Ellen Beech and Anne Osboston were hanged after the 1656 Michaelmas Assizes at Chester for practising “certain arts from which wicked and devilish acts certain people of Rainow fell ill and died”.
We’ve put the plaque here at the bottom of Cuckstoolpit Hill. Being hanged as a witch was only one of the medieval punishments for women to bring them into line. There were also the cucking stools and ducking stools.They were instruments of public humiliation and censure both primarily for the offense of scolding or backbiting and less often for sexual offences like bearing an illegitimate child or prostitution.
Cucking and ducking were two different things. Cucking means defecating. Like the German word ‘kacken’, to shit. Cucking stools were usually of local manufacture with no standard design. Most were simply chairs into which the offender could be tied and exposed at her door or the site of her offence. Some were on wheels like a tumbrel that could be dragged around the parish. Some were put on poles so that they could be plunged into water: these were ”ducking" stools.
Ducking stool not only humiliation but torture, as was the Scolds Bridle —used in public or borrowed by men to chastise wives and prevented them speaking. All of these ways were to silence women, to cow them into behaving as they ‘ought’ — like chattels, property, not like full human beings with rights and opinions.