National Civil War Centre
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Object of the Month April 2021 - The Scold's Bridle

This was a form of torture or public humiliation for women who were considered to be gossips or nags. They were known as ‘Scolds’. The framework enclosed the head and the iron bit slid into the mouth on top of the tongue, stopping the wearer from speaking.

They were sometimes called a witch's bridle, a brank's bridle, or simply branks and were used as an instrument of punishment, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The bridle-bit (or curb-plate), about 2 in × 1 in (5.1 cm × 2.5 cm) in size, was slid into the mouth and either pressed down on top of the tongue as a compress, or used to raise the tongue to lie flat on the wearer's palate. This prevented speaking and resulted in many unpleasant side effects for the wearer, including excessive salivation and fatigue in the mouth.

When the bridle was placed on the supposed gossiper's head, they could be led through town to show that they had committed an offence or scolded too often. This was intended to humiliate them into ‘repenting’ their ‘riotous’ actions. A spike inside the gag prevented any talking since any movement of the mouth could cause a severe piercing of the tongue. When wearing the device, it was impossible for the person either to eat or speak.