Coltsfoot & Smoking & Blossom & Cholera February 24th

Coltsfoot by Andreas Trepte Wikipedia

Coltsfoot is a daisy-like plant which is flowering about now, and Gerard’s Herbal of 1633 suggests that the ‘fumes of the dried leaves taken through a funnel’ is good for those with coughs and shortness of breath. He suggests that it is smoked like tobacco and it ‘mightly prevaileth.’

This idea, Mrs Grieves says in her herbal (1931), is endorsed by ‘Dioscorides, Galen, Pliny, and Boyle’. And Coltsfoot is ‘nature’s best herb for the lungs’. (This is historic information re herbs and NOT current medical advice, as Coltsfoot can be very dangerous!).

engraving of a man smoking
Lobspruch deß edlen hochberühmten Krauts Petum oder Taback Nuremberg, 1658 New York Public Library Public Domain
Detail from Lobspruch deß edlen hochberühmten Krauts Petum oder Taback Nuremberg, 1658 New York Public Library Public Domain

My grandson and parents found a 19th Century pipe bowl, much like the one above, by the Thames where there were many fragments of clay pipe. For more on 17th Century smoking, have a look here.

Blossom is also coming out in London a little early. (2022 we had a false spring when Cherry Blossom came out, and I think we are now just getting used to it, so I don’t think it is being noted so much in 2024). Blackthorn (I think) is coming out in profusion in my local park. Photos below by the Author of Haggerston Park in East London. Left February 2022, Right Feb 23.

One thing I am trying to improve in my Almanac of the Past, is to include more specific London content. This can be difficult on a daily basis. But I think I have, by chance, found a solution. I was trying to glue the toe flap on a perfectly good pair of trainers so that it did not flap, and I needed a heavy weight to press the two edges together. I found a random couple of heavy books for the purpose. 24 hours later, I lifted the books to discover the failure of my project. But, as I returned the books to their place in the book case, I found the heaviest was called ‘A London Year. 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals, and Letters.’ Compiled by Travis Elborough and Nick Bennison, published in 2013, and the price on it of £5.99 makes me feel I must have bought it second hand. Have I opened it before now? Indeed, I had forgotten its existence, but Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Book! What a timely rediscovery.

Cholera in London.
The news of the Cholera being in London has been received abroad. According to the feelings of the different nations towards England, France, who wish to court us has ordered a quarantine in her ports of three days; Holland, who feels aggrieved by our conduct at the conference, one of 40 days. The fog so thick in London that the illuminations for the Queen’s Birthday were not visible.

24th February 1832 Thomas Raikes, Diary 1832 (from ‘A London Year’ Compiled by Travis Elborough and Nick Bennison, 2013,

I think the Conference mentioned above was the London Conference of May 1832, which aimed to establish a Kingdom of Greece with a King, It was set up by Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston without discussion with the Greeks and ended up giving them a Bavarian King. King Otto. Otto was forced from the throne in a revolution in 1862, and replaced by a Danish King, from whom Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was descended.


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