Barber surgeons gruesome history lesson

College History students were visited by ‘The Barber Surgeon’ from ‘Swords and Spindles’, a North Devon based performance company who specialise in bringing the history of the seventeenth century to life.

The interactive performance, delivered to the College’s Year 9 & 11 History students, outlined some of the gruesome and barbaric practices of the time, including tooth removal and ‘trepanning’; a terrifying headache-remedy procedure that saw holes drilled through patients’ skulls to allow bad spirits and excess ‘humours’ to escape. The belief systems of the seventeenth century were also outlined, giving vital context to the methods used.

Year 9 student, Drew Downing, wasn't sure about the trepanning method!!
Year 9 student, Drew Downing, wasn't sure about the trepanning method!!

It was an incredibly well-received performance as Year 9 student, Faith Sinnott explained: “It was a really engaging workshop; getting student volunteers to help demonstrate the procedures made it more realistic and memorable. I already knew some of the terms and procedures – but this made it all more real……and gruesome!”

Team Leader of History, Kalie Dowling, said: “It is extremely important to bring historical teaching alive in this way; the barber surgeon allowed students to see the tools that were used and how – in stomach-churning ways! This approach provides students with visual and amusing memories to help them recall information and is a great talking point over the years when it comes to revising for exams.”

Swords and Spindles Barber Surgeon Newton Abbot College Ofsted Good Secondary School 6