Scold's bridle, Germany, 1550-1800
This item is one of the more disturbing objects in Henry Wellcome’s collection. A ‘Scold’s bridle’ is a fearsome looking mask which fits tightly on to the head. A scold was defined as a “rude, clamorous woman”. The bridle was used as a punishment for women considered to be spending too much time gossiping or quarrelling. Time spent in the bridle was normally allocated as a punishment by a local magistrate. The custom developed in Britain in the 1500s, and spread to some other European countries, including Germany. When wearing the mask it was impossible to speak. This example has a bell on top to draw even more attention to the wearer, increasing their humiliation. It was used until the early 1800s as a punishment in workhouses.
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Glossary: Scold's bridle
A punishment for women who spoke too much or were troublesome. Also referred to as 'the brank' or 'branks', it consisted of an iron cage that covered the head with a gag that projected into the mouth. This gag was often studded to heighten the punishment.