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Medieval stocks. Source: Arkady Chubykin / Adobe Stock.

What It Was Like to Be in the Stocks? (Video)


During Medieval times stocks and pillories were employed as forms of punishment, the experience for those confined in them was far from pleasant. Stocks, restraining the feet, and pillories, which immobilized the head and hands, were instruments of public shame. Crowds were encouraged to hurl insults and objects at those confined, transforming the punishment into a painful and humiliating ordeal. Various offenses, ranging from minor infractions to more serious crimes, could lead to such punishments. People found themselves in stocks or pillories for acts as diverse as public inebriation, witchcraft, heresy, and even playing practical jokes.

The duration of punishment varied, with some individuals enduring days or even weeks in these devices. Rain or shine, the punishment proceeded, although inclement weather sometimes deterred crowds, offering a slight reprieve to the captive. In some instances, the church played a role in these punishments, with offenders being forced to confess their sins within a church setting. Furthermore, prisoners often faced additional cruelties, such as floggings, branding, or even having their ears nailed to the device. The pain and humiliation were intended to serve as lasting reminders of their actions. Fortunately, as cultural standards evolved, the use of stocks and pillories waned over the years, eventually becoming obsolete forms of punishment, though remnants of their legality still persist in some places.

Top image: Medieval stocks. Source: Arkady Chubykin / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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