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PILLORY (O. Fr. pilori, Prov. espitlori, from Lat. speculalorium, a place of observation or " peep-hole "), an instrument of punishment which consisted of a wooden post and frame fixed on a platform raised several feet from the ground, behind which the culprit stood, his head and his hands being thrust through holes in the frame (as are the feet in the stocks) so as to be held fast, exposed in front of it. This frame in the more complicated forms of the instrument consisted of a perforated iron circle, which secured the heads and hands of several persons at the same time, but it was commonly capable of holding only one.

In the statutes of Edward I. it is enacted that every pillory or " stretch-neck " should be made of convenient strength so that execution might be done on offenders without peril of their bodies. It was customary to shave the heads wholly or partially, and the beards of men, and to cut off the hair and even in extreme cases to shave the heads of female culprits. Some of the offences punished in England by the pillory will be found enumerated in a statute of Henry III. (i 266). By this " Statute of the Pillory " it was ordered as the penalty for " forestallers and regrators, users of deceitful weights, perjurers and forgers." Stow, describing Cornhill pillory, says: " On the top of the cage (a strong prison of timber) was placed a pillory for the punishment of bakers offending in the assize of bread, for millers stealing corn at the mill, for bawds, scolds and other offenders." Until 1637 the pillory was reserved for such offenders. In that year an attack was made on the Press, and the pillory became the recognized punishment of those who published books without a licence or libelled the government. Alexander Leighton, John Lilburn, Prynne and Daniel Defoe were among those who suffered. These were popular favourites, and their exposures in the pillory were converted into public triumphs. Titus Gates, however, was put in the pillory- in 1685 and nearly killed. In 1816 the pillory was abolished except for perjury and subornation, and the perjurer Peter James Bossy was the last to stand in the pillory at the Old Bailey for one hour on the 22nd of June 1830. It was finally abolished in 1837 at the end of William IV.'s reign. In France the pillory, called car can, was employed till 1832. In Germany it was known as pranger. The pillory was used in the American colonies, and provisions as to its infliction existed in the United States statute books until 1839; it survived in the state of Delaware until 1905.

Finger-pillories were at one time in common use as instruments of domestic punishment. Two stout pieces of oak, the top being hinged to the bottom or fixed piece, formed when closed a number of holes sufficiently deep to admit the finger to the second joint, holding the hand imprisoned. A fingerpillory is preserved in the parish church of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, and there is one, still in its original situation against the wall, at Littlecote Hall, Wilts.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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