A FEARSOME executioner took up his axe to mete out the harshest punishments history can offer at a South Yorkshire castle.
The executioner, Gilbert Savage, visited Conisbrough Castle to regale crowds with cautionary tales of medieval crime and punishment.
Visitors also got the chance to see tools of his trade such as thumb screws, deadly blades and a set of gallows, marking a brief return of the hangman’s noose to the castle.
Gilbert – aka history expert John White – demonstrated how the items worked and explained that even petty crooks received severe treatment in the medieval era.
Jon Hogan, regional events manager for organiser English Heritage, said: “In medieval England, there was no such thing as a caution. For example, for theft of something valued less than a shilling – approximately a week’s wages for a farm labourer – punishment for the first offence would be a period on the pillory or stocks.”
The unfortunate individual would then have their ear nailed to the wooden frame of the stocks, forcing them to tear themselves loose – the origin of the term ‘earmarked’. For subsequent offences, the punishment would be even heavier – branding, flogging, removing an ear or slitting the nose were commonplace and the gallows awaited for habitual offenders. Gallows were installed at Conisbrough Castle in 1250.
The town had stocks until 1810.