Condemned by Persons of Distinction. In December 1750 the newspapers reported the following; “We hear from Ringwood, that on Wednesday last Edward Marlet, Underwaggonner to Mr. Neeve of Fordingbridge, was whipt through that Town at the Tail of a Cart; and that on Friday he went through the same Exercise at Fordingbridge, for endangering the Lives of Persons of Distinction in that neighbourhood, as they were travelling in their Coach; and that Richard Fulford, another Waggoner, belonging to the said Master, was pardoned for the same Fault, on his paying a considerable Sum of Money, finding Security for his good Behaviour for three Years, and Mr. Neeve discharged them both from ever driving that Road anymore. During the 18th century whipping was a common punishment for vagrancy and minor crimes such as swearing or being drunk. This punishment would often have been carried out at a whipping post to which the offender would be shackled. Another punishment would be for the defendant to be put in the stocks where their feet were trapped in holes in a wooden plank whilst they were in a sitting position. Sometimes they would be put in a pillory where their head and hands would be fixed in a plank mounted on a post so that they were in a standing position. The stocks and pillory might seem less of a punishment than whipping but the offenders were often treated badly whilst they were unable to defend themselves.  The locals were encouraged to throw rotten fruit and vegetables at them but this often became a more violent assault where stones and beatings were used and it was not uncommon for offenders to suffer severe injuries. It was a good way for some people to settle old scores. In Fordingbridge there were two sets of stocks. One was in Shaftsbury Street near the rear of what was the Royal Arms pub, now La Lambretta. A pillory, stocks and whipping post were also set up in Church Street near to a house called The Leys. These were close to a small oblong building that served as a lock up where prisoners who had committed more serious offences could be kept until they could be sent off for trial in Winchester. These lock ups were sometimes called Blind Houses because they often had no windows.  Examples of these still stand and the most unusual one I have seen is on the bridge at Bradford on Avon. There was no police force until the mid-19th century and the Constable elected by the Manorial Court was in charge of keeping the peace and bringing offenders to justice. What is thought to be the Constables staff of office is now in Fordingbridge Museum. In 1687 money was granted for timber to repair the stocks in Shaftsbury Street and in 1721 a new pillory was provided. In 1810 the Constable, William Barry, reported that the floor near the pillory was in a decayed state. I doubt whether money was granted for repairs because the stocks, pillory and whipping post do not seem to have been used after 1801. The whipping post was removed in 1820 and the stocks and pillory not long after.  In 1860 the lock up was demolished and the stocks in Shaftsbury Street were removed.
A good local example of original stocks can be seen in Breamore although they are now in a disgracefully neglected state. These could accommodate two people and in 1586 it is recorded that John Cooke was “whipped at the post” and put in the stocks at Breamore for three hours for stealing a white horse belonging to John Harris.  I do wonder who the persons of distinction were who caused the carter to be whipped through the towns twice. He probably was one of the local gentry and possibly even a magistrate or friend of a magistrate. I suspect that unlike his colleague the subject of the whipping was not in a position to pay a substantial sum to escape his punishment. The next time you get a ticket for a motoring offence be thankful that times have changed. Julian Hewitt, Fordingbridge Museum.