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The historical punishment of juveniles

Posted at 11:20 on 13 Aug 2008 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: birch, cane, Fantasies, other pictures, Spanking art, tawse, Victoriana, Vintage

I've just discovered a fascinating website: an archive of historical material about the corporal punishment of juveniles. It's lovingly researched, focussing mostly on the punishment of boys, and contains a wealth of primary sources, including illustrations, press cuttings and personal accounts.

I could get lost in this collection for hours. Schools, reformatories, the military, judicial punishments, care homes are all covered here. There are sections on the cane, birch and tawse, richly embroidered with historical drawings, photos and accounts from the time. Like these two, showing the caning of boys in the navy:


1906 drawing of a shipboard naval caning, published in 'The Humanitarian', a campaigning journal

I was caught doing something which if I had been in the navy proper would have got me 'cells.' I was brought before the captain of the training ship and sentenced to 12 cuts of the cane. I was taken at once to the sickbay and told to strip off except for my socks and was given a pair of white duck punishment trousers. These are always worn by a boy who is to be caned. Then I was marched into the gym where the master-at-arms checked to see that I hadn't sneaked in any padding. I was told to stand to attention and the surgeon general came in with the regulating petty officer, who is always deputed to give the cuts and was carrying two long canes.

I was made to lay over the end of the gym horse and was held in position by two well-built boy ratings. The captain came in and said 'Carry on' and the RPO lifted the cane in a wide semi-circle to the back of his head and brought it down with considerable force. After each stroke the master-at-arms called out 'Cut delivered sir.' At the end of the 12 cuts I was taken to the sickbay where my injuries were inspected. The marks had already turned a mauve-blue in colour.

(A sailor recalls being caned as a boy in a naval training establishment; punishments of this kind continued into the 1960s and 1970s.)

Or these descriptions of 19th century judicial birching:


A 19th century birching table used in Scotland. This ingenious design subdues the prisoner by confining his arms through two holes cut into the table top.

The two boys were both found guilty of theft and sentenced to receive 12 strokes of the birch. The sentence was to be carried out at 1pm, after the birch had been pickled for two hours. It consisted of a number of long thin lashes tied to the end of a stick about 2 feet long. Each lash had a resemblance more to wire than wood. At the appointed time the magistrates arrived to witness the punishment and the sobbing boys were brought in. A move was made to the courtyard at the back of the gaol, a dull, bare piece of ground surrounded by high walls. In the middle of the courtyard had been placed a bench, similar to a school form.

"Now then, down with your trousers, quick!" said one of the constables Although the two culprits obeyed the command their movements were not very rapid. One of the constables quickly unbuttoned one of the fellow's braces, and his trousers were pulled down so as to leave his buttocks bare. Almost with lightning rapidity he was placed on his stomach on the form. One constable at one end held his hands with an iron grasp and the other took the wretch's legs.

The official who held the birch stepped forward both hands holding the rod, and with all his might and main commenced to administer the punishment. The boy began the most piteous howling and yelling and red marks appeared almost immediately across his buttocks. After three strokes his right buttock was like a piece of raw beef. After the sixth stroke the constable moved round to the other side of the form and administered six hefty strokes across the left buttock. The boy evinced the most unearthly yells and blood was immediately drawn. The constable took pride in the fact that the culprit would not be able to sit down for quite a time.

(eye-witness account of a juvenile birching, published in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1887)

There's dozens more; enough to satisfy any spanko appetite. Go, explore, indulge yourself. It's well worth a look.

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