The Stocks

Although The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men is a Walt Disney film, synonymous with good wholesome family entertainment, the scenes in which Scathelok is struck across the face, whilst in the stocks and Will Stutely is hung up in a deer skin over a burning brazier and beaten continuously by foresters on horseback, are quite harrowing.
But this is definitely in-tune with medieval society, as punishment of this kind was thought to be the solution to every criminal or social offence, from stealing to adultery and heresy.
The stocks, as used for Scathelok, were a very common form of medieval punishment and had been used from Anglo-Saxon times till the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1405 a law was passed that required every town and village to have a set of stocks. Normally they were placed by the side of a roadway or on or near a village green.
The offenders foot wear was removed, exposing their bare feet, which was considered a form of humiliation during the middle ages. Their ankles would be placed between the holes of two pivoting boards of wood or iron, hinged at one corner with a lock at the other. Unlike the pillory, the offender was kept in a sitting position with their hands either chained or free.
Often the person could be punished for many days or even weeks in all weathers, during the heat of the summer or the freezing winter, living only on bread and water and exposed to the often very harsh treatment of the local townspeople. Apart from being pelted with stones and rotten fruit and vegetables, punches, cuts and even urination over the victims body was very common.
They were abolished in England along with pillories in 1837.

© Clement of the Glen

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