The Cucking Stool in Rishton was on Harwood Road, where the road crosses Spaw Brook. It was into Spaw brook that the women of the town were once ducked. It was a 17th Century apparatus used for scolding nagging women. The pillory or the stocks were used for the correction of men.
1361 saw the de Rishtons of Dunkenhalgh receive a moiety of Clayton Manor, on the death of Henry de Clayton. De Clayton had two daughters, Alice and Cecily, and on his death Henry de Grimshaw (Cecily's son) took Clayton Hall and the greater part of the demense, while the remainder became the property of Henry de Rishton and his wife Margaret, who was the daughter of de Claytons daughter, Alice.1
The acquisition of this part of the manor of Clayton was particular valuable, because, for the first time it carried manorial rights which had not belonged to the Dunkenhalgh previously. These rights later enabled Judge Walmsley to place a byre cross (bye-law cross), a cucking or ducking stool, archery butts, and a pound for stray cattle.1
Rishtons Cucking stool was still in used as late as the end of the 1880's, although at this time it was more limited to gaining water from the well.
The stream now runs underground for much of its passage through Rishton, but at one time the stream was crossed by bridge. To the West of this bridge was a broad well, known as "Cuck Stool Well".
The stool had its origins in Saxon times, not believing in maiming women, or the cutting of their bodies, the Saxons drowned them. The stool, it can be said, is a direct descendant of this practice.
Close by the well would have been a strong post, driven firmly into the ground. A great beam was fixed to this post in such a way that it could be turned on a pivot in any direction. It was at the end of this beam that the thewe, or chair would be fixed, in which the woman was fastened and exposed to the mockery of the crowd. When all of these jeers and shouts died down, into the well she went, woman, chair and all. Then back out, and down once once more. Afterwards she was swung ashore.
As recently as the beginning of the eighteenth century this machine for the punishment of scolds was in use in the parish and town of Liverpool. It was a chair suspended by a long pole over some pool of water; and the scolding woman being tied fast in the chair, could be ducked more or less deeply in the pond, as those on its bank raised their end of the pole. It is, says Baines, impossible now to fix the date when the chair of correction was first introduced into Liverpool, or to say when, by the improvement in female manners, it was no longer found to be necessary; but that it was in request as late as the year 1695 may be inferred from an item in the parochial expenditure of that year, which runs thus:—
"Paid Edward Accres for mending the cuck-stool, fifteen shillings."
For many ages the ducking-stool stood at the south end of the town of Ormskirk; but from the improvement in female manners, or the refinement in modern taste, it was removed in 1780.
The crown that you can see on the stool is used to put on the woman's head. There is a spiky bit were the tongue was placed, so if they spoke it will have dug into the roof of the mouth. They were placed in the big heavy chair, and were then lowered into the river or stream in Rishtons case. The chair was mainly made out of the same material. The material was iron, a metal, which means It went rusty very quickly.
According to Blount, this cooling apparatus was in use in the Saxon era, when it was named the scealj1n and described to be a chair in which quarrelsome women were placed, and plunged under water.
The poet Gay celebrates this correctional chair, which was evidently in use in his time, in the following terms (Pastorals, iii. V. 105) :——.
"I’ll speed me to the pond where the high stool On the long plank hangs o’er the muddy pool— that stool the dread of every scolding quean."
1Rishton Parish Church Jubilee 1927 by Carlton Noble.
Lancashire Legends by J. Harland & T. T. Wilkinson, Published by E. P. Publishing Limited 1973, ISBN 0 85409 851 8.
Lancashire Stories by Frank Hird, Published by T. C. and E. C. Jack.