When tough justice was the rule

The ducking stool during the 17th�century was made use of in the Grey Friars�pond (near to Tesco, today).
The ducking stool during the 17th�century was made use of in the Grey Friars�pond (near to Tesco, today).

CRIME and punishment has been a part of civilised society since the beginning of the human race. 

Much time is spent and wasted arguing for and against such things.

The Drunkards Cloak - a 17th century punishment.

The Drunkards Cloak - a 17th century punishment.

Folk are sometimes incensed by the seemingly lenient punishment for the most heinous of crimes.

Human rights come into play nowadays, where even the extreme terrorists are offered protection, asylum, and are treated with respect.

I wonder how society would fare if we brought back some of the old punishments? I wonder if there might be as much civil unrest if we brought back flogging for example!

If you have been lucky enough to witness the spilling out of the nightclubs in Doncaster town centre you may just have caught sight of the odd individual who has misjudged their alcohol intake!

If we were living in Doncaster during the 1600s then there might not be so much drunken revelry, as a favoured punishment, for this sort of behaviour was the “Drunkards Cloak.”

Drunkards were paraded through the streets wearing a tub, instead of a cloak, a hole being cut out of the bottom for the head to pass through, and two small holes in the sides, through which the hands were drawn. This was called the Drunkards Cloak. 

Worse still, pity the women that were involved in slanging matches on the street, for there was a punishment for this too.

Not just a method of humiliation as the last device, but more a severe and life threatening message that this sort of behaviour was not acceptable in Doncaster’s society. I refer to the Ducking Stool.

Formerly referred to as the Cucking-stool, or Coke-stool, it was a device for the punishment of scolds and unquiet women, by ducking them into water.

It is mentioned in the disbursements of Robert Palmer, William Ellison, and William Holmes, Chamberlains for 1632:

‘April 4, paid Mr. Webster for 8 stone and 1lb of iron for the Cuckstoole, xiis xid’ (12s 11d)

‘Paid to Edward Mason for making of the Cuckstoole, xii-s iiii-d’ (12s 4d)

The Choking Stool is a corruption of the words Cuckstoole and Coke-stoole, and is thought to have evolved from the fact that the culprit was practically choked with water. Another derivative is the Ducking Stool.

The ducking stool during the 17th century was made use of in the Grey Friars pond (near to Tesco, today). It consisted of a long pole hanging over the pond, generally of dirty water, where the offender, who was strapped fast in the chair, was dipped three times by parties getting hold of the other and longer end; the pole swinging on a pivot on piles driven into the ground near the pond.

It was also brought into requisition at Friars Bridge (near to St. Mary’s Bridge).

The punishment was conducted along the approach to the Cheswold, from the west side of Frenchgate. Here the instrument hung on a pulley fastened to a beam about the middle of the bridge; and the female having been fixed in it, she was let under water three times successively, and then taken out.

The bridge was then made out of timber. On the back panel of the ducking stool was, it is said, an engraving of the devil taking hold of scolds.

Happily for the offenders, one of the Town Clerks burnt the ‘legal conviction’ papers in a baker’s oven.

So, next time you are walking over the old bridge into town or are parking your car in Tesco car-park, spare a thought for the rogues of the past and think yourselves lucky that the criminal justice system has loosened a little.