Other types of stocks and pillories
There are many different types of stocks. Here are some of them.
See “Barrel pillory”.
See “Punishment of Slaves”.
These stocks (also known as a finger pillory) operate on a
slightly different principle. In addition to the familiar
semicircular cut-outs, the lower stock has vertical holes in
which the first two joints of the finger are inserted. Once the stocks are closed,
the finger (which is bent at the middle joint) cannot be removed. It was sufficient
to imprison only the index or middle finger of each hand in this manner.
Finger stocks were routinely used in upper class halls to punish the disorderly
during social gatherings, and to discipline servants. A particularly fine example
can be found in Littlecote Hall, Berkshire, England (see illustration). These stocks
are still regularly used on unruly diners during contemporary medieval banquets.
Finger stocks were also used in churches for minor offences,
like not paying attention during a sermon. An example still
survives in the parish church of Ashby-de-la-Zouch,
Leicestershire, England, as shown in the last two pictures below.
Similar to field stocks (see "Punishment of Slaves"),
except that only the victim’s hands were confined above his or her head in the stocks.
These were regularly used to punish minor offences in English workhouses, which were
“charitable” institutions for the destitute. The inscription on the stocks in the picture
says: "Better to Work than Stand thus".
Although wood is traditional, stocks were occasionally made from cast iron. On the left and centre are iron
stocks in the villages of West Derby and Thornton respectively, both near Liverpool. The iron stocks on the right are in Dromore, Northern Ireland.
The following pictures show stocks mounted on wheels.
These were occasionally used to double up for both secular
and ecclesiastical offences. A criminal offender would be
confined in the stocks in the market square or village green, but the clergy sometimes took the view that ecclesiastical offences (eg failure to attend services) should be punished nearby the church. In a small community which could not afford the expense of two sets of stocks, mobility seemed the ideal
compromise. So the stocks could be wheeled to the church and
back according to the nature of the offence. History does not
relate what happened if the stocks contained one secular
offender and one ecclesiastical offender.
See “Shrew's fiddle”.
See “Water Bath”.
Stocks and pillories could also be used to restrain a victim while he
or she was being whipped.
The following pictures show stocks and pillories which were used by the Spanish
Inquisition (first two pictures), Ipswich in Suffolk (third picture), and the others in Newgate prison in London (now in the Museum of London).
You will see that some stocks have more than one set of hand holes, to accommodate male or female wrists.
A punishment used in Germany for women who dressed
The yoke consists of a single set of stocks for the neck and
wrists. It is effectively a portable pillory, in that the stocks are
not attached to a post. The weight of the yoke is supported by
the occupant’s shoulders. Unlike its close relative, the Chinese
cangue, yokes were not normally used as a punishment. Their
main function was to disable prisoners and slaves (especially
while travelling), as the yoke restrains the occupant very
effectively while leaving his or her legs free. Slaves were also
transported in hand stocks, simply a yoke without a head hole.
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Last modified 3 June 2021.
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