From the Thorley Archives

Thorley's Stocks and Whipping-Post


Before 1850, Thorley's stocks and whipping-post used to be positioned in an open area known as the Village Pound. This was to the left of the gateway to Thorley Hall and immediately in front of the church lychgate. Their primary purpose was to detain and humiliate petty criminals and also those who had offended the churchwardens. Parishes were required to erect stocks by Act of Parliament in 1405 and some were still in occasional use in the mid 1800s. The addition of a whipping-post was instituted at the time of Elizabeth I. Amongst those who qualified for detention, and the subsequent humiliation, were petty thieves, drunkards, gamblers, wife beaters, hedge-tearers, strolling players and musicians and Sabbath-breakers.

As these instruments of local punishment fell into disuse and subsequent disrepair they disappeared from the scene. By 1905 only five Hertfordshire villages had preserved theirs as relics and artefacts.

In the 1850s, our Rector, Frederick Vander Meulen, had them removed from the Pound and placed in the churchyard by the ancient yew tree. In 1904 the church accounts record that they were renovated by Glasscocks & Sons at no expense to the churchwardens! This involved the structure being cleaned, treated with preservatives, a new upper bar provided and the post being spliced. They were then repositioned, behind railings, against the south wall of the churchyard where many present day parishioners remember them being a prominent feature.

Stocks and Whipping Post in the Churchyard prior to their removal for safe keeping

In 1979, the Rector, Sidney Robinson and Churchwardens, Martin Ash and Hebbie Martin entrusted our stocks and whipping-post to the safe keeping of the Bishop's Stortford Local History Society. It is hoped that they may find a permanent display in the refurbished Rhodes Museum building.

Drawing of the Stocks and Whipping Post made in 1985

Bill Hardy
February 2005

1905 Paper by W. B. Gerish in theTransactions of the East Herts Archaelological Society

From the Archives