Ducking stool

The Ducking-Stool

SCOLDING  women in the olden times were treated as offenders against the public peace, and for their transgressions were subjected to several cruel modes of punishment. The Corporations of towns during the Middle Ages made their own regulations for punishing persons guilty of crimes which were not rendered penal by the laws of the land. The punishments for correcting scolds differed greatly in various parts of the country. It is clear, from a careful study of the history of mediæval times, that virtue and amiability amongst the middle and lower classes, generally speaking, did not prevail. The free use of the tongue gave rise to riots and feuds to an extent which it is difficult for us to realise at the present day. A strong feeling against scolding women came down to a late period. Readers of Boswell's "Life of Johnson" will remember how the Doctor, in reply to a remark made by a celebrated Quaker lady, Mrs. Knowles, observed: "Madam, we have different modes of restraining evil—stocks for men, a ducking-stool for women, and a pound for beasts."

The cucking-stool in the early history of England must not be confounded with the ducking-stool. They were two distinct machines. It appears, from a record in the "Domesday Book," that as far back as the days of Edward the Confessor, any man or woman detected giving false measure in the city of Chester was fined four shillings; and for brewing bad ale, was placed in the cathedra stercoris. It was a degrading mode of chastisement, the culprits being seated in the chair at their own doors or in some public place. At Leicester, in 1467, the local authorities directed "scolds to be punished by the mayor on a cuck-stool before their own doors, and then carried to the four gates of the town." According to Borlase's "Natural History of Cornwall," in that part of the country the cucking-stool was used "as a seat of infamy, where strumpets and scolds, with bare feet and head, were condemned to abide the derision of those that passed by, for such time as the bailiffs of the manors, which had the privilege of such jurisdiction, did approve." Ale-wives in Scotland in bygone times who sold bad ale were placed in the cucking-stool. In the year 1555, we learn from Thomas Wright that "it was enacted by the queen-regent of Scotland that itinerant singing women should be put on the cuck-stoles of every burgh or town; and the first 'Homily against Contention,' part 3, published in 1562, sets forth that 'in all well-ordered cities common brawlers and scolders be punished with a notable kind of paine, as to be set on  the cucking-stole, pillory, or such-like.' By the statute of 3 Henry VIII., carders and spinners of wool who were convicted of fraudulent practices were to be sett upon  the pillory or the cukkyng-stole, man or woman, as the case shall require." We agree with Mr. Wright when he observes that the preceding passages are worded in such a manner as not to lead us to suppose that the offenders were ducked. In the course of time the terms cucking and ducking stools became synonymous, and implied the machines for the ducking of scolds in water.

In some places the term thewe was used for a cucking-stool. This was the case at Hedon, and it occurs in pleadings at Chester before the itinerant justices and Henry VII., when George Grey, Earl of Kent, claims the right in his manor of Bushton and Ayton of punishing brawlers by the thewe.[42] Other instances of its use might be cited.

An intelligent Frenchman, named Misson, visited England about 1700, and has left on record one of the best descriptions of a ducking-stool that has been written. It occurs in a work entitled "Travels in England." "The way of punishing scolding women," he writes, "is pleasant enough. They fasten an arm chair to the end of two beams, twelve or fifteen feet long, and parallel to each other, so that these two pieces of wood, with their two ends, embrace the chair, which hangs between them upon a sort of axle, by which means it plays freely, and always remains in the natural horizontal position in which the chair should be, that a person may sit conveniently in it, whether you raise it or let it down. They set up a post on the bank of a pond or river, and over this post they lay, almost in equilibrio, the two pieces of wood, at one end of which the chair hangs just over the water. They place the woman in this chair, and so plunge her into the water, as often as the sentence directs, in order to cool her immoderate heat." In some instances the ducking was carried to such anextent as to cause death. An old chap-book, without date, is entitled, "Strange and Wonderful Relation of the Old Woman who was Drowned at Ratcliff Highway a fortnight ago." It appears from this work that the poor woman was dipped too often, for at the conclusion of the operation she was found to be dead. We reproduce from this quaint chap-book a picture of the ducking-stool. It will be observed that it is not a stationary machine, but one which can be wheeled to and from the water. Similar ducking-stools were usually kept in some convenient building, and ready to be brought out for immediate use, but in many places the ducking-stools were permanent fixtures.


Old municipal accounts and records contain many references to this subject. Cole, a Cambridge antiquary, collected numerous curious items connected with this theme. In some extracts made from the proceedings of the Vice-Chancellor's Court, in the reign of Elizabeth, it is stated: "Jane Johnson, adjudged to the ducking-stool for scolding, and commuted her penance." The next person does not appear to have been so fortunate as Jane Johnson, who avoided punishment by paying a fine of about five shillings. It is recorded: "Katherine Saunders, accused by the churchwardens of Saint Andrews for a common scold and slanderer of her neighbours, was adjudged to the ducking-stool."

We find in one of Cole's manuscript volumes, preserved in the British Museum, a graphic sketch of this ancient mode of punishment. He says: "In my time, when I was a boy, I lived with my grandmother in the great corner house at the foot, 'neath the Magdalen College, Cambridge, and rebuilt since by my uncle, Joseph Cook. I remember to have seen a woman ducked for scolding. The chair was hung by a pulley fastened to a beam about the middle of the bridge, in which [he means the chair, of course, not the bridge] the woman was confined, and let down three times, and then taken out. The bridge was then of timber, before the present stone bridge of one arch was built. The ducking-stool was constantly hanging in its place, and on the back of it were engraved devils laying hold of scolds, etc. Some time afterwards a new chair was erected in the place of the old one, having the same devices carved upon it, and well painted and ornamented. When the new bridge of stone was erected, in 1754, this chair was taken away, and I lately saw the carved and gilt back of it nailed up by the shop of one Mr. Jackson, a whitesmith, in the Butcher's Row, behind the Town Hall, who offered it to me, but I did not know what to do with it. In October, 1776, I saw in the old Town Hall a third ducking-stool, of plain oak, with an iron bar in front of it, to confine the person in the seat, but I made no inquiries about it. I mention these things as the practice of ducking scolds in the river seems now to be totally laid aside." Mr. Cole died in 1782, so did not long survive the writing of the foregoing curious notes.

The Sandwich ducking-stool was embellished with men and women scolding. On the cross-bar were carved the following words:

"Of members ye tonge is worst or best,—an Yll tonge oft doeth breede unrest."

Boys, in his "Collections for the History of Sandwich," published in 1792, remarks that the ducking-stool was preserved in the second storey of the Town Hall, along with the arms, offensive and defensive, of the Trained Bands. Boys's book includes some important information on old-time punishments. In the year 1534, it is recorded that two women were banished from Sandwich for immorality. To deter them from coming back to the town, it was decided that "if they return, one of them is to suffer the pain of sitting over the coqueen-stool, and the other is to be set three days in the stocks, with an allowance of only bread and water, and afterwards to be placed in the coqueen-stool and dipped to the chin." A woman, in the year 1568, was "carted and banished." At Sandwich, Ipswich, and some other places, as a punishment for scolding and other offences it was not an uncommon thing to compel the transgressors to carry a wooden mortar round the town.


Respecting the cost of erecting a ducking-stool, we find a curious and detailed account in the parish books of Southam, Warwickshire, for the year 1718. In the first place, a man was sent from Southam to Daventry to make a drawing of the ducking-stool of that town, at a cost of three shillings and twopence. The sum of one pound one shilling and eightpence is charged for labour and material in making and fixing the engine of punishment. An entry of ten shillings is made for painting it, which appears a rather heavy amount when we observe that the carpenter only charged a little over a pound for labour and timber. Perhaps, like the good folk of Sandwich, the authorities of Southam had their chair ornamented with artistic portraits and enriched with poetic quotations. The blacksmith had to furnish ironwork, etc., at a cost of four shillings and sixpence. For carrying the stool to its proper place half-a-crown was paid. Lastly, nine shillings and sixpence had to be expended to make the pond deeper, so that the ducking-stool might work in a satisfactory manner. The total amount reached £2 11s. 4d. At Coventry, in the same county, we find traces of two ducking-stools, and respecting them Mr. W. G. Fretton, f.s.a., supplies us with some curious details. The following notes are drawn from the Leet Book, under date of October 11th, 1597: "Whereas there are divers and sundrie disordered persons (women) within this citie that be scolds, brawlers, disturbers, and disquieters of theire neighbors, to the great offence of Almightie God and the breach of Her Majestie's peace: for the reformation of such abuses, it is ordered and enacted at this leet, that if any disordered and disquiet persons of this citie do from henceforth scold or brawle with their neighbo'rs or others, upon complaint thereof to the Alderman of the ward made, or to the Maior for the time being, they shall be committed to the cooke-stoole lately appointed for the punishment of such offenders, and thereupon be punished for their deserts, except they or everie of them, do presentlie paie iijs iijd for their redemption from that punishment to the use of the poore of this citie." The old accounts of the City of Coventry contain numerous items bearing on the ducking-stool.

In a volume of "Miscellaneous Poems," by Benjamin West, of Weedon Beck, Northamptonshire, published in 1780, we find some lines entitled, "The Ducking-Stool," which run:

"There stands, my friend, in yonder pool,An engine called the ducking-stool,By legal pow'r commanded down,The joy and terror of the town,If jarring females kindle strife,Give language foul or lug the coif;If noisy dames should once begin To drive the house with horrid din,Away, you cry, you'll grace the stool,We'll teach you how your tongue to rule.The fair offender fills the seat,In sullen pomp, profoundly great.Down in the deep the stool descends,But here, at first, we miss our ends;She mounts again, and rages more Than ever vixen did before.So, throwing water on the fire Will make it but burn up the higher;If so, my friend, pray let her take A second turn into the lake,And, rather than your patience lose,Thrice and again repeat the dose.No brawling wives, no furious wenches,No fire so hot, but water quenches.In Prior's skilful lines we see For these another recipe:A certain lady, we are told (A lady, too, and yet a scold),Was very much reliev'd, you'll say By water, yet a different way;A mouthful of the same she'd take,Sure not to scold, if not to speak."

A footnote to the poem states: "To the honour of the fair sex in the neighbourhood of R——y, this machine has been taken down (as useless) several years." Most probably, says Mr. Jewitt, the foregoing refers to Rugby. In the old accounts of that town several items occur, as for example:

1721.June 5. Paid for a lock for ye ducking-stool, and spent in towne business 1s.2d.
1739.Sept. 25. Ducking-stool repaired. And Dec. 21, 1741. A chain for ducking-stool 2s.4d.

Mr. Petty, f.s.a., in a note to Mr. Jewitt, which is inserted in The Reliquary  for January, 1861, states that the Rugby ducking-stool "was placed on the west side of the horsepool, near the footpath leading from the Clifton Road towards the new churchyard. Part of the posts to which it was affixed were visible until very lately, and the National School is now erected on its site. The last person who underwent the punishment was a man for beating his wife about forty years since; but although the ducking-stool has been long removed, the ceremony of immersion in the horse-pond was recently inflicted on an inhabitant for brutality towards his wife." The Rugby ducking-stool was of the trebuchet form, somewhat similar to one which was in use at Broadwater, near Worthing, and which has been frequently engraved. We reproduce an illustration of the latter from the Wiltshire Archæological Magazine, which represents it as it appeared in the year 1776. It was in existence at a much later period. Its construction was very simple, consisting of a short post let into the ground at the edge of a pond, bearing on the top a transverse beam, one end of which carried the stool, while the other end was secured by a rude chair. We are told, in an old description of this ducking-stool, that the beam could be moved horizontally, so as to bring the seat to the edge of the pond, and that when the beam was moved back, so as to place the seat and the person in it over the pond, the beam was worked up and down like a see-saw, and so the person in the seat was ducked. When the machine was not in use, the end of the beam which came on land was secured to a stump in the ground by a padlock, to prevent the village children from ducking each other.


Mr. T. Tindall Wildridge, author of several important local historical works, says that the great profligacy of Hull frequently gave rise in olden times to very stringent exercise of the magisterial authority. Not infrequently this was at the direct instigation and sometimes command of the Archbishop of York. Occasionally the cognisance of offences was retrospective. Thus, in November, 1620, it was resolved by the Bench of Magistrates, then composed of the Aldermen of the town, that such as had been "faltie for bastardes" should be carted about the town and afterwards "ducked in the water for their faults, for which they have hitherto escaped punishment." At a little later period, in England, in the days of the Commonwealth, it was enacted on May 14th, 1650, that adultery should be punished with death, but there is not any record of the law taking effect. The Act was repealed at the Restoration. About a century before this period, namely, in 1563, in the Scottish Parliament, this crime was made a capital offence. In New England, in the year 1662, several men and women suffered for this crime.

Resuming our notes on the Hull ducking-stool, we find, according to Hadley, the historian, that in the year 1731 Mr. Beilby, who held the office of town's husband, was ordered to take care that a ducking-stool should be provided at the South-end for the benefit of scolds and unquiet women. Six years later, John Hilbert published a view of the town of Hull, in which there is a representation of the ducking-stool. Mr. Wildridge has found traces of another local ducking-stool. He states that in some accounts belonging to the eighteenth century there is a charge for tarring a ducking-stool situated on the Haven-side, on the east side of the town.

At the neighbouring town of Beverley are traces of this old mode of punishment, and in the town records are several notes bearing on the subject. Brewers of bad beer and bakers of bad bread, as well as scolding women, were placed in the ducking-stool.

The Leeds ducking-stool was at Quarry Hill, near the Spa. At the Court of Quarter Sessions, held in the town in July, 1694, it was "ordered that Anne, the wife of Phillip Saul, a person of lewd behaviour, be ducked for daily making strife and discord amongst her neighbours." A similar order was made against Jane Milner and Elizabeth Wooler.

We find in the Session records of Wakefield, for 1602, the following:

"Punishm t  of Hall and Robinson, scolds: fforasmuch as Katherine Hall and M'garet Robinson, of Wakefield, are great disturbers and disquieters of their neighbours w'thin the toune of Wakefield, by reason of their daily scolding and chydering, the one w'th the other, for reformacon whereof ytt it is ordered that if they doe hereafter continue their former course of life in scolding and brawling, that then John Mawde, the high constable there, shall cause them to be soundlye ducked or cucked on the cuckstool at Wakefield for said misdemeanour."

In the records of Wakefield Sessions, under date of October 5th, 1671, the following appears:

"Forasmuch as Jane, the wife of William Farrett of Selby, shoemaker, stands indicted at this sessions for a common scold, to the great annoyance and disturbance of her neighbours, and breach of His Majesty's peace. It is therefore ordered that the said Jane Farrett, for the said offence be openly ducked, and ducked three times over the head and ears by the constables of Selby aforesaid, for which this shall be their warrant."

At Bradford, the ducking-stool was formerly at the Beck, near to the Parish Church, and on the formation of the canal it was removed, but only a short distance from its original position. Still lingering in the West Riding of Yorkshire, we find in the parish accounts of East Ardsley, a village near to Wakefield, the following item:

1683-4.Paid John Crookes for repairing stool 1s.8d.

Norrisson Scatcherd, in his "History of Morley," and William Smith, in his "Morley Ancient and Modern," give interesting details of the ducking-stool at Morley.

Not far distant from Morley is Calverley, and in the Constable's accounts of the village it is stated:

1728.Paid Jeremy Booth for powl for ducking-stool 2s.

Mr. Joseph Wilkinson, the historian of Worsborough, near Barnsley, mentions two ducking-ponds in the township—one in the village of Worsborough, another near to the Birdwell toll-bar; and, judging from the frequency with which ducking-stools were repaired by the township, it would seem they were often brought into requisition. The following extracts are drawn from the parish accounts:

1703.For mending ye cuck-stool £0 0 6
1721.Ducking-stool mending 0 1 8
1725.For mending and hanging ye cuck-stool 0 1 0
1730.Pd. Thos. Moorhouse for mending ye stocks and cuck-stool 0 1 0
Pd. Jno. South for 2 staples for ye cucking-stool 0 0 4
1731.Thos. Moorhouse for mending ye ducking-stool 0 1 0
1734-5.To ye ducking-stool mending 0 0 6
1736.For mending ye ducking-stool 0 10 0
1737.John Ellot, for ye ducking-stool and sheep-fold door 0 14 6

Mr. W. H. Dawson, the historian of Skipton, has devoted considerable attention to the old-time punishments of the town, and the first reference he was able to discover amongst the old accounts of the township is the following:

1734.October 2nd. To Wm. Bell, for ducking-stool making and wood 8s.6d.

"This must," says Mr. Dawson, "surely mean that the chair was changed, for the amount is too small for the entire apparatus. In this case a ducking-stool must have existed before 1734, which is very likely." In the same Skipton township account-book is an entry as follows:

1743.October. Ben Smith for ducking-stool 4s.6d.

Twenty-five years later we find a payment as follows:

1768.October 17th. Paid John Brown for new ducking-stool £1 0s.11½d.

Mr. Dawson has not been able to discover the exact date when the ducking-stool fell into disuse, but has good reason for believing that it was about 1770. We gather from a note sent to us by Mr. Dawson that: "A ducking-pond existed at Kirkby, although it had not been used within the memory of any living person. Scolds of both sexes were punished by being ducked; indeed, in the last observance of the custom, a tailor and his wife were ducked together, in view of a large gathering of people. The husband had applied for his wife to undergo the punishment on account of her quarrelsome nature, but the magistrate decided that one was not better than the other, and he ordered a joint punishment! Back to back, therefore, husband and wife were chaired and dipped into the cold water of the pond! Whether it was in remembrance of this old observance or not cannot be definitely said, but it is nevertheless a fact that in East Lancashire, in 1880, a man who had committed some violation of morals was forcibly taken by a mob, and dragged several times through a pond until he had expressed penitence for his act."

We have found several allusions to the Derby ducking-stool. Wooley, writing in 1772, states that "over against the steeple [All Saint's] is St. Mary's Gate, which leads down to the brook near the west side of St. Werburgh's Church, over which there is a bridge to Mr. Osborne's mill, over the pool of which stands the ducking-stool. A joiner named Thomas Timmins repaired it in 1729, and charged as follows:

"To ye Cuckstool, the stoop 0 01 0
2 Foot and ½ of Ioyce for a Rayle 0 00 5
Ja. Ford, junr., ½ day at Cuckstool 0 00 7"

The Chesterfield ducking-stool was pulled down towards the close of the last century. It is stated that in the latter part of its existence it was chiefly used for punishing refractory paupers.

The Scarborough ducking-stool was formerly placed on the old pier, and was last used about the year 1795, when a Mrs. Gamble was ducked. The chair is preserved in the Museum of the Scarborough Philosophical Society. We are indebted to Dr. T. N. Brushfield for an excellent drawing of it.

An object which attracts much attention from visitors to the interesting museum at Ipswich is the ducking-stool of the town. We give a carefullyexecuted drawing of it. It is described as a strong-backed arm-chair, with a wrought-iron rod, about an inch in diameter, fastened to each arm in front, meeting in a segment of a circle above; there is also another iron rod affixed to the back, which curves over the head of the person seated in the chair, and is connected with the other at the top, to the centre of which is fastened an iron ring for the purpose of slinging the machine into the river. It is plain and substantial, and has more the appearance of solidity than antiquity in its construction. We are told by the local historian that in the Chamberlain's books are various entries for money paid to porters for taking down the ducking-stool and assisting in the operation of cooling, by its means, the inflammable passions of some of the female inhabitants of Ipswich.


We give a spirited sketch of the Ipswich ducking-stool, from the pencil of Campion, a local artist. It is worthy of the pencil of Hogarth, Gilray, or Cruikshank; indeed, it is often said to be the production of the last-named artist, but though after his style it is not his work.

There are traces in the Court-Book of St. George's Gild of the use of the ducking-stool at Norwich. Amongst other entries is one to the effect that in 1597 a scold was ducked three times.

The ducking-stool at Nottingham, in addition to being employed for correcting scolds, was used for the exposure of females of bad repute. "It consisted," says Mr. J. Potter Briscoe, f.r.h.s., "of a hollow box, which was sufficiently large to admit of two persons being exposed at the same time. Through holes in the side the heads of the culprits were placed. In fact, the Nottingham cuck-stool was similar to a pillory. The last time this ancient instrument of punishment was brought into requisition was in 1731, when the Mayor (Thomas Trigge) caused a female to be placed in it for immorality, and left her to the mercy of the mob, who ducked her so severely that her death ensued shortly afterwards. The Mayor, in consequence, was prosecuted, and the Nottingham cuck-stool was ordered to be destroyed." In the Nottinghamshire records are traces of the ducking-stool at Southwell and Retford. The example of the latter town is traced back to an unusually early period.


The old ducking-stool of King's Lynn, Norfolk, may now be seen in the Museum of that town. The annals of the borough contain numerous allusions to the punishment of women. In the year 1587, it is stated that for immoral conduct, John Wanker's wife and widow Parker were both carted. It is recorded that, in 1754, "one Elizabeth Neivel stood in the pillory, and that one Hannah Clark was ducked for scolding." There is mention of a woman named Howard standing in the pillory in 1782, but no particulars are given of her crime.


In a note written for us in 1881, by Mr. R. N. Worth, the historian of Plymouth, we are told that in Devon and Cornwall the ducking-stool was the usual means employed for inflicting punishment on scolding women. At Plymouth, the ducking-stool was erected at the Barbican, a site full of historic interest. From here Sir Walter Raleigh was conducted to his long imprisonment, followed by death on the scaffold. It was here that the Pilgrim Fathers bade adieu to the shores of their native land to establish a New England across the Atlantic. As might be expected, the old municipal accounts of Plymouth contain many curious and interesting items bearing on the punishment of women. Mr. W. H. K. Wright, editor of the Western Antiquary, tells us that as recently as the year 1808 the last person was ducked. At Plymouth, at the present time, are preserved two ducking-chairs, one in the Athenæum and the other in the office of the Borough Surveyor. Mr. Wright has kindly supplied illustrations of both. It will be observed that the chairs are made of iron.


The last time the Bristol ducking-stool was used was, it is said, in the year 1718. The Mayor gave instructions for the ducking of scolds, and the immersions took place at the weir.


We have numerous accounts of this engine of punishment in Lancashire. In the "Manchester Historical Recorder" we find it stated, in the year 1775: "Manchester ducking-stool in use. It was an open-bottomed chair of wood, placed upon a long pole balanced on a pivot, and suspended over the collection of water called the Pool House and Pool Fold. It was afterwards suspended over the Daubholes (Infirmary pond) and was used for the purpose of punishing scolds and prostitutes." We find, on examination of an old print, that it was similar to the example at Broadwater, of which we give a sketch. According to Mr. Richard Brooke's "Liverpool from 1775 to 1800," the ducking-stool was in use in 1779, by the authority of the magistrates. We have details of the ducking-stool at Preston, Kirkham, Burnley and other Lancashire towns.

At Wootton Bassett there was a tumbrel, which, until within the last few years, was perfect. The chair is still preserved by the corporation of that town. We give a drawing of it from the Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History Magazine. It will be seen from the picture that the machine, when complete, consisted of a chair, a pair of wheels, two long poles forming shafts, and a rope attached to each shaft, at about a foot from the end. The person to be ducked was tied in the chair, and the machine pushed into a pond called the Weirpond, and the shafts being let go, the scold was lifted backwards into the water, the shafts flying up, and being recovered again by means of the ropes attached to them. The chair is of oak, and bears the date of 1686 on the back. In some places, millers, if detected stealing corn, were placed in the tumbrel.


The wheels of a tumbrel are preserved in the old church of St. Mary's, Warwick, and the chair, it is said, is still in the possession of an inhabitant of the town.

At Kingston-upon-Thames ducking was not infrequent. The Chamberlain's accounts include many items relating to the subject. We are disposed to believe, from the mention of three wheels, in a payment made in 1572, that here the engine of punishment was a tumbrel. The following amounts were paid in 1572:

The making of the cucking-stool  8s.0d.
Iron work for the same 3s.0d.
Timber for the same 7s.6d.
Three brasses for the same, and three wheels 4s.10d.
£1 3s.4d.

In the London Evening Post, April 27th to 30th, 1745, it is stated: "Last week a woman who keeps the Queen's Head alehouse, at Kingston, in Surrey, was ordered by the court to be ducked for scolding, and was accordingly placed in the chair and ducked in the river Thames, under Kingston Bridge, in the presence of 2000 to 3000 people."

We have previously mentioned the fact that at Leicester the cucking-stool was in use as early as 1467, and from some valuable information brought together by Mr. William Kelly, f.s.a., and included in his important local works, we learn that the last entry he has traced in the old accounts of the town is the following:

1768-9.Paid Mr. Elliott for a Cuckstool by order of Hall £2 0s.0d.

Mr. Kelly refers to the scolding cart at Leicester, and describes the culprit as seated upon it, and being drawn through the town. He found in the old accounts in 1629 an item:

Paid to Frauncis Pallmer for making two wheels and one barr for the Scolding Cart ijs.

Scolding Cart is another name for the tumbrel.

The latest example of Leicester cucking-stool is preserved in the local museum, and was placed there at the suggestion of Mr. Kelly.


The Leominster ducking-stool is one of the few examples still preserved. It was formerly kept in the parish church. We have an excellent drawing of it in that building from the pencil of the genial author of "Verdant Green," Cuthbert Bede. The Rev. Geo. Fyler Townsend, m.a., the erudite historian of Leominster, furnishes us with some important information on this interesting relic of the olden time. He says that it is a machine of the simplest construction, "It consists merely of a strong narrow under framework, placed on four wheels, of solid wood, about four inches in thickness, and eighteen in diameter. At one end of this framework two upright posts, about three feet in height, strongly embedded in the platform, carry a long movable beam. Each of the arms of this beam are of equal length (13 feet), and balance perfectly from the top of the post. The culprit placed in the seat naturally weighs down that one end into the water, while the other is lifted up in the air; men, however, with ropes, caused the uplifted end to rise or fall, and thus obtain a perfect see-saw. The purchase of the machine is such that the culprit can be launched forth some 16 to 18 feet into the pond or stream, while the administrators of the ducking stand on dry land. This instrument was mentioned in the ancient documents of the borough by various names, as the cucking-stoole or timbrill, or gumstole."

The latest recorded instance of the ducking-stool being used in England occurred at Leominster. In 1809, says Mr. Townsend, a woman, Jenny Pipes, alias Jane Corran, was paraded through the town on the ducking-stool, and actually ducked in the water near Kenwater Bridge, by order of the magistrates. An eye witness gave his testimony to the desert of the punishment inflicted on this occasion, in the fact that the first words of the culprit on being unfastened from the chair were oaths and curses on the magistrates. In 1817, a woman named Sarah Leeke was wheeled round the town in the chair, but not ducked, as the water was too low. Since this time, the use of the chair has been laid aside, and it is an object of curiosity, rather than of fear, to any of the spectators. During the recent restoration of Leominster Church, the ducking-stool was removed, repaired, and renovated by Mr. John Hungerford Arkwright, and is now kept at the borough gaol of the historically interesting town of Leominster.

The early English settlers in the United States introduced many of the manners and customs of their native land. The ducking-stool was soon brought into use. Mr. Henry M. Brooks, in his carefully written work, called "Strange and Curious Punishments," published in 1886, by Ticknor & Co., of Boston, gives many important details respecting punishing scolds. At the present time, in some parts of America, scolding females are liable to be punished by means of the ducking-stool. We gather from a newspaper report that in 1889, the grand jury of Jersey City—across the Hudson River from New York—caused a sensation by indicting Mrs. Mary Brady as a "common scold." Astonished lawyers hunted up their old books, and discovered that scolding is still an indictable offence in New Jersey, and that the ducking-stool is still available as a punishment for it, not having been specifically abolished when the revised statutes were adopted. In Delaware, the State next to the south of New Jersey, the whipping-post is an institution, and prisoners are sentenced to suffer at it every week. The Common Scold Law was brought from England to Connecticut by the Puritans and settlers, and from Connecticut they carried it with them into New Jersey, which is incorrectly considered a Dutch state. In closing this chapter, we may state that a Dalziel telegram from Ottawa, published in the London newspapers of August 8th, 1890, says that Miss Annie Pope was yesterday charged before a police magistrate, under the provisions of an antiquated statute, for being a "common scold." She was committed for trial at the assizes, as the magistrate had no ducking-stool.


[42]Boyle's "Hedon," 1895.