This summer sees a celebration of all things Lady Johanna related at Lydiard Park. In recent months volunteers have been busy transcribing her famous 1680 book and even trying out a few of the recipes for pills, potions and perfumes.
The flowers and herbs for her receipts were grown at Lydiard where her steward Thomas Hardyman supervised the planting. A drawing of the house dating from Johanna’s reign shows both a formal and a walled garden to the south east of the old mansion house, predating the recently restored walled garden to the west. These features were swept away when Johanna’s grandson remodelled the house and landscaped the gardens some fifty years later.
Everyday 17th century remedies were quite literally home grown and Lady Johanna’s book is a repository of tried and tested family remedies.
One such remedy was ‘For Melancholy the medicine wch cured my Lady Bernard.’ Elizabeth, Lady Bernard was Johanna’s half sister, the daughter of Oliver St John, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and his second wife Elizabeth Cromwell. It was for Elizabeth, who lost five of her nine young children, that Johanna brewed this medicine.
‘Take of the Juyce of the Herb Mercury 8 pound Juyce of Borage & Buglos each 2 pound you must be at the Herbs three times over & squees them in an Almon press the last straining is the best clarified Hony 12 pound boyle them a little then let them runn thurou a Flannel Bag
You must have 48 hower in a close pot or Tankard 3 pints of whitewine 6 ounces of orrace rootes beaten 3 ounces of Gentian Rootes sliced thin straine these thurow the same Bag with out pressing put the white wine so strained into the Hony & Juyces boyle them to a syrop take a spoonful or two in Ale or any Liquor & the same in the morning Afternoon if the person can beare it the first must be taken fasting this must be done at least 2 months.’
Another kinswoman, Aunt Masham, provided a Ricket Oyntment. Johanna’s grandmother Elizabeth Barrington married Sir William Masham of High Laver, Essex following the death of her first husband John Altham.
‘My Aunt Mashams Ricket Oyntment – Rosemary Fetherfew spike Hysops thime pennyroyal southernwood maidenhare bay leaves each a handful boyle them in 3 pints of salet oyle or 2 pound of unsalted Butter straine it & anoint the knots on the ribs & Joynts & Breast therwith if it be narrow keep warme’
The green sickness better known today as hypochromic anemia, took its name from the green skin tones in sufferers. At about the time Johanna was compiling her book, English physician Thomas Sydenham classified green sickness or ‘virgin’s disease’ as a hysterical disease affecting adolescent girls and ‘slender and weakly women that seem consumptive.’ Symptoms included weakness, an absence of menstruation and general lethargy but Lady Johanna’s cure sounds worse – ‘a wine pint of a Boys urin of 10 years old seeth in it an ounce & a halfe of wheat leven a qw of an hower strain it give it at 4 in the afternoon.’
But not all Lady Johanna’s receipts were for medicinal purposes. As a society hostess who frequently entertained Charles II at her Battersea home, Johanna paid attention to her appearance, especially her hands.
‘To make the Hands white – A Manchitt steep it 2 howers in milk then boyle it an hower then boyle it with thes following things an hower more a qtr of a pound of Bitter Almons the 4 cold seeds each an ounce white poppy seeds an ounce spermaitty halfe a dram camphor 12 granes Borax one dram roach Alom halfe a dram then heat the yold of an new layd egge let it just boyle after it is in rub all yr hands with as much as a walnut of it very hard & well & wash them with a little water & wipe them.’
On Wednesday June 20 and Saturday June 23 visitors to Lydiard Park can explore the history of garden plants and their medicinal properties as used by Lady Johanna. And on August 10 – 12 Swindon Youth Theatre presents Johanna’s Miracle Garden. For more information visit the website on www.lydiardpark.org.uk