During medieval times, the lady of the house was responsible for tending to the sick and seeing that the kitchens were stocked sufficiently. Using the model from Roman and Greek times, special rooms were set aside in castles and manors to prepare medicines and distillations. The lady of the house oversaw the functions of the room, which grew to include brewing beer, alcohol, and wine, creating cosmetics, preserving food, and mixing household cleaning agents. A still room might also serve as a pantry, larder, storeroom, or infirmary where the sick or injured could be treated.
It was the responsibility of mothers to teach their daughters practical household skills to prepare them to assume the responsibility of their own home. Over time, the still room became the responsibility of other relatives or household servants.
Abbeys and convents which housed religious orders of monks and nuns served a similar healing function for the poor. Infirmaries treated strangers and those without the means to be treated in a home. The abbey gardens grew the herbs used for healing. In the 1530s, however, King Henry VIII as part of his war with the Catholic Church dissolved the abbeys, evicted the nuns and monks, and granted their lands to his friends. The loss of the infirmaries created a void which was eventually filled by public hospitals.
Tomorrow, A Salute to Armed Forces Day Rita Bay