Museum Piece – An Exceptionally Rare 16th Century Scold’s Bridle or Brank’s Bridle


Museum Piece – An Exceptionally Rare 16th Century Scold’s Bridle or Brank’s Bridle


A rare 16th Century antique “Scold’s Bridle” or “Brank’s Bridle”.  Presented on an associated stand of later date.

Originating from Belgium. Sourced from a private collection.

Bridles like this are incredibly difficult to find. A similar example is held in the collection of the “Wellcome Collection”.

A scold’s bridle, sometimes called a witch’s bridle, a gossip’s bridle, a brank’s bridle, or simply branks, was an instrument of punishment, as a form of public humiliation. It was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head. It would also have had a sharp metal gag that pointed into the mouth to restrain the tongue, like the bit on a horse’s bridle.

The word ‘scold’ was used as a legal term for women – and, much more rarely, men – who disturbed their neighbours’ peace with loud quarrelling, gossiping, slanderous speech or brawling.

It was illegal to use bridles to punish those charged as scolds. Nevertheless, these devices were employed in Scotland and England by local magistrates, around the 16th and 17th centuries. The practise spread to other parts of Northern Europe, including what is now Belgium.

The scold’s bridle was part of a wider culture of fear and punishment of witches, prostitutes, ‘shrews’ and other unconventional women, who refused to play the part of quiet, submissive wives.

Condition – overall good.  Some wear commensurate with age as per the images. A further detailed condition report is available upon request.


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