No doubt many of you read the court stories in The News and note the punishments meted out by judges and magistrates.
If you are one of the people sentenced, thank your lucky stars you did not live in Portsmouth a few hundred years ago as delinquents were dealt with somewhat differently. One punishment was the pillory – stocks at head height. The criminal’s head and hands were placed in the pillory and locked in place.
He then had to stand in the open in all weather and had missiles thrown at him by passers-by. Stocks at ground level imprisoned the prisoner’s feet. He sat there until punishment time was over. Imagine that on a cold frosty night.
But they were lucky. Perhaps the most frightening punishment was left to ‘pikers’, small-time thieves. Once convicted, they had an ear nailed to the pillory and the offender could then choose whether to cut off his ear or tear it off.
Brian Woodward dropped me a line about some of his ancestors which included this story. In the mid-19th century one Charles Hobbins was in Portsmouth court for fathering a child out of wedlock. The mother required Charles to support the child and although he admitted the child was his, his name was not on the birth certificate.
However, Charles was fined 10 shillings(50p) plus midwife fees of £2 11s and had to pay the mother 2s 6d (12.5p) a week. This had to last until the child reached 13 when it was expected to start work.
The mother of the child was 18-year-old Sophie Barton, Charles’s niece. She gave birth to her child in the Portsmouth workhouse.