Scold's Bridle

Contributed by Armagh County Museum

Gossiping women meet their match in the Scold's Bridle.

A bizarre form of punishment reserved exclusively for women was the wearing of the iron scold's bridle. Resembling a muzzle or cage for the head it had a padlock at the rear and a projecting spike that would have been held firmly inside the mouth when the bridle was closed.

The use of the bridle was first recorded in Scotland (1567) and the 'scolds' were presumably women whose talk was inappropriate or to use a modern legal term - 'libelous'. There are also records to indicate that part of the punishment could have involved the offender being lead around the town as part of the ritual humiliation.

Why the torture was reserved for women is unclear however references to the scold's bridle being applied at the husband's request raises the whole issue of female punishment throughout the ages and into the present day.

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