Ducking stools were in common use in the medieval times specifically for women as means of extracting confessions to perceived crimes or as means of punishment. Situated by rivers the device was a chair attached to a free moving arm which could be swung over the river once the woman was strapped into the chair. The length of time and frequency of immersion was dependant on the operator and the crime for which the woman was accused. It varied from a few seconds to repeated immersions over the whole day. There were several crimes deemed suitable for the ducking stool including prostitution, witchcraft or being a scold. Scolds were considered to be gossipy, shrewish bad tempered women or nagging wives.
The Court Leet of Christchurch used to sentence women to be lowered and raised into the Mill Stream with the frequency of the ducking dependant on the will of the court.
The Ducking stool at Christchurch is a replica of the one that was in use during the 15-18th centuries, and in the exact place of the original. It was built in 1986 as part of the centennial festival, when the Court Leet was re-established, that celebrated Queen Victoria’s charter confirming the borough status of Christchurch.
- Address: Ducking Stool Lane, Christchurch BH23 1DS
- Website: wwsw.localhistories.org/Christchurch.html