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In Sickness and in Health

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"In Sickness and in Health" was the enigmatic title of the first meeting of the Thornbury Society's new season. Various guesses were made as to the content - the NHS, local GP services, even marriage vows. Doubt was expressed beforehand as to the interest level of the talk. This was immediately dispelled when James Turtle from the Gloucester Records Office began to speak.

With only a few pertinent over-head projector slides and a fascinating delivery, he raised our interest in the sickness and disease of the past and the somewhat bizarre treatments administered - relating this all the while to evidence gleaned from towns and villages scattered throughout Gloucestershire.

The plague was one highly infectious disease feared by all. Sometimes whole families were quarantined in their own homes to avoid the spread of the disease to the rest of the community. Frequently documentary evidence shows that entire families succumbed. Equally feared was smallpox and James provided us with examples from the past where entire families were buried in the gardens of their homes as the living were too afraid to transport the corpses to the church yard. So watch out if you buy an old cottage in the town or country!

Remedies for diseases were often home made and enjoyed only occasional success. As today, ginger was a favoured component and was blended with garden herbs. It was not unusual either to find snails and earthworms applied to wounds!

James' transcripts enabled us to read the references and recipes but the original spelling could be so divergent from today that it was often amusing to read the originals.

We were all educated and entertained during a fascinating evening.


The Thornbury Local History and Archaeology Society always welcomes new and occasional members. Details of our programme can be found on this website, the library or the Town Hall. Our meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month, held at St Mary's Church Hall beginning at 7.30pm. Visitors are always welcome at the society for the small charge of £2.50.

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