Apothecaries are the ancient forerunners of modern pharmacists and, as such, generally held alongside witch doctors, voodoo high priests and snake oil salesmen in the pantheon of medicine.

No doubt some methods of the day were dubious, to say the least, and treatments were more likely to accelerate death than remedy. But this was 400+ years ago and their trial and error paved the way for some of what was to become modern medicine. All those who make up the ‘error’ statistic, we salute you! 

Apothecaries’ Hall in Black Friars is London’s oldest livery hall and is a genuine thing of wonder. It opened in 1672 having been rebuilt after the Great Fire of London and you approach through a dark passage guarded by golden unicorns before it opens out into a spectacular courtyard incorporating The Great Hall.

Parlour – Apothecaries’ Hall

Underneath The Great Hall lies the ‘Elaboratory’ which might just have been as sinister as it sounds. It was here the apothecaries brewed, mixed and concocted their potions and remedies, including vomit cakes!

The ‘Elaboratory’ might just have been as sinister as it sounds.

Mental health and depression seem like quite a modern affliction and concern, but there was great awareness of it back in the 1600’s. Not only that, they even had a surefire remedy that was no doubt prepared under the Great Hall. The ingredients and directions read as follows:

– Take 40 or 50 swallows when they are ready to fly from their nests

– Bruise them to a pulp in a mortar, feathers and all

– Add three pints of strong white wine

It’s impossible to feel the temporary lifting of depression had very little to do with crushed birds, and everything to do with three pints of strong white wine.