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Corporal Punishment

The Birching Rod


Hereford Times - 25th July 1863


A man whose age does not exceed 16 can be flogged with a birch rod up to twenty-five strokes on each occasion, and above that age fifty strokes can be inflicted on each occasion. The whipping is to take place within six months after sentence.


Wiki say - Position

Only if the recipient was a small child could he or she practicably be punished over the knee of the applicant. Otherwise the child would be bent over an object such as a chair. For judicial punishments the recipient could even be tied down if likely to move about too much or attempt to escape.


Shrewsbury Chronicle - 13th April 1866

KNIGHTON.  PETTY SESSIONS. Thursday.— Before the Revds. J. R. Kinchant and A. Thomas. - Steeling Bread: Charles and Thomas Davies, two lads of notorious bad character, were charged by William Davies, a labourer, residing on the Grove farm, with stealing a large cake, about 3Ibs. weight, and half a loaf of bread, from his house. His wife saw the prisoners about the premises, and soon after missed the articles. Polices constable Rogers found the prisoner in a quarry. They did not deny their guilt The magistrates ordered the constable to take them back to the lock-up, and be once well whipped.


Shrewsbury Chronicle - 14th July 1871

Boys' Squabbles.

Aaron Price, of Dutlas, a lad nine years of age, was charged by W. Birch, schoolmaster of Dutlas, with assaulting one John Gwilliam, another lad, nine years old, by throwing a stone at him on 8th June. Fined 4s 6d costs. The magistrates told the complainant it was a great pity he did not use the birch rod at home, instead of bringing the case there.


Wellington Journal - 6th January 1877


Before R. D. G. Price, C. C. Rogers,  and J. Weyman, Esqrs.

LARCENY.—Francis Davies, alias James, alias Woodhouse (19), Thomas Drew (12), Henry Drew (9), and Lewis Jones (11) were charged by Mr. W. J. Lewis with breaking into an outbuilding in his field, on the 29th inst.,  and stealing therefrom a dozen eggs and a lantern, value 5s. 2d.—Mr. Lewis deposed as to the state he found his building, having left it secure, and that 12 or 13 eggs bad been stolen therefrom. He identified the lantern produced by Sergeant Rogers as his property.

                Sergeant Rogers depose:  I received information  from Mr Lewis about three o'clock on the afternoon of the above date that his building had been broken into and some eggs and a lantern stolen therefrom. On going to the building I found that an opening had been made by removing two slabs. I noticed some foot-marks about, and also in the fields going in the direction of the racecourse. From information I obtained I apprehended the elder prisoner, and took his boots and also the boots of the two Drews and compared them with the foot-marks, and found them to correspond with the impressions made by the boots. I found the lantern I produce by a stack of hay in the direction the footmarks were going. I showed the lantern to Davies, and charged him with stealing it from the building. He said that Harry Drew reached it out of the building to him, and be gave It to Tom Drew, and when they went to the haystack Drew jumped on it, as he saw a mark on the bottom. The lantern was broken.

                When serving summonses on the two Drews, Henry said that Davies pulled down the boards, and he went in and reached the eggs and lantern out to him. They went to Mr. Jones's orchard and made a fire and boiled the eggs, and cooked some potatoes they got from a field, and ate them. Tom said that they kicked the lantern. Lewis Jones said that he was along with them, but not in the building.

                The prisoners all pleaded guilty.

                Davies was sent to gaol for four months, having been previously convicted. The two Drews were ordered to be whipped with a birch rod. Jones was discharged with a caution.


Montgomeryshire Express - 3rd April 1883

FALSE PRETENCES. - Caleb Smith, a lad aged 10 years, and residing with his mother at Presteign turnpike gate, near Knighton, who was brought up in custody, and charged by Inspector Rogers with having, on the 19th inst., obtained from Mrs Elizabeth Bachelor, Bridge Street, Knighton, the sum of 1s, under false pretences.

                After a reprimand from the Chairman, he was sentenced to undergo six strokes from Inspector Rogers with the birch rod.


Shrewsbury Chronicle - 6th March 1903


Ernest Gentle, Mill Green, who gave his age as 13 years, pleaded guilty to stealing from the shop of Josiah Beaumont, hairdresser and tobacconist, Church-street, 2s. 8 ½d. in money, and also some cigarettes, a pipe, and tobacco, of the value of 2s. 5 ½d.,  on the 9th of February. Ernest Beaumont. Norton street, aged 12 years, and John Edmunds, of Church lane, who said he would be 13 in April, pleaded guilty to receiving a portion of the articles, knowing them to have been stolen.

                The parents of Gentle and Edmunds expressed a wish for the case to be dealt with summarily.

                Prosecutor said he closed his shop about nine o'clock on the night in question, and at 9-15 left it for a quarter of an hour. When he returned he found three doors open, two ounces of tobacco and two pipes being on the floor. The defendant Gentle was in his employ at the time. and he left the premises about 8.30 or 8.45 that evening.

                An unfortunate part of the business was that one of the defendants. who was his little nephew, would not have been there at all only for his coming down to sleep with witness.  Otherwise he would have been in bed by eight o'clock, and it therefore seemed as though he had been drawn into it. He identified the pipe and box of cigarettes  produced as his property, but could not identify the tobacco. He could not say how much money was taken, as he did not count it that night before leaving. It might have been 5s. and it might have been 7s. or 8s. He assumed that a handful had been taken out.

                Inspector Jones Said he interviewed Ernest Beaumont. one of the accused, and asked him what he knew about Mr. Beaumont's house being found open. He admitted that he was on the road, and saw Gentle get over the door leading off the street and into the yard, and that he afterwards received from Gentle one pipe and sixpence. Witness also saw Edmunds, and got from him 2s. 8½d., which he said he had received front Gentle. This lad accompanied witness to the house where Gentle resided with his father, and on the way down he pointed to a place by the Cemetery where Gentle had hidden certain articles. On the Cemetery wall,  underneath the holly, witness found tobacco and pipe and cigarettes produced.  In the presence of his father. Witness charged Gentle with entering Mr. Beaumont's house and stealing money, tobacco,  cigarettes, and a Pipe. The boy commenced crying and his father cautioned him to tell the truth, and Gentle then admitted taking the articles.

                Their Worships retired, and after a consultation with the parents. the defendants were ordered to be birched;  Gentle to receive 12 strokes,  and the other two lads six strokes, each.


Ludlow Advertiser - 20th June 1903


Arthur Prosser (10) and Walter Jones (9), Knighton, schoolboys, were charged with entering the dwelling house of Arthur Reginald Francis, wheelwright. Skyborry Green. Llanvairwaterdine. on June 11, and stealing therefrom £8 his property.

                Complainant's father deposed that he left the house fastened up, except the back door, whilst working in the shop adjoining. On his return. he discovered the house had been entered, and on going upstairs he noticed his son's box had been tampered with.

                Arthur Reginald Francis, the complainant, stated that the following day he received information from the police respecting the entry. On examining his box he missed £8 in gold. viz.. six sovereigns and four half sovereigns

Pryce Price. cycle dealer. Knighton, deposed that Jones entered his shop on June,  11, at 3.30 p.m., and tendered £6 10s. for a bicycle, stating he required the machine for Prosser who was outside the shop. Witness took the money, but declined to part with the machine until he had seen the mother and uncle of Prosser, who alleged his uncle had made him a gift of the money.

             Police Inspector Jones, Knighton, subsequently interviewed witness, and questioned the lads in his (witness's) presence. They eventually between them refunded 10s. 11d. In a warehouse behind the shop a shilling, packet of cigarettes, and a box of vestas were found.

                 William Lowe, fruiterer, Lewis Copp, grocer's manager. Ethel Green, chemist's cashier all of Knighton, gave evidence respecting visits to their respective shops made by Jones, who in each case tendered half a sovereign for articles, whilst Prosser waited outside.

                   Prosser persisted in declaring his uncle had given him the money.

                P.C. Wright who arrested the boys, stated Jones told him Prosser had taken him to Francis's house, and stolen the money, £8, giving Jones twelve shillings of it.  Prosser admitted the theft.

                The lads pleaded guilty, and elected, to be dealt with summarily.

                Jones, on account of his age, and being influenced by Prosser, was discharged, and Prosser directed to receive four strokes with the birch rod.


Arthur Prosser didn't learn by his mistake as can be seen in the following article.


Hereford Journal - 6th May 1905




At Knighton, on Friday, two boys—Henry Francis and Arthur Prosser, of Knighton, were charged with breaking and entering the dwelling house of the late Mr. West, in Presteign Road, on the previous Monday, and stealing articles of small value. The house had been locked up by the servant, who left at noon, and in the afternoon the boys effected an entrance by smashing the cellar window.

              Inside they discovered wine and other intoxicants, which they freely sampled. Eventually they got drunk. After this they smashed bottle after bottle until, according to Police-Inspector Jones, the floor of almost every room on the ground level was literally strewn with broken glass and one or more of the floors running with wine. They also did considerable other damage by breaking open drawers. and, in fact, ransacked the place.

            Upstairs, the same work of plunder had been going on; wardrobes were stripped, and the stairs and bedroom floors strewn with linen and wearing apparel.

            Prosser was arrested at his own home, and Francis on the highway just outside the town.

            Both boys were drunk, and each accused the other of doing the damage.

           Prosser, who is between thirteen and fourteen years of age, having been previously convicted of a similar case of theft, was ordered to be kept at a reformatory until he is seventeen. and Francis. whose age is about fourteen and a-half, and who bad previously a clean record, was ordered to be detained at an industrial school until he was sixteen.


In the United Kingdom, birching as a judicial penalty, in both its juvenile and adult versions, was abolished in 1948. The Isle of Man still practised birching until it was formally repealed. This was in 1993, 17 years after the last birching, in January 1976


A case of birching took place on three Scottish lads on the Isle of Man in 1965, here is an extract on what they thought of the punishment:-


"I was bent face downwards over the back of a chair. I cried with fear. My trousers were pulled down and my shirt pulled up. Two policemen held my arms and a third held my head down. A fourth, a sergeant, used the birchThe pain was terrible. I kept screaming for my parents. I was in pain for hours."


Another said  "I thought they were hitting me with red-hot wire. I just shouted until they had finished."


A third said  "It was over quickly. But I'll never do anything that could get me the birch again."

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