Fertility and aphrodisiacs in the 17th Century

I‘m a bit old fashioned. I grew up on letters rather than email and I can still remember the excitement of opening my first ever, proper, letter. It was from my grandfather and he was responding to the first letter I had ever written.

I feel a little sorry for kids today. I doubt their first ever email will be quite so memorable. And it’ll probably not be from somebody they love and admire. It’ll probably be from Google.

I digress. My problem is I still treat emails a bit too much like letters. I still read every single one I receive at work, however dull they might appear. This has downsides. Time wasted on spam, lengthy ploughing through an inbox after a holiday.

But.

There was this email from Wellingborough Borough Council some time ago. It was a decent little local ultra story about repairs to some town centre mosaics.

About two thirds of the way down (yes, I really do read them) it emerged one of the mosaics (dated to the 1980s, so not very old) depicted the town’s ancient Red Well. Its what? Well, turns out this well had mysterious properties which aided fertility. And they were famous enough to attract the attentions of Henrietta Maria, wife of the ill-fated King Charles I.

And I was hooked. As an occasional escape from more serious investigative pieces about education and homeless London families being put out to pasture in Luton, my time was spent exploring this peculiar world of fertility tourism.

The result was a piece called Fertility Towns: Is there ever something in the water?

It seems to have been fairly well received, with more than 500,000 people reading it on the first day of publication.

And I got to reveal that “powdered womb of a rabbit” was once an aphrodisiac.

Sometimes, being a little old fashioned has its benefits…

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