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Stool was an instrument of punishment for scolds, and unquiet women; it seems to have been much in use formerly, as there are frequent entries of money paid for its repairs : this arbitrary attempt at laying an embargo upon the female tongue, has long been laid aside.” This Cucking Stool must have been a tumbrel like that at Wootton Basset, except in its having three wheels instead of two.
The books of the Corporation of Gravesend, (quoted by Mr. Cruden, in his History of Gravesend, p. 268,) contain the following entries on the subject of Cucking Stools : “ 1628, Novem. 9.–Paid unto Mildman for mending the Cucking Stool
0 7 0
0 3 4
0 3 6
0 2 0
0 0 8
0 6 0
-Paid Gattet for a proclamation, and for carrying the Ducking Stoole in market
0 1 6" Mr. Cruden adds (Id. p. 270) this—"the Ducking Stool or Cucking Stool was placed upon wheels, and by the ministration of the Fellowship of Porters, was plunged with the occupant into the river, at an inclined plane called the Horse Wash, at the Town Quay, there being no other place so suitable for the operation within the town; and farther it appears that the porters were not only recompensed for giving the ducking, but also for restoring the machine to its place in the market.” This also must have been a tumbrel.
Messrs. Manning and Bray, in their History of Surrey, vol. 1. p. 343, printed in 1804, in treating of Kingston-upon-Thames, say
-“ a new Cucking Stool was made in 1572, at the expense of £1. 38. 4d. This machine was frequent in former times, but is now so wholly disused that it may require some explanation. It would seem that heretofore there were women who made so much use of
their tongues as to disturb their neighbours, as well as their own families; to check this, the instrument here mentioned was invented. It is generally called a Cucking Stool, or chair, bnt the true name probably is a Ducking Stool, or chair. If there was a pond in the parish, a post was set up in it; across this post was placed a transverse beam turning on a swivel, with a 'chair at one end of it, in which, when the culprit was properly placed, that end was turned to the pond, and let down into the water. This was repeated as often as the virulence of the distemper required. This disorder, like the leprosy, being no longer known here, the Cucking Stool is probably not now to be found.”
It should here be remarked, that Messrs. Manning and Bray, in their work, describe a trebuchet, although it is clear that the Cucking Stool to which they are referring, viz., that at Kingstonupon-Thames, was a tumbrel, as is manifest from its having wheels, as stated in the account for its construction, published by the Rev. D. Lysons.
That Cucking Stools of the trebuchet kind must have been common in the time of the poet Gay, is evidenced by the fact, that in his Pastorals called “the Shepherds' week,” in the pastoral of Thursday, or "The Dumps,” Sparabilla, the heroine, who thinks of committing suicide, says
“I'll speed me to the pond, where the high stool
On the long plank, hangs o'er the muddy pool;
Yet sure a lover should not die so mean.” In the Gentleman's Magazine of December, 1803, (page 1104) is a letter from Mr. James Neild to Dr. Lettsom, the celebrated physician, dated from Liverpool, October 16, giving an account of the prisons at Liverpool, and in it Mr. Neild says, “The House of Correction built in 1776, is much improved since my former visit; the wanton severity of the Ducking Stool used upon a woman's first admission, is now discontinued; (it was formerly the punishment in almost every country town in Cheshire and Lancashire, for scolds and brawling women,) but the whipping-post for females is the pump in the men's court, and this discipline still continues, though not inflicted weekly. The prison is kept very clean by the matron, Jane Widdowes ; salary £63.”
To this passage Mr. Neild has appended the following note : “What I have called a Ducking Stool, is in Cheshire called a Choaking Stool. It is a standard fixed at the entrance of a pond, to this is attached a long pole, at the extremity of which is fastened a chair. In this the woman is placed, and undergoes a thorough ducking thrice repeated. Such an one, within the memory of persons now living, was in the great reservoir in the Green Park."
That the scold was, at least in some instances, subjected to three immersions, further appears from the following passage in the Poems of Benjamin West, of Weedon Beck, printed in 1780, (p. 84.)
“Down in the deep the stool descends,
No fire so hot, but water quenches.” Mr. Beesley, in his History of Banbury, published in 1841, (p. 223, n. 21.) says—“The Cucking Stool existed till within these fifty years at a horse-pool, at the lower end of the Market-place (at Banbury.) The pillory stood near it.”
Mr. Curwood, the eminent barrister, who died at an advanced age, in the year 1847, recollected to have seen a Cucking Stool of the trebuchet kind, in a perfect state, at the edge of a pond, in a village green, near Worthing. He said, that a short post was let into the ground at the edge of the pond, and that a transverse beam at the top of it, had a rude seat at one end. He stated, that this 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
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 in sport, and perhaps drowning each other.
Mr. Curwood favoured me with a drawing of this Cucking Stool, of which he said he had a most distinct recollection, and I now send it herewith.
I afterwards showed this drawing to Mr. Bellamy, who was for many years Clerk of Assize on the Oxford Circuit; and had filled several very important legal offices, and had travelled the circuit for more than sixty years.
He said that he had never seen a Cucking Stool with the seat still attached to it, but he had seen several with the transverse beam still fixed at the top of the post, and that the post without the beam was still remaining at the edges of village ponds, in many places in the midland counties, when he first went the circuit. Mr. Bellamy died in the year 1846.
It is therefore pretty clear, that about one hundred, or one hundred-and-fifty years ago, Cucking Stools were as common on village greens as the stocks are now.
In the early part of the reign of Queen Anne, Mrs. Hannah Saxby, the wife of Mr. Joseph Saxby, a mercer at Westerham in Kent, [but whose name in all the law books is printed Foxby,] had been convicted upon an indictment for being a common scold; and it appears from her case, in the 6th volume of Modern Reports, (n. 11,) that the Court of Queen's Bench, in Michaelmas Term, 2 Anne, (1702,) held the indictment bad, in arrest of judgment, because the indictment charged her with being Communis Calumniatrix, instead of Rizatrix ; and the report adds "the punishment of a scold is ducking;" and Lord Holt said “it were better ducking in a Trinity than in a Michaelmas Term.”
This prosecution having thus failed, Mrs. Saxby must have been again indicted, as Mr. Sergeant Salkeld, in his Reports, (vol. 1, p. 266,) under the date of Trinity Term, 3 Anne (1704) states, in the case which he styles Regina v. Foxby, that "the defendant was