“Sick to Death” an exciting new addition to the city walls opens on Saturday, after a viral marketing scheme involving the mysterious masked plague doctor earlier in the summer. The attraction brings the long closed Water Tower and Bonewaldestorne’s tower back into use and should prove to be a big hit with tourists and residents alike.
Created by Big Heritage, and supported by Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Wellcome Trust, the family attraction charts the dark history of medicine and disease in the city.
. Visitors enter through the Bonewaldesthorne’s tower and walk through a herb garden/picnic area before entering the historic Water tower, so named because it used to stand in the middle of the River Dee.
The ground floor of the tower looks at medicine in the `16th and 17th centuries, the time of plague and civil war. Just outside the tower, people with the plague would have been exiled in wooden shacks to die. Sick to Death features a mock plague hut for children to explore, and many interactive exhibits such as medicinal herbs to smell ,or civil war helmets to try on. Many of the items on display are on loan from the vaults of the Grosvenor museum.
Dean Paton, founder of Big heritage says that although the attraction has been inspired by horrible histories, “its not Hammer Horror! It will excite and scare in equal measure…its not for 2 or 3 year olds, its for the older child really. ” Of the unfortunate mock up corpse with his organs hanging out, Dean says that :
“We did have to inform Cheshire Police about it, because from the outside it does look like theres a body hanging there!”
“As grim as it is, its about understanding science and how the history of medicine develops. In this period, it was the first time you were allowed to dissect bodies.”
The mock up is based on the work of Andreas Vesalius whose study of anatomy vastly improved knowledge of how the body worked. The introduction of the printing press helped his work to be spread across Europe, replacing the ancient Roman ideas which had previously dominated. Sick to Death has been designed by a team of heritage professionals and archaelogists and is firmly rooted in exploring the narrative of medicine through time.
The second floor focuses on 13th/14th century Chester and exhibits include human remains found in nearby Greyfriars which tell the story of the sort of diseases in Chester at the time.
Sick to Death also includes access to the rarely seen Victorian camera obscura, one of only a handful of surviving devices in the country. Here visitors can watch a scrolling panorama of the city.
“It is using what Chester has got, opening up , and putting something in to draw people off the walls. 1.5 million people a year walk the circuit of the walls a year, and this is the first time you can spend some money, support the walls and spend another hour in Chester. It’s using the heritage to look after Chester” says Dean
“Sick to death ” costs £2.75 for children, £4.75 adults. For more details see the website
The Horrible Histories-inspired ‘attraction is the creation of Chester-based award winning social enterprise Big Heritage, which signed a lease for the towers with Cheshire West and Chester Council earlier this year.