Thursday, 29 August 2013


The Central Criminal Court known as The Old Bailey, was built on the site of the old Newgate prison.  Old Bailey is in fact the name of the street, off Newgate Street and Ludgate Hill in London 

A plaque which can be seen in a corridor at The  Old Bailey, tells us :

 'Near this site William Penn and William Mead were tried in 1670

 for preaching to an unlawful assembly in Grace Church Street'

'This tablet commemorates the courage and endurance of the jury
who refused to give verdict against them, although locked up for two nights

and were fined for their final verdict of not guilty.

The case of these jurymen was reviewed on a writ of Herbaeus Corpus.

Chief Justice C.J Vaughan delivered the opinion of the court,

Which established the ‘Right of Juries’ to give their verdict

According to their convictions.’

Sunday, 18 August 2013


There is a complex of old mills around the bridge over the River Derwent at Belper in Derbyshire. Around 1800, a covered passageway was built over the Ashbourne Road to connect the building on either side leaving an archway through which the road passes. At that time it was considered necessary to provide gun-ports to cover the road as a defence against possible attack by Luddites intent on sabotage. The ports can still be seen today, one on the town side and two on the other side.


Saturday, 17 August 2013


The stealing of bodies from graveyards was a prevalent crime in the 19th century, and it was very difficult to apprehend these ‘body snatchers’  unless they were caught red-handed. Their aim was to sell the bodies for anatomical purposes. To combat this crime, watch towers were built in many graveyards where those keeping watch for body snatcher's could shelter and still be vigilant.   An interesting example of such a watch tower  can be seen in the churchyard at Eckford,  in the Scottish Borders.  It even contains a small fire place to keep the incumbents nice and cosy.


A related story tells of a local man, one James Goodfellow, who was walking home late, the day after a burial, when he saw a dim light in the churchyard. He saw a pony and cart secreted nearby and sent it galloping off, forcing two miscreants to leave their grisly task and rush after it. In the graveyard he found an open coffin and just had time to hide the body behind a nearby gravestone and install himself in the coffin, covering himself with the pall, before the two  body snatchers returned and lifted the coffin on to the cart and drove towards Kelso. After a short distance one of them leaned against the ‘body’ and cried “Jock, this body’s warm” whereupon James sat up and said, “If you had been where I have been, you would be warm” and the thieves fled. There was apparently no claim for the impounded horse and cart.

Examples of ‘mortsafes’ can be seen in the churchyard at Logierait in Perthshire . They were used to protect graves and to prevent the stealing of corpses to sell as anatomical specimens.





Wednesday, 14 August 2013


On 25 September 1662  Alexander Macdonald, the young chief of Keppoch, and his brother Ranald, were stabbed to death by rivals within their clan.   Nothing was done to avenge their deaths until Iain Lom, the Keppoch bard nagged MacDonald of Glengarry and Sir James McDonald of Sleat to punish the criminals.  Two years later the Privy Council in Edinburgh issued letter of ‘Fire & Sword’ against the murderers.

The seven men were hunted down at Inverlair, killed and decapitated.  Legend says that their heads were washed in a well at the side of Loch Oich and taken to Invergarry Castle before being set up on Gallows Hill in Edinburgh on 7 December 1665.    A monument over the well on the west side of Loch Oich at its southern extremity recalls this event with an inscription in Gaelic,English, French and Latin. The seven heads are carved around the top of the pillar together with a hand clasping a dagger.



The old tollbooth and prison in Edinburgh, built in 1466 and demolished in 1817, was the infamous place where public executions took place and is the site of the Porteus Riots of 1736.   John Porteus was the captain of the city guard who ordered his troops to open fire on an unruly mob protesting at the execution of a popular smuggler.   Six people were killed and Porteus was subsequently condemned to death for their murders.   When a stay of execution was granted, the mob broke into the prison and lynched Porteus. 
Sir Walter Scott acquired the old door to the toolbooth and had it built into his home at Abbotsford.    His novel The Heart of Midlothian, relates to these events.
Granite blocks now form a curious heart shape in the roadway in Parliament Square marking the site of the old tollbooth.



In the early 16th century. Nicholas Brome was the owner of Baddersley Clinton House near Solihull in Warwickshire.     One day he returned home and found the local priest in the parlour with Brome’s wife and they were in ‘close contact’ with each other.  Brome was so incensed that he killed the priest by stabbing him with his knife.  Brome was pardoned by the King and also by the Pope, but was required to do penance for his crime which entailed good work in his community. 


Indeed he re-built the tower of Baddersley Clinton church and this is recorded by an inscription on the inside wall of the tower.  

His final penance when he died was to be buried, just inside the south entrance to the church, standing up, which meant that people walked on his head.




In the 12th century the penalty for murder was death, plus the forfeiture of any land and property, but at the intercession of a dying hermit, three offending noblemen of the Whitby area of North Yorkshire were sentenced instead to a strange penance by the Abbot of Whitby Abbey.   The three penitents and their heirs, forever and a day, were ordered to perform an annual act of contrition on the eve of Ascension Day.

The story unfolds in the year 1159, when Lord of Ugglebarnby, William de Bruce, and Lord of Sneaton, Ralph de Percy, together with another nobleman, were enjoying a days boar hunting in the forests around Eskdaleside, land belonging to Whitby Abbey.  
                                                                           WHITBY ABBEY
They pursued  a wounded boar into a cave occupied by a monk from the abbey who is aid to have barred their way.  In the excitement and frustration the huntsmen struck the hermit a fatal blow and he died some days later.    On his death bed the monk demanded that his murderer’s be spared on condition that they and their heirs performed a penance of erecting a hedge in Whitby harbour every year.  They were to cut a specified number of hazel boughs in Eskdale Woods – 10 yedders; 10 stakes; and 10 stout stowers – which they were to bear on their backs to the harbour.  The hedge to be erected on the shore at the receding tide, strong enough to withstand three successive tides.   Should this ceremony not be performed as demanded, then all their lands and property would be forfeited to the abbey.

This strange ceremony is still re-enacted, when, at the appointed hour on the eve of Ascension Day, three blasts on the ceremonial horn and the expiatory shout of  ‘out on ye, out on ye,’  ring out across the harbour, whereupon the three penitents complete the hedge in accordance with the ancient decree, in the mud of the harbour.


The Penny Hedge Ceremony


Monday, 12 August 2013



Mytholmroyd is about 5 miles from Halifax on the A646 through Calderdale in West Yorkshire and in the centre of the village there is an ancient hostelry,  The Dusty Miller Inn,  just opposite the A6138 which passes through the delightful rural valley of Cragg Vale.



An apt name for this pub would have been ‘The Coiners Den’ for this is where a gang of men, known as  The Cragg Vale Coiners,  used to meet back in the 18th century.    ‘Coining’ was the art of making counterfeit coins and this gang used a method of clipping or filing bits off coin of the realm and  melting down the accumulated gold or silver, which was then moulded and struck on a ‘die’ to produce a passable coin.  Coining, which  had been a problem for centuries, carried the ultimate penalty and the expert Cragg Valer’s were well aware of this fact.   Their leader was a man called David Hartley, or ‘King David’ as he was known and he lived at Bell House high up in Cragg Vale, where much of the coining was carried out.   The dies had to be made by a skilled craftsman and there were ways and means of bringing this about, and then all that was required was an expert ‘hammer man’ – he who could strike the die well enough to produce an accurate impression on the coin – and ‘ King David’ was Cragg Vale’s hammer man.

Things came abruptly to a head in 1769 when ‘King David’ and some of the gang were arrested at The Old Cock Inn in the centre of Halifax, by a government excise man, William Dighton, who had been sent to the area to investigate the gang.  Foolishly, some of the remaining members of the gang lay in wait for Dighton and shot him dead.   The upshot of the whole episode was that David Hartley and most of his gang were executed.

Hartley was buried in the old churchyard at Heptonstall where a simple gravestone marks his grave, and the original dies used by the gang can be seen in the little museum there.



Although the present parish church at Holmfirth in West Yorkshire dates from 1777, it replaced a former church on the same site dominating this small town.  Adjoining the church is an ecclesiastical lock-up dating from 1597 and known locally as T’owd Towzer.   The Rev. Edmund Robinson, vicar in 1688 probably saw more of the inside of the lock-up than he wished because he was caught ‘coining’, the crime of clipping or filing coins of the realm to make counterfeit coins.  He was convicted and hanged at York.

Holmfirth Parish Church

T'Owd Towser  lock-up



The curiously named Hangman Stone Road near Barnburgh in South Yorkshire, recalls a local story about a sheep stealer at a time when such theft was a capital offence.   The man attached one end of a rope round the sheep and tied the other end around his own waist.  While stopping for a rest, he put the sheep on top of a wall, but the sheep fell off and the rope slipped round his neck and strangled him!



Divine retribution may well have been the result of an incident in the market place at Devizes in Wiltshire in the 18th century.  An inscription on the old market cross tells us that :

‘ On Thursday the 25th January 1753, Ruth Pierce of Potterne in this county,
agreed with three other women to buy a sack of wheat in the market,
each paying her due proportion towards the same.
One of these women, in collecting the several quarters of money discovered a deficiency, and demanded of Ruth Pierce the sum which was wanting to make good the amount. 
Ruth Pierce protested that she had paid her share
and said she might drop dead if she had not.
She rashly repeated this awful wish, when, to the consternation of the surrounding multitude,
she instantly fell down and expired, having the money concealed in her hand.’





A tomb grave in the churchyard at Prestbury in Cheshire, records that William Wyatt, 41 years, of Adlington, a quarryman, fell shot through the body whilst gallantly taking the lead in the capture of two armed highwaymen in Shrigley in 1848.  £100 was raised by public subscription for his widow and children.  His brother Thomas was shot in the arm in the same incident.

The Three Houses, formerly called The Magpie, an old coaching inn at Sandal near Wakefield was one of three inns in the village. The Raven and The Plough both closed down and the Magpie was renamed The Three Houses. Highwaymen were once prevalent in this area. In those days of the 17th and 18th centuries when stagecoach travel was the order of the day, (as the Inn sign depicts), the predatory activities of the highwayman was one of the many hazards for such traveller John (or William) Nevison was one of the most notorious of these characters, a man renowned for his dash, ingenuity and fearlessness, he was probably born at Wortley near Sheffield in 1639. Although Nevison came from a good family, he stole from his family and soon left home. He stole a horse and rode to London where he obtained employment and for a couple of years it seemed that he had settled down, but then he stole £200 from his employer and disappeared with the police on his tail. He evaded capture and eventually enlisted as a soldier, serving in Flanders, but, ever the individualist, Nevison deserted and returned to his native land and became a highwayman. His notoriety soon earned him the soubriquet Swift Nick Nevison (Some say it was Charles 11 who used this name) with the reputation of aiding the poor. He rode and worked alone and reaped a rich harvest from the wealthy travellers on the southern highways until things became too hot for him and he moved back to his native Yorkshire where he was virtually unknown. As he continued his nefarious activities Nevison soon had the local law officers after him and it is said that it was whilst being closely pursued by constables on the road between Pontefract and Ferrybridge that he took his horse on an incredible leap between two cliffs, making good his escape. This chasm became known as Nevison’s Leap and was near to where a pub of that name is now situated. The story goes that Nevison was eventually caught and committed to Leicester Gaol, but escaped by pretending to have contracted the Plague. One of his friends,a physician, came and attested to his illness, and another friend, a painter, provided make-up. Nevison feigned death and was carried out of the gaol in a coffin. His subsequent reappearance on the highway was at first taken to be ghost sighting. Out of character and as an act of self preservation he shot and killed a constable, Darcy Fletcher, who had a warrant for his arrest. This increased the pressure upon the authorities to ensure his capture. It appears that he had joined a gang of highwaymen who operated from the Talbot Inn at Newark on the Great North Road. Stories of this audacious freebooter are legend and he usually managed to keep one step ahead of the law but his luck ran out in 1684 when he was found asleep in a chair at The Three Houses Inn. The chair can be seen in St Helen’s church at Sandal. He was arrested and tried for a variety of crimes including Fletcher’s murder and was hanged at York in that year. He was buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary’s Church, Castlegate, York. It was in fact Nevison who made the legendary run, wrongly attributed to Dick Turpin, from London to York. This able and accomplished horseman had been arrested and accused of committing a robbery near London at 4.0.clock in the morning. He was acquitted after proving that he was in York on the day in question, and had actually spoken to the Lord Mayor at 7.45pm. Nevison later boasted that he had made the amazing ride of 209 miles to York in less than 16 hours after the robbery. It seems that although Nevison was dreaded by those liable to suffer at his hands, he was in fact a gentleman of the road, much respected by the poor to whom he was a good friend, and a contemporary ballad was written about him:

‘ Did you ever hear tell of that hero, Bold Nevison was his name.
He rode about like a bold hero, And with that he gain’d great fame.
He maintained himself like a gentleman, Besides he was good to the poor,
He rode about like a great hero, And he gain’d himself favour therefore.’


Meanwhile at The Green Dragon Inn at Welton near Hull in East Yorkshire, now a quiet country pub, stories of the legendary Dick Turpin abound, for this was the scene of his arrest in 1739.   Turpin was nothing like the romantic character portrayed by Harrison Ainsworth in his novel Rookwood.   He was actually born at The Rose and Crown  (formerly the Bell Inn) at Hempstead in Essex and ended his days on the gibbet at York Knavesmire on April 17th 1739.    Turpin was a cattle and horse thief turned highwayman and was actually detained at The Green Dragon on a charge of poaching.   He gave the name John Palmer to avoid recognition but made the mistake of writing to his brother whilst in custody and a former schoolmaster recognized his writing.  It seems strange that Turpin could read and write, but apparently it proved to be his undoing because he was duly identified, tried and hanged at  York Knavesmire.  He was just 34 years of age.   It is said that Turpin engaged five indigent men to follow his cart to the gallows and these ‘mourners’ were each paid the sum of 10/-.

Dick Turpin was reputedly buried in the graveyard of St. Georges Church in George Street, York, where a renovated gravestone reads :
John Palmer,  otherwise Richard Turpin.
The notorious highwayman and horse stealer,
Executed at Tyburn,  April 17th, 1739
and buried in St. Georges churchyard. ‘
Although Tyburn was in fact the London gallows it was also a generic term for any gallows.


The Cell is quite an appropriate name for the Old Manor House at Markyate in Hertfordshire.   Built on the site of a former monastery, it was owned by the Ferrers family from 1548 to 1660.   Kathleen Ferrers was born in 1634, and after an unhappy marriage when she was only 14 years old, she turned to crime as an escape from what she regarded as a boring life.
At night she transformed herself when she dressed  in a three cornered hat, black breeches and coat and then armed with pistols, she rode off along Watling Street on her black horse, to hold up the coaches using that route.   One night she was shot and seriously wounded whilst holding up a coach.   However, she made her escape and managed to return to a secret room at The Cell.  Sadly she died from her injuries but her family hushed up the whole affair and she was subsequently buried with all the pomp befitting her rank and status.   Despite the efforts of the family, the legend of ‘the wicked lady of Markyate Cell’ has persisted to the present time and it is said that her ghost still appears in the area.





The New Forest inn,  The Sir Walter Tyrrell,  gives its name to the man  thought to be responsible for the death of King William 11.   The Rufus Stone, which can be seen in a clearing nearby at the side of an unclassified road north of the A31, recalls the death of King William 11 (1056 – 1100).  It was erected in 1745 to replace a tree which had marked the original spot where William Rufus was killed by an arrow whilst hunting in the New Forest.   But was the death an accident ?   Called Rufus supposedly because of his ruddy appearance, William was a man, so it is said, who was ill tempered and small both in body and in mind.  He was loathed by his people and few tears were shed when he was killed, and indeed the clergy at Winchester Cathedral refused religious rites to his remains.
Whilst his death was probably an accident,  Tyrrell has  by tradition been suspected of being responsible.   Was it an accident or was it regicide?  We will never know.    The Sir Walter Tyrrell Inn  can be found nearby.   The former forge at nearby Avon is where, according to legend, Sir William stopped before fording the river, and made the blacksmith reverse his horse’s shoes in order to mislead his pursuers, whilst fleeing the scene.


Some other gypsies were very fortunate at Taunton Assizes in 1876 when, charged with the murder of a policeman,  they were rather surprisingly convicted of manslaughter.

PC Nathaniel Cox was the well respected village policeman at East Coker near Yeovil in Somerset, where he lived with his wife and four young children.   On the night of 16th November 1876, PC Cox was kicked and bludgeoned to death whilst in the discharge of his duty.  Nat Cox was 37 years of age, broad shouldered, thick in fist, a brave man who could look after himself and normally a ready match for any law breaker.    It was the eve of Yeovil Fair which often meant trouble for the local police with an increase of horse thieving and poaching.   Taking no chances, the police were patrolling in pairs and Cox was with a younger colleague, PC Henry Stacey from West Coker, when they had occasion to stop and check a horse and cart being driven by one man with three other men walking alongside.   Suddenly PC Cox was struck a heavy blow on the head which left him sprawled on the road.  PC Stacey, who went to his assistance, was also felled with a blow to the head which left him unconscious in a ditch.   When he came round there was no sign of the cart, the four men, or indeed PC Cox.   The seriously injured policeman managed to summon assistance from a nearby farm and PC Cox was subsequently found lying dead a short distance away.

The local doctor later said in evidence, of PC Cox, ‘I found he had a compound comminuted fracture of the scalp on the left side of the head and the brain was protruding.  The left ear was badly lacerated.’   He said he thought that the terrible injuries had been caused by a succession of heavy kicks.  Comminute means to break into little pieces, to crush or grind.    PC Stacey was critically ill for some weeks with severe concussion, but eventually recovered.

A police notice was soon circulating naming three members of a well known family of poachers – George Hutchinson (55) and his two sons, Giles (30) and Peter (26).  The three men had disappeared but a fourth man, Charles Baker, was soon arrested and charged with murder.  George and Giles Hutchinson eventually gave themselves up and Peter was subsequently found hiding in a loft at West Coker.   All four men eventually appeared at Taunton Assizes charged with the murder of PC Cox and the attempted murder of PC Stacey.

The dramatic evidence to’d and fro’d about what had happened on the fateful night.  The local populace had no doubt about the guilt of the four accused men, but Lord Chief Justice, Sir Alexander Cockburn, told the jury, ‘ When PC Cox met his death, it was by foul means, both gross and brutal…. That the violence was the act of some, if not all the prisoners is, I feel, clear.  But as to how and in what precise circumstances the constable met his death, we are left absolutely in the dark.’    After deliberating for just 45 minutes the jury found all four guilty of manslaughter!   There was a gasp of disbelief around the courtroom.   His Lordship then said, ‘The jury have taken a merciful view in your case and I think have acted wisely too.  I don’t think this was a case of premeditated murder.’    He decided that George Hutchinson had taken no part in the attack and gave him a free pardon.  This followed a dramatic interruption by the accused Baker, who told the judge that the older man had not left the cart and took no part in the assaults on the two constables.   The other three men were sentenced to 24 years penal servitude. 

In time, widow Mrs Cox, told an uncanny story.   On the night before her husband’s death he had had a restless night.  He told her, ‘I’ve had a bad time.  I dreamt that I had a fight with some gypsies and they gave me a horrible smack on the head.’

PC Cox was buried in the churchyard at East Coker where a nice stone marks his grave.


PC Cox's grave


In 1727 a  military recruiting sergeant was haranguing and cajoling a crowd in Hinkley Market Place in Leicestershire.  A young man by the name of Richard Smith made a nuisance of himself, ridiculing the sergeant with jokes and quips.  The sergeant became so fed up that he ran Smith through with his pike and killed him, rather a drastic measure.
A gravestone in Hinkley churchyard recalls this event and the epitaph reads :

' A fatal halbert this body slew

The murdering hand God’s vengeance will pursue.
From Hades terrence although justice took her flight
Shall now the judge of all the earth do right?
Each age and sex his innocence bemoans
And with sad sighs lament his dying groans.


Who departed this life the 12th day of April 1727
In the 20th year of his age.’

The stone is said to sweat blood on the 12th April.


Pan American Boeing 747 Clipper, ‘Maid of the Seas’, with 243 passengers and 16 crew, left Heathrow Airport at 18.25 hours on Wednesday 21st December 1988, bound for New York as flight 103.   At approximately 19.03 hours, the aircraft was blown apart by an internal explosion from a terrorist bomb.   Falling over 31,000 feet, it crashed near Lockerbie in the Scottish Borders, and pieces of the wreckage were scattered over 846 square miles.   All the people on board were killed, as were 11 residents on the ground, a total of 270 people.  In Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie, there was a crater 155 feet long and 733 cubic yards volume.  
Some of the dead were buried at Lockerbie where a fine memorial garden can be seen.

In 1999, two Libyan’s thought to be responsible, were handed over for trial.  The two men were subsequently tried in Holland by a Scottish court.  Only one of them, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, upheld on appeal. In 2009 Al Megrahi, suffering from terminal cancer, was contraversially released on compassionate grounds and subsequently died in Libya.


Sunday, 11 August 2013


People had to be caught before they could be punished and a popular way of catching poachers and the like, was by way of an extremely cruel device  ‘the man trap.’  One of these fiendish devices is preserved on the wall outside the Black Swan Inn in the market place at Leyburn in North Yorkshire.



The church in the Cheshire hamlet of Warburton is probably the oldest timber framed church in existence today and is unique in that no systematic restoration has ever taken place, leaving this very unusual historic edifice we see today.  In the neglected churchyard the many gravestones are weatherworn and covered in moss and foliage.    Beneath one of them William Noblett has lain for more than 160 years.   His demise,  at the age of 81 years, brought peace to this tiny hamlet because Willie was an incurable whistler and from an early age had been known as Whistling Willie.   But why should the people of Warburton be so relieved when Willie gave his last whistle?  Well, at that time the area was noted for its poachers with many of the locals taking great pride in their brigandage.  However, Willie and his whistle upset the apple cart because the local landowner, upon hearing Willie and his whistle, engaged Willie to act as a sort of gamekeeper.   His job was to patrol the squire’s grounds at night and when he found a villager up to no good, to give a loud extra special whistle to bring the squire’s servants running and the poacher to justice.    The epitaph on Willie’s gravestone once read :   
‘Though herein he lies dead
Whistling Willie’s fame has spread
For his double tone, piercing drone
Which chilled the marrow to the bone
And will be made by him no more
T’will surely continue by the law.’
What does it mean?   One of the Squire’s most frequent visitors was Sir Robert Peel, founder of the modern police service.  It was on one of his visits to Warburton, when he heard Willie, that Sir Robert got the idea of the policeman’s whistle, that double tone and piercing drone, mentioned in Willie’s epitaph.
Whistling Willie lies in a corner of the churchyard



Penalties for relatively minor offence were indeed harsh even into the 19th century.  The county of Dorset is rightly proud of the fine old bridges in possesses.   A transportation tablet’  can still be seen on several of them, notably on the graceful 15th century bridge over the River Stour at Dursweston.   It reads :

Any person wilfully injuring
Any part of this County Bridge
Will be guilty of Felony and
Upon conviction liable to be
Transported for life by the court.
7 & 8 Geo 4 C50S13 T.Fooks.


Even people who misbehaved in church were liable to be punished by the use of a nasty little ecclesiastical device known as  ‘ a finger pillory.’   The only one to survive can be seen in the interesting church of St Helen at Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire.  Two grooved beams came together to trap the miscreants fingers and. although the grooves catered for varying thicknesses, the incumbent probably wasn’t given much choice.

In times gone by there were stocks in most towns and villages where minor offenders were detained and often derided by the general public.   Usually two wooden bars with suitable holes and locked together securing the offenders legs therein and examples can been seen in various places.   An unusual set of stocks can be seen in the Gloucestershire village of Painswick.   They are made of metal and the unusual construction has resulted in the name spectacle stocks.



Originally called the ‘cucking-stole’, this is one of the most ancient modes of punishment in England.  From Saxon times it was nothing more than a ‘stool of use’ upon which the offender sat and thus being exposed to public derision, but in time the idea was extended to include immersion in water and the various boroughs and manors were required by law to maintain their own ducking stool.   Normally associated with female ‘common scolds’, it was also used for Butchers, Bakers, Brewers, Apothecaries and the like who gave short measure or vended adulterated articles of food.  A fine example can be seen in the Priory Church at Leominster in Herefordshire and was the last to be used in England when, in 1809, a woman called Jenny Pipes alias Jane Corran, was paraded through the town on the stool and then ducked in the river.
Poet Benjamin West described the process in 1780 as follows:
‘ There stands, my friend, in yonder pool,
an engine called a Ducking Stool;
By legal power commanded down,
The joy and terror of the town,
If jarring females kindle strife,
Give language foul, or lug the coif;
If noisy dames should once begin
To drive the house with horrid din;
Away, you cry, you’ll grace the Stool;
We’ll teach you how to hold your tongue to rule.
Down in the deep the Stool descends,
But here, at first, we miss our ends;
She mounts again, and rages more
Than ever vixen did before.
If so, my friend, pray let her take
A second turn into the lake;
And, rather than your patient lose,
Thrice and again repeat the dose,
No brawling wives, no furious wenches,
No fire so hot, but water quenches.’


Although distressing for the victim the ducking proceedure didn't usually have such severe consequences as was revealed at The Half Moon Inn  at Wilstone in Hertfordshire being the scene of an unusual Coroner’s Inquest back in 1751 It was held to inquire into the death of an alleged witch.    Ruth Osborn had been accused of witchcraft following an incident whilst she was begging for food at Gubblecote, her subsequent mutterings being interpreted as a curse.  Notices were posted that she and her husband would be publicly ducked at Wilstone on 21st April 1751.   Despite resistance, they were dragged from their place of refuge in the church vestry by a mob said to number some 4,000 people.  They were repeatedly ducked in the pond at Wilstone, which resulted in the death of Ruth Osborn who had been physically held under the water by the village chimney sweep, Luke Colley.  Colley was subsequently convicted of murder and was hanged at Hertford Gaol on 24th August 1751 and his body was hung in chains at Gubblecote.