The Dunsandle Castle Team are delighted to unveil the newest addition to this beautiful Medieval site, a replica of 15th Century Pillory and
Stocks. Guests are welcome to have their photograph taken in these stocks as a souvenir of their visit to Dunsandle Castle & Woods.
Most people have seen at least a picture of a set of stocks, but there are many different sorts. A stock is simply a wooden
board with one or more semicircles cut into one edge. When adjoined to another stock, the semicircles form holes and become stocks (plural).
In their simplest form, these are a pair of stocks hinged together at one end and, at the other end, a hasp and staple for a padlock.
The lower stock is fixed to the ground. The stocks confine the victim’s ankles, who is obliged to sit in that position, either on the ground
or on a wooden bench. Some stocks have posts at each end, with runners in which the upper stock can slide up and down. More elaborate
variations include additional holes to confine the victim’s hands. These can be in separate stocks above the foot stocks, or in the same
stocks, either between or outside the feet. Stocks can usually accommodate two or more people.
A set of stocks with three holes, one in the centre for the neck, and smaller holes each side for the wrists. These stocks are fixed
to the top of a central post (known as a pillory) or posts at each end, obliging the occupant to stand with his or her head and hands thus confined. Like
the stocks, the upper stock can be either hinged or in side runners.
Stocks and pillories have been used in parts of Europe more than 1000 years, probably much longer in Asia, and certainly before reliable records began.
The earliest recorded reference to stocks in Europe appears in the Utrecht Psalter, which dates from around 820 AD. Stocks had become common in
England by the mid-14th century. In 1351 a law (the Statute of Labourers) was introduced requiring every town to provide and maintain a set
of stocks. This had been implemented as a reaction to the Black Death, which had halved the population. The consequent scarcity of labour had
enabled agricultural labourers to demand increased pay. The Statute attempted to discourage this trend by providing that anyone demanding
(or offering) higher wages should be set in the stocks for up to 3 days. Stocks were later used to control the unemployed. A statute passed
in 1495 required that vagabonds should be set in the stocks for 3 days on bread and water and then sent away (where presumably they would
have faced a similar fate). If a vagabond returned to the same parish, he or she would receive another 6 days in the stocks. These punishments
were however seen as excessive and the lengths of time in the stocks were later reduced to 1 and 3 days respectively. A Statute of 1605
required that anyone convicted of drunkenness should receive six hours in the stocks, and those convicted of being a drunkard (as opposed
to be caught drunk) should suffer 4 hours in the stocks or pay a substantial fine (of 3 shillings and 6 pence). A slightly later Statute
made it legal to set those caught swearing in the stocks for 1 hour, if they could or would not pay a 12 pence fine. In practice the authorities
preferred offenders to pay fines as the monies were used to fund poor relief.
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