• Punishments of Former Days by Ernest Pettifer - book cover

Punishments of Former Days

by Ernest Pettifer


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Since this book was first published in the 1950s the description it contains of the history of crime and punishment in Britain over the previous 200 years or so has attracted interest across a wide spectrum. The work was reprinted by Waterside Press from 1992 onwards having been out of print for decades. The contents cover a wide range of historic punishments from outlawry to the ducking stool, the pillory, stocks and whirligig to the branding iron and scold’s bridle. From mutilation and torture to sanctuary and the emergence of private and then public prisons this is an essential addition to any criminal justice collection – imbued as it is by the comments of the author from the perspective of his own era, which are fascinating in themselves. Printed in the original style and format – together with a large number of the original illustrations. Thoroughly absorbing, the book transports the reader to a time when punishment was often brutal, unrestrained and unregulated by standards, fairness or consistency. It also looks at the sometimes strange logic that was applied by judges, justices of the peace and those charged with carrying out the task.

Contents include: Crime and Punishment in the 18th century; Prisons in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries; Children and Punishments; Outlawry; The Ordeal; Benefit of Clergy; Sanctuary; A Yorkshire Sanctuary; Deodands; The Gallows and the Gibbet; Hanging at Tyburn; The Pillory; The Stocks; The Ducking Stool; Whipping; Mutilation; Burning to Death; Torture; Peine Forte et Dure (Pressing to Death); The Branding Iron; The Scold’s Bridle or Brank; Body Irons; Punishments in a Yorkshire Town; Transportation; The Treadmill, the Crank, and Shot-drill; Oakum-picking; Miscellaneous Punishments: (including) Boiling to Death ~ Englishry ~ Fines ~ Forfeitures ~ Penance ~ The Picket and Whirligig ~ Riding the Stang; Bibliography; Index.


‘A good read’: The Magistrate


Ernest Pettifer was for many years the Justices’ Clerk for Doncaster, Yorkshire in a bygone era: who (by way of an aside) recalled meeting his contemporary the Hay on Wye poisoner and solicitor Herbert Rowse Armstrong at a meeting of the Justices’ Clerks’ Society!* He also wrote several other books that are collectors’ items when they occasionally turn up at sales, auctions or on the dusty shelves of some law libraries and solicitors’ offices. Punishments of Former Days was only the fourth book to be published by Waterside Press and has been in print and in demand ever since.

* Armstrong was executed at Gloucester Prison in 1922.

Additional information

Weight460 g
Dimensions234 × 156 × 17 mm


Waterside Press




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Place of origin

United Kingdom

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