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Exhibition Opens at Nantwich Museum

Cheshire East visitor economy 20/07/2021

"A horrible history of health and disease” Exhibition

A new exhibition, “Ouch! A slightly horrible history of health and disease in Nantwich,” has opened in the Millennium Gallery at Nantwich Museum to run until Saturday 23 October. Prepared by members of the Museum’s Research, Education and Craft Groups and curated by Dr Janette Allotey, it takes visitors on a quirky whistle-stop journey into Nantwich’s past from around the 17th to the early 20th century, acquainting them with some of its noteworthy people. 

Stories offer insights into how the townspeople managed to cope with everyday health problems, frequent outbreaks of contagious and often fatal disease and the occasional unfortunate accident. Supporting material provides an opportunity to delve deeper into the past.

Some illness was attributed to the supernatural and the clergy had a significant role in matters related to health, healing and death. Light is also shed on the work of certain local health care professionals, the services of whom had to be paid for privately prior to the National Health Service. People often turned first to cheaper, home-made remedies; sometimes made with what we would today consider as strange ingredients, whilst more exotic and expensive treatments could be purchased from an apothecary. Poverty is often associated with ill health and in the past, care for the poor and the destitute was available at the workhouse. The exhibition concludes on a positive note with an appreciation of the public health services we have today.

Activities for young children include rat spotting around the museum and listening to a specially recorded short story about Ranulphe Ratkins and his Nantwich family of rats. Children can colour in a rat for our nest on the wall in the museum and be rewarded with a museum rat badge! There is also a downloadable guide for a family walk around the town with Ronnie Ratkins.    

A series of evening online talks beginning in September have been selected to be of interest to a wide audience, including a talk on early medicine and surgery, presented by a suitably attired practitioner, an explosive talk on the services provided by apothecaries, a talk on local patent medicine manufacturing by the Blackden Trust, plus 17th century midwifery and tales from Chester Asylum.

Museum Manager, Kate Dobson commented “work on the exhibition began two years ago and it is a testament to the enthusiasm and dedication of volunteers who have worked under the most difficult conditions to have assembled such a wide ranging and fascinating display with something of interest to everyone”.

From Tuesday 27 July the Museum returns to normal opening hours that is 10.30 am – 4.30 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. Entrance to the Museum and exhibition is free.