Category Archives: MEDIEVAL

Scold’s bridle- The gruesome medieval torture instrument worn to deter women from gossiping

Scold’s bridle- The gruesome medieval torture instrument worn to deter women from gossiping

A woman wearing a scold’s bridle
A woman wearing a scold’s bridle

The Middle Ages is a period well known for some severe forms of corporal punishment. The idea of punishing one’s body was deeply connected to the understanding of the Christian religion, for one thing. Small infractions led to harsh treatment at the hands of those in charge.

Like modern people occasionally do, the ladies of the Middle Ages often got together to discuss the latest gossip. They would get together over what I like to imagine as a medieval Sunday brunch and chit-chat about the newest rumors.

However, while women today face almost no repercussions for their idle chatter, women of the Middle Ages faced an extreme sort of corporal punishment: the Scold’s Bridle.

The Scold’s Bridle is one of those things that prove no matter how hard being a woman can sometimes seem, compared to the Middle Ages, women today are doing just fine.

The Scold’s Bridle was comprised of several strips of iron that surrounded an iron muzzle, that would be wrapped around a woman’s face like a mask.

A small piece of iron, known as the “bridle bit,” would be placed inside a woman’s mouth and pressed upon the tongue to prevent her from speaking.

A Scold’s Bridle with a more full-coverage face mask.

King of like that thing you put in a horse’s mouth when you want to control it. Sometimes, the bit even had a spike on it which would puncture the tongue if speaking was attempted.

The woman’s husband, upon hearing that his wife had been engaging in a round of gossip, would secure the bridle to his wife’s face to teach her a lesson.

As if the iron mask and its mouthpiece weren’t humiliating enough, the husband would then attach a leash to his iron masked wife and take her on a literal walk of shame around the town, encouraging passersby to insult or spit on her. Occasionally a bell would be affixed to the top of the bridle, to draw more attention during the walk.

The “Scold” part of “Scold’s Bridle” comes from the term that was usually applied to a woman in a derogative sense, who is seen to be nagging or constantly displeased. The “Bridle” part, of course, comes from the headpiece worn by horses, used when their riders want more control over their movements.

A Scold’s Bridle from the mid-1600s.

The idea behind the corporal punishment of a scold was not an innovative one by any means.

In the Christian religion, the most widely followed one at the time, it was believed that punishing one’s body was the only way to atone for one’s sins, and deeper understand the weight of one’s crimes against the church.

It was only through pain that true understanding, and therefore innocence, could be achieved.

The idea of the Scold’s Bridle was also not a new one. Similar head cages had been used to control slaves for hundreds of years and would continue to be used to do so, almost until the 19th century.

Thankfully, by the end of the 16th century, the Scold’s Bridle had begun to see a decrease in popularity.

Whether women began to gossip less, or whether men decided that other forms of punishment were more effective, the bridle began to fall by the wayside. And, indeed, by the time the colonists were settling the New World, the bridle had been almost eliminated from use.

Though, of course, public humiliation was still commonplace, as the new and exciting practice of placing people in the stocks became the preferred method of public shaming.

Remains of medieval child found with other skeletons just yards from St Patrick’s grave in Northern Ireland

Remains of a medieval child found with other skeletons just yards from St Patrick’s grave in Northern Ireland

Medieval skeletons were found beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick

The medieval skeletons were found beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down.

Archaeologists first thought they had found the lost cemetery of 13th Century Benedictine monks.

But they have said the oldest skeleton is that of a five or six-year-old child who died almost 1,000 years ago.

Archaeologist Brian Sloan believes there is “more to be found” in Downpatrick

The most recent skeleton is that of a young woman, believed to be a late adolescent, buried between 1317 and 1429.

Experts said she was suffering from severe tooth abscesses at the time of her death and believe she may have traveled to the on-site monastery in search of medicine or prayer.

A community dig was led by archaeologists from Queen’s University in Belfast, working with volunteers to prepare the ground for the erection of a replica high cross. Visitors from around the world flocked to the area as the dig unfolded.

‘Rich picture of medieval life’

Ancient pottery and animal bones were also recovered in the buried kitchen of a 13th Century Benedictine Abbey as well as a flint tool dating to about 7,000 BC.

Blackberry seeds, sloe pips, fish bones and charred wheat grains from bread-making were also found.

Medieval jugs found during the dig have been carefully pieced together

Excavation director Brian Sloan said subsequent analysis, including radiocarbon dating of three of the skeletons, had uncovered a “rich picture of medieval life”.

Although analysis of the skeletons is ongoing, he said evidence showed the young child had lived and died before the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1177 AD.

He said the young woman had lived sometime between 1317-1429 AD when the site was occupied by the Benedictine Abbey.

Mr. Sloan said the other archaeological finds had offered an insight into life in the abbey and a glimpse into an 8th Century Christian monastic site.

“We can use this evidence to build up a picture of the diet and everyday activities of the monks who lived and prayed here,” he added.

An arrow head from 12th or 13th Centuries is among other items found during the excavation

“The large pottery shards have been painstakingly pieced together at Queen’s University Belfast giving an idea of the shape, size, and decoration of the vessels.

“A rich environmental picture is being established through the processing of the soil samples taken during the excavation.”

Metalwork recovered from an ancient pit has also been analyzed and include fine copper alloy dress pins, a socketed arrowhead, a horseshoe, a pair of iron shears and a length of chain with a suspension hook still attached.

A number of items are now on display in the High Cross Gallery at Down County Museum in Downpatrick, in two new cases funded by the British Museum Trust, while research work continues on the collection of artifacts, dating from the Mesolithic (c. 7000 BC) period.

Mr. Sloan added: “This is fantastic as Downpatrick has almost been ignored from an archaeological and historical point of view. “It has got my blood flowing. I believe there is more to be found.”

Skeleton of man who had his throat slit by Anglo Saxon executioners 1,000 years ago is uncovered during excavations for a new wind farm

Skeleton of man who had his throat slit by Anglo Saxon executioners 1,000 years ago is uncovered during excavations for a new wind farm.

During the excavation job for a wind farm, remains of a Man believed to be the victim of an execution that killed 1,000 years ago were discovered.

During a dig in preparing for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, archeologists discovered the adult guy, aged between 25 and 35, with deadly cut marks on his throat.

The skeleton was recovered intact with the exception of a few small bones missing from the hands and feet.

He was laid facing upwards with his arms at his side in an East-West alignment, with no sign of a coffin.

A vertebrae from the skeleton 

The remains were found during surveying work for the route for onshore cabling on the South Downs at Truleigh Hill, north of Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Jim Stevenson, project manager for Archaeology South East, said:

“Specialist osteological assessment and radiocarbon dating have revealed that the skeleton is most likely to be an execution burial of the later Anglo Saxon period of around 1010 to 1025 AD.

“Most significantly, two cut marks made by a sharp blade or knife were found at the mid-length of the neck, which would have proved fatal for the individual.”

The skeleton was found during work for a wind farm 

The isolated burial was found along the ancient route of the South Downs Way in an area of known prehistoric graves recorded in the West Sussex Historic Environment Record.

It is believed some were once identifiable as visible surface burial mounds, were excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries and sometimes coincide with isolated burials.

The Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, 13km off the Sussex coast, is due to be fully operational later this year.

Once complete, it will provide enough electricity to supply almost 347,000 homes a year, equivalent to about half the homes in Sussex.

Plans for tennis court to be dug up to search for remains of Saxon King.

Plans for a tennis court to be dug up to search for remains of Saxon King.

Saint Edmund is believed to have been killed by the Vikings in the 9th century after refusing to denounce his Christianity.

His remains were kept in a shrine in Bury St Edmunds but were later lost during Henry VIII’s reign and the desecration of the Benedictine Abbey.

Now, Bury St Edmunds Believe it might have the remains of Saint Edmund, a Saxon monarch, buried under one of his tennis courts.

The Tennis courts in the grounds of Abbey Gardens Bury St Edmunds where archaeologists could be set to look for King Edmund’s remains

At the time of the desecration of the Benedictine Abbey, during Henry VIII’s reign, the remains were lost.

But historians believe the remains may well be below the tennis courts in Abbey Gardens, which sit on top of a former monks’ graveyard in the sedate East Anglian town.

Plans to move the courts are being considered so archaeologists may soon be allowed to look for King Edmund’s remains underneath.

The plans have the backing of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, who own the Abbey Gardens, near St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Robert Everitt, the local councillor in charge of the project said: “It would be an incredibly important historical discovery if he was found under there.

“It is something the borough want to do and the cathedral are in agreement as well, but we need to ensure we replace the courts.

“We are looking at St James Middle School courts, which are not being used [as the school is closed]. They would be ideal and would ensure people can play tennis right next to Abbey Gardens.”

Academic researcher and historian Francis Young, who was born in Bury, said: “The commissioners who dissolved the Abbey on November 4, 1539, mentioned nothing about the body, and given St Edmund’s royal status it is likely they would have quietly allowed the monks to remove the body from the shrine and relocate it.

“According to a third-hand account from 1697, St Edmund was placed in an iron chest by a few monks but sadly the account does not give the location within the Abbey precincts where he was buried. On balance, however, the monks’ cemetery is the most likely location.”

His remains were kept in a shrine in Bury St Edmunds
His remains were kept in a shrine in Bury St Edmunds

If the monks did use an iron chest it would help archaeologists distinguish the monks’ graves from that of the king. A heritage partnership is tasked with preserving and promoting the Abbey ruins, with the removal of the courts aimed at improving the experience for visitors.

Edmund was the King of the East Angles in the 9th Century. It is widely accepted that Edmund was killed by Vikings. It is thought his place of death was somewhere in Suffolk or Norfolk.

His myth tells of brave King Edmund refusing to denounce his Christianity and being killed by several arrows. The Vikings then removed his head so Edmund could not be buried whole. However, loyal followers were able to find his head after a wolf called to them, shouting “here, here, here”.

Shortly after his death, a shrine containing his remains was built in the Abbey in a town called Bedericesworth.

This town later became Bury St Edmunds and the most popular and famous pilgrimage in England, visited by many kings. Saint Edmund later became the Patron Saint of England.

The Abbey was desecrated in the 16th Century when his remains are believed to have been removed from the shrine.

Ghosts of the past: 3 haunted royal Medieval residences of Britain

Ghosts of the past: 3 haunted royal Medieval residences of Britain

From the chilling apparition of a royal pageboy who haunts Glamis Castle, to the tragic Jane Seymour who carries her severed head about Hampton Court Palace, Caroline Taggart explores 3 of the most haunted sites in Britain…

3. Hampton Court Palace, London

One of the joys of Hampton Court is that it is two palaces for the price of one: there’s the Tudor construction and also the palace built by William and Mary two centuries later. So it’s fitting that you should also find there two royal ghosts.

Two of Henry VIII’s wives are said to haunt Hampton Court – one of them more peacefully than the other. The wife said to have been Henry’s favourite – number three, Jane Seymour – died here in 1537, shortly after giving birth to the longed-for son, the future Edward VI.

In Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal, you might start by admiring the exquisite ceiling, vaulted and painted in striking midnight blue with a repeating pattern of stars and the royal motto ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’ picked out in gold. Then if, having been dazzled by looking up, you care to look down, you can contemplate the peculiar rumour that Jane Seymour’s heart and other organs may be buried beneath the floor.

The rest of her body is in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where she lies next to her husband. She was the only one of Henry’s wives to be given a queen’s funeral. But Jane may not entirely have left Hampton Court.

It is suggested that a ghostly lady in a long white gown has been seen carrying a lighted taper down the so-called Silver Stick Staircase and out into the Clock Court, and that she may be Henry VIII’s third queen. If it is indeed Jane, she isn’t alone in her wanderings.

Tradition has it that Katherine Howard – wife number five – upon learning that she was to be charged with adultery, ran along the processional route that leads from Henry VIII’s quarters to the chapel, screaming and begging her husband for mercy. The royal guards seized her and forced her back to her own apartments. She never saw Henry again, but her ghost, still screaming, is regularly seen and heard in what is now called the Haunted Gallery.

Two of Henry VIII’s wives are said to haunt Hampton Court – his third wife, Jane Seymour, and his fifth, Katherine Howard.
Two of Henry VIII’s wives are said to haunt Hampton Court – his third wife, Jane Seymour, and his fifth, Katherine Howard.

2. Glamis Castle, Angus

Widely recognised as the home of William Shakespeare’s Scottish nobleman Macbeth, Glamis is now better known as the childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; and as the birthplace of the late Princess Margaret in 1930. It is also said to be the most-haunted castle in Scotland.

One of its most appealing ghosts is a mischievous pageboy. The story goes that this naughty boy was frequently punished by being told to sit on a stone seat just outside the room that is now styled as the Queen Mother’s sitting room. One freezing cold night, everyone went to bed and forgot about him. The pageboy, doing what he was told for once, obediently sat there all night and froze to death.

Today, visitors still occasionally trip over as they enter this room, supposedly because the boy sticks out his foot as they pass by. It’s tempting to imagine he sticks out his tongue, too.

The nearest Glamis has to a royal ghost, though, is the so-called Lady in Grey, Janet Douglas (c1498–1537), who was widow of the sixth Lord Glamis. Douglas’s clan had a long-running feud with the royal Stuarts and, in order to be avenged on the family and claim Glamis for himself, in 1537 James V accused Janet of witchcraft and put her on trial in Edinburgh.

Even in the superstitious times of the 16th century, the charges were so obviously trumped up that there was rioting in the streets.

But it made no difference: Janet was burned at the stake on Castle Hill in Edinburgh on 17 July 1537.Some 150 years later her ghost found its way back to Glamis, where today’s castle guides make macabre mileage from warning visitors that she occupies a specific seat in the chapel – perhaps the one being occupied at that very moment

Glamis Castle, Angus

1. Nottingham Castle

After 20 years of foolish decisions, the disastrous monarch Edward II was deposed in 1327 by his queen, Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Visitors to Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire can still see the dungeon where Edward died in what one historian has described as a “suspiciously timely” manner.

Although the official account said that Edward had died of natural causes, many theories abound as to how he may have been murdered, including death by the intimate administration of a red-hot poker or, as the 16th-century playwright Christopher Marlowe had it, by being forced to lie on a bed while his executioners put a table on top of him and stamped on it.

Isabella and Roger briefly controlled the kingdom in the name of her teenage son, now Edward III, but the young Edward soon decided to take power into his own hands. On 19 October 1330, still a month short of his 18th birthday, the king launched a dramatic coup against Isabella and Roger at Nottingham Castle. He took his mother and her lover prisoner and hauled Mortimer off to the Tower of London. On 29 November, after a token trial, Roger was hanged ignominiously at Tyburn.

Hanging was, at this time, the form of capital punishment used to punish common criminals. Given Mortimer’s rank, it would have been more respectful to have beheaded him on Tower Hill.

Mortimer’s ghost supposedly made its way back to Nottingham and it is said that the apparition can sometimes be seen in one of the man-made caves in the labyrinth under the castle. If you stop for a drink at the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, the centuries-old pub set among the caves, you may just see him.

The caves at Nottingham Castle, where the ghost of Roger Mortimer has supposedly been spotted.
The caves at Nottingham Castle, where the ghost of Roger Mortimer has supposedly been spotted.