Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 4/Scold's Brank or Bridle


Hanging up in the Warrington Museum may be seen a representation of a withered female face wearing the brank or scold's bridle; one of which instruments, as inflexible as iron and ingenuity can make it, for keeping an unruly tongue quiet by mechanical means, hangs up beside it. Almost within the time of living memory, Cicily Pewsill, an inmate of the workhouse, and a notorious scold, was seen wearing this disagreeable head-gear in the streets of Warrington, for half an hour or more. One can hardly conceive a punishment more degrading to the offender, or less calculated to refine the spectators, and yet it seems to have been common in every part of England, and there are few places where a brank or scold's bridle is not shown as the effective mode in which our fathers curbed an unruly tongue. Cicily Pewsill's case still lingers in tradition, as the last occasion of its application in Warrington, and it will soon pass into history.—Beamont's "Warrington in the Thirteenth Century."


Dr Whitaker, the historian of Whalley, formerly possessed a scold's brank, which had evidently done much duty. Dr Plott says:—"This artifice is much to be preferred to the ducking-stool, which not only endangers the health of the party, but gives liberty of tongue betwixt every dip. . . . The offender, by order of the magistrate, when the brank is fastened with a padlock behind, is led round the town by an officer, to her shame." The present occupier of Holme is not aware what has become of his grandfather's brank.