THERE ARE NO WORDS, 2014

This sampler was a site-specific artwork for Newark Park National Trust Property near Stroud. The house was originally a hunting lodge built for Sir Nicholas Poyntz who married Joan Berkeley and the property was bequeathed to her on his death in 1556.  Dame Joan remarried a gentleman, Sir Thomas Dyer, who was described by Joan’s eldest son as ‘a monster’.

Dyer did not provide care and medicines when Joan became ill and, to add to her misery, she feared that Queen Elizabeth I was displeased with her.  Dame Joan was so ill that she temporarily lost her hearing, sight and speech. 

I researched the dame’s illness and established that she would have been inflicted with Conversion Disorder, a form of hysteria, where ailments described earlier quickly develop in response to a stressful situation. Exploration into medicines used in the 16th century reveal that Crocus, Potassium Bromide, Asafetida, Tincture Camphor and Valerian would have been prescribed for hysteria, nervous diseases and nervous excitation.