On our visit to Christchurch, the next town over from Bournemouth in this conurbation, we came across this sign: “Ducking Stool” – with an arrow.
This way to the Ducking Stool
We wondered — what the heck is a ducking stool?
It is referred to in the late 17th century. It was particularly used for women who were argumentative, or were witches, or prostitutes or bore children out of wedlock.
An oscillating stool, e.g. a teeter totter type fulcrum, would allow the woman to be held over the water, then dunked into it.
Note it did not apply to men – and sure enough in this illustration it is men ensuring justice is carried out.
The punishment could be light – i.e. simply dunking in the water, or if the townsfolk were particularly vengeful that day, it led to death.
Ducking was also useful to determine if someone was a witch:
“In medieval times until the early 18th century, ducking was a way used to establish whether a suspect was a witch. The ducking stools were first used for this purpose but ducking was later inflicted without the chair. In this instance the victim’s right thumb was bound to her left big toe. A rope was attached to her waist and the “witch” was thrown into a river or deep pond. If the “witch” floated it was deemed that she was in league with the devil, rejecting the “baptismal water”. If the “witch” sank she was deemed innocent.” — Wikipedia
Fortunately it was removed from the laws in 1967 [no doubt because we have improved our method of determining if someone is a witch].
We are never too far away from going back to those days – take a look at Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ written during the McCarthy era, and I expect the good folks in Alabama will soon use this method to confirm that those women coming forward to accuse Roy Moore are all witches.