The Pillory, junction of Wine Street and the Pithay, central Bristol, BS1

In the 18th century the pillory was the usual sentence for many crimes, including cases of homosexual acts other than sodomy (where the punishment was usually death). Many Bristolians were pilloried.

The prisoner was locked by the head and hands into a board attached to a rotating post. They then walked in circles, often for an hour, while onlookers pelted them with mud, dung, rotting food or stones. Depending on the crowd’s hostility, prisoners could be knocked unconscious, blinded or occasionally killed. In cases of  homosexual crimes, the crowd was usually very hostile and the injuries brutal.

The use of the pillory in England was restricted in 1816 and abolished in 1837.

The Pillory, illustration from William Pyne, The Costume of Great Britain (1805).


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