St Helen’s Finger Pillory, Ashby De La Zouch

The quaint town of Ashby De La Zouch offers many diversions to visitors but none as unorthodox as the 300 year old finger pillory in St. Helen’s Church.

St. Helen’s church boasts the finest stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ in the Midlands. It is one of the most picturesque churches in the county.

But upon further inspection, at the west end of the church, you will find a curious object. Made of two pieces of horizontal wooden oak blocks, hinged at one end. This is a finger pillory, for punishing ‘indecorous behaviour’  Without the unnecessary and public degradation associated with outdoor stocks.

It is a barbarous little instrument that is made of oak. It has thirteen hollowed grooves that will accommodate fingers and hand spans of all sizes. Essentially it pinched the fingers of an offender so he couldn’t get away, and was forced to stand by the wall until set free.

History doesn’t record with particular misdemeanours during divine service merited such a curious punishment.

There is only one other known example of a finger pillory in England, in a private manor in Wiltshire where it was used to discipline servants.

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By Isaac Hartshorn

Isaac Hartshorn is fascinated by the city's long and varied history. He also hates to discuss himself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.

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