Alongside words relating to farming life and weather predictions, local traditions and home remedies were also recorded in the Survey of English Dialects. An informant from Burton-in-Lonsdale complained of being a beggar for (very prone to) chapped hands from working outdoors in the bitter cold. The traditional Dales remedy, recommended by a saddler from Bedale, is to fill the cracks with cobbler’s wax.

For other ailments, or if you’re feeling not so lish (unwell) you might visit the local doctor or chemist. From the earliest times, healers, apothecaries and druggists in the Dales provided medical care and treated simple illnesses. By the end of the 1700s, trained doctors were practising in most towns, but the development of drugs and treatments was relatively slow. Many herbal remedies were used, together with belladonna, quinine, aspirin and ether. 

Glass bottles on shelves

This dispensary is displayed at the Dales Countryside Museum. Together with its waiting room, it was used early in the 1900s by Dr. Isaac Bainbridge (1885–1952) of Brough in Cumbria.

Born into a farming family, Isaac Bainbridge devoted his life to looking after the community. He combined the roles of general practitioner, surgeon, dentist, optician and midwife, and was always easy to spot due to his love of wearing plus fours!  

A printed notice

Chemists created their own treatments such as the cherry cough cure advertised here.

A pestle and mortar

The doctor, chemist or druggist made the pills they prescribed in a dispensary.

In rural communities in the Dales, huge areas were covered by one doctor. He would generally be on call day and night and had to deal with everything from pulling teeth to testing eyes and setting broken bones. He also had to act as chemist, administrator and book-keeper. Most babies were born at home and a nurse or local handy woman often attended to women in labour. She may also have laid out the deceased within the local community.

Epidemics of flu, whooping cough, scarlet fever and tuberculosis occasionally broke out and were often fatal. Isolation hospitals were established to care for patients locally. Not everyone could afford medicines and doctor’s visits and only the very poorest people received free treatment. Many relied on home remedies handed down from one generation to the next, such as a dish of onions in boiled milk eaten at bedtime for a cold, or a weekly dose of liquorice powder to aid digestion. The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture has many examples of home remedies, including bumble kites (blackberries) for an upset stomach, recommended by a Survey of English Dialects informant from Pateley Bridge in 1952.