1 EAGLETON NOTES: The Stocks

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Stocks

When Lesley and I went to Bramall Hall I noticed that there was a pair of stocks in area at the entrance to the Hall. The stocks played a major part in punishment until the 19th Century.  Public humiliation was a major part of punishment and many, if not most or perhaps even all, towns and villages had their stocks.  The victims would be made to sit with their ankles trapped in the stocks.  These would always be sited in the most public place available, for example the market square or village green. In small communities, those being punished would be well known to everyone else, thereby increasing their shame.

Although the concept of public punishment may now seem strange, even barbaric, it was the accepted norm  in England until the 19th century. It is only in recent times that prison has been used as a punishment. Before the 19th century, jails were usually only places to hold people prior to their trial or punishment.

Audience participation was a key element. The helpless victim would usually be subjected to a barrage of mockery and abuse, and pelted with any missiles which came to hand. These could range from rotten fruit and vegetables, mud, excrement, dead rats, even stones.

There are still quite a few village stocks preserved.  Mostly, so far as I am aware, in the North of England.

6 comments:

  1. Tandem Stocks, pity they've fallen into disuse. I blame television!

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  2. We had these in Sweden, too. I've seen them in museums. Quite often, the most public place in the countryside would be just outside the church on Sunday. No Mercy shown, it seems! :(
    But as Adrian says. Today we have the Media instead...

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  3. I just read a very good book on Cambodia - The Gate by Francois Bizot. Francois was held in a forest camp in which all the Cambodian prisoners were permanently chained to stocks. That was as recent as 1971. Glad we don't still use them here.

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  4. And now, many tourists sit in them and get their picture taken.

    I did...in Salem.

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  5. Sorry Helen, I'd bring them back. I can think of a couple of people I'd like to put in them and throw rotten tomatoes at...

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  6. Rather barbaric, but effective, I'm sure....if only all of the people subjected to them were guilty...but how could one be sure...for then, as now, justice was not always served....

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