The Stocks

  • What was the Stocks Torture Device?
  • How was a Stocks Torture Device made?
  • Definition of a stocks torture device
  • The Stocks & the Executioner

During the medieval times, it was common to punish criminals with various tortures devices such as the stocks. Some torture devices were designed to inflict torture until death whilst others were simply aimed at humiliating the petty criminals. A wide range of torture devices such as the stocks were prevalent during the middle and high medieval times which were used for various political and religious purposes. Among the medieval torture devices that were designed to inflict humiliation, the stocks torture device was quite popular.

The Stocks medieval punishment

Medieval Punishment using the stocks

How did The Stocks Torture Device Operate

The stocks torture device was specifically constructed to immobilise the victim and expose them to public humiliation. Among other medieval torture devices, it was similar to a pillory in that it consisted of hinged wooden boards. The stocks had an opening between the wooden boards from which the victim’s hands and sometimes feet too would be passed through and chained. Sometimes, there was an additional hole for the head as well. Thus the hands and feet of the victim would be bound in the stocks torture device and he would be left out in the open for public humiliation. Sometimes, the victim was left in the stocks for days which could also result in death from exposure to the elements.

How was The Stocks Torture Device made

The stocks torture device was made of two wooden planks which had holes at their centre. The stocks construction was simpler compared to most other medieval torture devices. Sometimes chains were also part of the stocks torture device in order to chain the hands and feet of the victim. Another wooden bench was optional and could be used for the victim to sit down, although to increase the humiliation the victim could also be made to stand up.

  • The Stocks was usually used to humiliate a victim not kill them
  • Sometimes the victim was left to die in the stocks intentionally
  • Medieval People could be killed by accident in the stocks by being exposed to cold weather or heat
  • The stocks torture device was made out of wood and simple in it’s design
  • Sometimes the Victim was chained to the stocks
Stocks Medieval Torture Device

The Stocks Torture device in the grounds of a castle was used to humiliate the victim, the stocks in this image is from medieval times.

Was a The Stocks Torture Device used for Punishment or Death

The stocks torture device was one of those torture devices constructed mainly to inflict public humiliation on the victim. Its main purpose was not the punishment of death. The bound victim was usually left out in the open and the passers-by would spit on him or throw disguising wastes which increased the humiliation. Since the medieval stocks torture device was not meant to inflict death, it was reserved for those people whose crimes were not very serious. For instance, the device was recommended for unruly artists in the second Statute of Labourers in 1350.

The Stocks Torture Device and The Executioner

While the executioners played active role in other kinds of medieval torture devices such as the torture rack or Judas Cradle, he hardly had any role to play in the medieval stocks torture device. This was because the purpose of the machine was simply humiliation and no active torture was required. The victim would just be bound once and left out in the open for several hours or sometimes days. Thus the executioner did not need to intervene in the torture.

Summary of the The Stocks Torture Device

Among the medieval torture devices, a medieval stocks torture device was designed for petty criminals in order to inflict public humiliation on them. It was not meant to inflict serious torture or death, although sometimes a person could die of exposure and cramps if left out for days. The bound victim had to face remarks, spits, and dirt from the passers-by which increased his humiliation.

  • People would curse, spit and throw things at people when they were in the stocks
  • The stocks could be placed anywhere such as in the grounds of castles or in medieval towns and villages
  • The stocks was used for minor crimes and was one of the milder medieval punishments
  • The stocks was used for unruly artists in the statute of labours in 1350
  • Today similar devices to the stocks are used at schools, festivals and fairs for a bit of fun

We hope you have enjoyed learning about the stocks medieval torture device which was really more of a humiliation device, if you would like to read about more brutal torture devices than the stocks that were designed to kill their victims please look at the medieval torture links at the bottom of this stocks article.

The Stocks and Chains

The stocks punishment device with chains in medieval times

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