Ducking the Question

Everyone has heard of the ducking stool, used in the good old days to inflict a particularly humiliating form of punishment on wrongdoers.

In Heptonstall, however, folk did things differently and there a device named the cucking stool served as the instrument of torture.

Evidence for this is provided in the Constable’s Accounts for February 23 1717 which list: "Pd to William Cockroft for a Poulle (pulley) for ye Cuckstool….8d.’’

Many claimed that ducking and cucking stools were one and the same thing, pointing to references from all over the country of people being placed in the cucking stool and ducked in water.

But other authorities argued that there were distinct differences between the two.

According to an account originating in Leicester in 1467 the cucking stool was a chair in which the culprit was fastened and then suspended aloft by means of a pulley.

This machine was sometimes placed in front of the culprit’s door and other times mounted on wheels and trundled through the streets, where he or she was exposed to the derision of the townsfolk.

In some cases the wrongdoer was stripped naked beforehand and in the worst-case scenario, the seat was entirely absent making the punishment even more painful.

No record survives of who suffered the cucking stool in Heptonstall but the Constable’s Account gives detailed instructions as to the construction and maintenance of the device — and it’s hardly likely the good townsfolk would have gone to all that trouble and expense only to allow it to lie idle!

From Milltown Memories, issue 2. If this or other stories stirs a memory, we'd be happy to know - send us your memories and comments.