A new photo of the beautiful city of Canterbury in Kent and surrounding area every day.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Ducking Stool


The Canterbury Ducking Stool is a remnant from the Medieval times.

This is a chair that is suspended on a frame and hangs over the River Stour, next to the Old Weavers House. It was used in the middle ages as a form of retribution for three types of situations:

Firstly it was used as a punishment for nagging wives. In those enlightened times, a man could pay for his nagging wife to be dipped into the river on the ducking stool and of course suffer a degree of public humiliation at the same time. It's unclear where the payment went, but clearly not to charitable causes.

Secondly, it was used as a punishment and public embarrassment for cheating businessmen, who would be ducked into the water in front of a baying crowd and who would inevitably be forced to leave the city afterwards, their reputation in tatters.

Lastly it was most famously used as a litmus test for witches and the way it worked was this: any woman accused of being a witch would be placed in the chair, and the chair would be swung out over the river and then submerged deep in the river for 2-3 minutes. After that time, the poor woman would be brought back to the surface. Now here is the tes: if she survived this lengthy ducking then clearly she was a witch as she must have used her powers to survive the fatal dowsing. If so, she would be burned at the stake as a witch. If, however, the lady was dead after being submerged for 3 minutes, then clearly she was not a witch. Her family would receive an apology letter from the Churcha and could be given a Christian burial and have her soul recommended to God.

Though easily the best outcome, it was death either way for anyone accused of witchcraft!

11 comments:

USelaine said...

Makes my feminist blood boil, it does. Very interesting post!

Ruby said...

Oooo, how awful but how interesting. I had no idea any of these things still existed. Is it the original, or a replica, do you know?

Abraham Lincoln said...

We have about 500 congressmen who should be given this dunking stool opportunity -- after the president and vice president of course.

What was the thinking for people not quite right in the head -- as in the group just mentioned -- I assume dunk them also?

A sick joke on my part of course.

Hope said...

This was an interesting post...but just how awful for those unfortunate people. Your blog is very nice!

GeneMarine said...

Wall Street crowd could use a bit of the chair and possibly the test of witches. I concur with Abraham Lincoln on his comment about which team should go first.

Nice photo of historic value!

Tanya said...

It's such a beautiful, charming setting but what a dark history. Very interesting post!

John said...

Some say the good old days. But not me, a good women is worth her weight in solid gold.Thats a compliment to all ladies LOL

Monica said...

Fascinanting story, I'm always amazed at these witchcraft stuff, there's no way women could "win" back then, like you said, it was death either way. I just can't imagine how the woman's family would be satisfied with an apology after they realized the woman was not a witch. It's like saying "oops, my bad!"
Reminds me of the destiny King Henry VIII decided his second wife should have - Anne Boleyn. He acused her of treason, adultery and incest, so after her trial it was decided she was to be beheaded. Then Henry VIII was free to marry his 3rd wife... and nobody cared if the evidences against Anne were unconvincing! The things us women have to go through!!!!!!

Ms M said...

Maybe we in the U.S. need to borrow that ducking stool for some of our zealously greedy business leaders, their underlings, and the politicos who were supposed to be "in charge of the store"...

I also agree with uselaine about the horrid treatment of women in the "enlightened" Middle Ages.

babooshka said...

I'm surprised we don't still have that here. The birch was only outlawed in 1973 afterall. Fascinating distrubing post, with a decptively pretty scene.

MrsJCDeppII.. said...

To Ruby,

Yes it is the original.