glue, bracken or rushes were used to cover the cottage floor and an enormous variety of herbs and flowers were used for medicine, flavourings and also for magical protection. The bay tree helped keep the witches ‘at bay’, mint was the Viagra of the 17th century and valerian could be used to calm down over enthusiastic spouses… Mistress Agnes made it plain that she wasn’t going to be seen wearing one of those ‘strait laced’ bodices favoured by her puritan neighbours!

This was a very well researched and thoroughly enjoyable talk, focussing for once on day to day life rather than the ‘great and the good’ whose lives are so much better documented. For those of you who are interested to know more, Janet’s book of the same title is available to purchase through her website at www.thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com

Do you have something to contribute to the society?