One of the more gruesome items in the city’s new Crime and Punishment exhibition, the grisly-looking scold’s bridle is currently on display at Abbey House Museum until December 31.
Also known as a brank, the scolds bridle is believed to have been used in England as early as 1574 and was employed as a punishment for people, usually women, who spoke out of turn.
The solid iron frame was placed on the offending person’s head, enclosing it, and an iron plate that was sharpened or covered with spines was located near the mouth. The plate was placed in the mouth so the victim could not move their tongue without injury and, with the brank on their head, the unfortunate individual would then be led through the streets on a chain held by one of the town’s officials.
Some towns would also chain them to the pillory, whipping post or market cross.
The brank on display at Abbey House was collected by Morley historian Norrison Scatcherd (1780-1853) who left it to the Leeds Museum where it has been in the collection since 1863.
It is one of many exhibits in Crime and Punishment, which examines more than 350 years of law and order in Leeds and the rest of the UK, from the 1650s to today.
Coun Brian Selby, lead member for museums and galleries, said: “The scold’s bridle is a grim reminder of some of the cruel and unusual punishments which were meted out - it’s a real insight into how much justice and the law have evolved through the centuries.”