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    15 Punishments We Used To Think Were Acceptable

    Think yourself lucky you didn't commit a crime in the past, or you might have got one of these rather nasty punishments...

    1. Burning at the stake

    Anne Williams, burned at the stake at Gloucester in 1753, from the Newgate Calendar / Via

    Only for women who killed their husbands - not the other way round. If you were lucky, your executioner would strangle you before the flames got you.

    2. Public execution

    The Tyburn Tree (The National Archives ref WORK16/376) / Via

    Stealing an item worth over twelve pence was, at one time, a crime that would result in you being hanged in front of a crowd of jeering spectators.

    3. Hung, drawn and quartered


    A man convicted of treason? You could be 'drawn' to the noose on a type of sledge called a hurdle - then hanged, cut down, disembowelled and cut into quarters. Lovely.

    4. Gibbeting

    Gibbet cage at Museum of London Docklands / Via Twitter: @nelldarby

    With this type of execution, you were left hanging in a cage until bits of you fell off. Those living nearby would have to look at your corpse every day, too.

    5. Hanging in chains

    Winter's Gibbet, Northumberland, by Phil Thirkell / Via

    Another form of gibbeting: until 1834, you could be sentenced to hang in chains from a gibbet - a wooden frame - usually near the scene of your crime.

    6. Dissection


    If you escaped being gibbeted, or hanged in chains, you might be sentenced to a hanging with your body then sent for dissection and anatomisation by eager surgeons.

    7. Transportation

    Transportation notice on the bridge at King's Stag, by Mike Searle / Via

    You might survive the long, disease-ridden sea journey to America to Australia, but the conditions and work when you got to your destination could then finish you off.

    8. Prison hulk

    The prison hulk Discovery / Via

    As prisons became full in the 18th and 19th centuries, decommissioned ships were used as floating prisons. At night, you would be chained to their beds to stop you escaping.

    9. Hard labour

    From 'The Criminal Prisons of London' by Henry Mayhew and John Binny / Via

    Hard labour was a term of imprisonment involving extra, um, labour. You might have to pick oakum or lift cannonballs before returning to your cold cell at night.

    10. Branding

    The branded hand of Captain Jonathan Walker, by Southworth and Hawes, 1845. Walker was branded for helping slaves escape./Massachusetts Historical Society / Via

    Convicted of manslaughter? For this, or certain other crimes, you could be branded with an iron on your thumb, hand or cheek so that everyone would know what you had done.

    11. Public whipping

    Birches, from Great Manchester Police Museum / Via Flickr: journopig

    For maximum embarrassment, you would be ordered to strip to the waist, before being flogged along a public street in front of nosey onlookers, until you bled.

    12. The Stocks

    Chapeltown Stocks, by Austen Redman / Via

    You could be locked in the stocks in the open air for so long, you would die of heat exhaustion or hypothermia. Oh, and the public might pelt you with rubbish first.

    13. The Pillory

    Pillory at Charing Cross, by Pugin/Rowlandson, from 'Microcosm of London' / Via

    Seen as a worse punishment than the stocks, the pillory trapped you by head or limbs into a wooden frame. Writer Daniel Defoe spent three days in one in 1703.

    14. The Ducking Stool

    From 'Curious Punishments of Bygone Days' by Alice Morse Earle / Via

    If you were seen as a 'scolding' woman, you would be tied with chains or iron belt to a stool, carried round your village, and then immersed in the local pond.

    15. The Treadwheel

    From 'The Criminal Prisons of London' by Henry Mayhew and John Binny / Via

    If you were an inmate in a Victorian prison, you might be made to walk on these soul-destroying wooden wheels every day. You could walk for several hours, but get literally nowhere.

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