Other types of stocks and pillories

There are many different types of stocks. Here are some of them.

Barrel pillory

See “Barrel pillory”.

Field stocks

See “Punishment of Slaves”.

Finger stocks

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.

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Hanging stocks

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".


Iron stocks

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.

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Mobile stocks

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.

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Shrew's fiddle

See “Shrew's fiddle”.

Water Bath

See “Water Bath”.

Whipping post

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.

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Wooden ruff

A punishment used in Germany for women who dressed "immodestly".

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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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