See caption
17th-century perjurer Titus Oates in a pillory
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The pillory is a device formerly used for the punishment of those found guilty of what were considered to be relatively minor offences. It consisted of two hinged planks with holes that when brought together secured the head and hands; attached to an upright post, it was usually erected on a platform.[1] The name derives from the Old French pilori, which is itself derived from the Latin pila, meaning “pillar”.[2]

Pillories were set up in public spaces such as marketplaces and crossroads to increase the humiliation of their victims,[3] and were usually in use for an hour or so on market days.[1] The fate of those so confined very much depended on the mood of the crowd. The writer Daniel Defoe, for instance, was sentenced to the pillory in 1703 for seditious libel and, regarded as a hero, was pelted with flowers.[4][a]Defoe was sentenced to be put in the pillory on the last three days of July, for an hour each time, in three of the busiest places in London.[5] Others not so fortunate were pelted with rotten eggs and fruit, dead cats and dogs, stones and other missiles that could cause serious injury and even death.[5]

The use of the pillory was abolished in England in 1815, except for the crime of perjury, and completely in 1837.[2] The last person known to have been pilloried in London is Peter James Bossy, on 22 June 1830; he had been found guilty of perjury and sentenced to transportation for seven years after being pilloried.[6]

See also

  • JougsMetal collar formerly used as an instrument of punishment in Scotland.
  • StocksDevice used to publicly humiliate those found guilty of minor offences.