Whipped in the stocks

I want to go to Denmark.

Actually, strike that – I don’t.   I’ve travelled to far too many countries as it so far in 2010 – 15 at the last count – to want to head anywhere I don’t have to. But nonetheless, the Danish tourist board does make the place sound rather interesting:

As late as in the 19th century the whipping post was of great importance in the urban life of many towns in Northern Europe. The post was placed on a brick-built rise, and chained to it the offenders were whipped by the executioner. Simultaneously the victim lost his civil rights and had to leave the municipality.

Minor violations of the law often led to public whippings. In 1813 a shoemaker’s apprentice was caught in stealing apples. He was sentenced to public whipping and to be put in stocks. But on thisoccasion justice was tempered with mercy. The judgment was reversed. The apprentice was sentenced to three days’ imprisonment and put on bread and water. So he was allowed to serve his apprenticeship.

It turned out differently for a young girl who in 1865 had committed a minor theft. She was whipped and put in stocks and was expelled from the municipality.

As a reminder to observe the law a statue carved out of wood was often placed on the top of the whipping post, a so called ‘whipping post-man’. Toender got its last ‘whipping post-man’ in 1699. 8 men and 6 horses dragged a log of oak up to town, and the wood-carver carved a soldier-like figure.

It is unknown how many years the figure was placed in the market place. Today the original figure – the only remaining whipping post figure in Denmark – is exhibited at Toender museum – a valuable souvenir of the legal system in the past.

I’m picturing the display now – the ancient figure (known locally as the Kagmanden) presumably overlooking a mock-up of the village square, complete with reproduction whipping post and hourly re-enactments of the fate of the poor thieving girl. And as for what they must sell in the museum’s souvenir shop… Any Danish readers (we must surely have some?!) are kindly requested to investigate and report back!

7 thoughts on “Whipped in the stocks

  • 19 October, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I’m a faithful reader of your blog from Denmark, but since I live in Copenhagen about 300 km from Tønder, I’m afraid I have no clue what the merchandise in the Tønder Museum shop is like…
    However, here in Copenhagen, a plaque still marks the spot where the old whipping post was situated (right outside the court building which still houses the Copenhagen City Court).

    A couple of photos can be found here:

  • 19 October, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I’m another faithful Danish reader…..I, too, live too far from Tønder to go investigate…but…

    There’s a picture of kagmanden here:

    It says that he meets visitors at the museum gate.

    Every Danish city used to have one of these almost life size figures on the top of the city “kag” = whipping post.
    This one os particularly fearsome, as he is dressed in the Swedish uniform of the times. At that time in history the reaction to that uniform would be somewhat similar to today’s reaction to the Nazi SS uniform.

    Here is a close up: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/2915558

  • 20 October, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I’ve been spending the day psychoanalysing people’s unconscious use of language, and happened to note that your second sentence contained the phrase “strike that”. Now, ‘normal’ people may use the phrase “forget that”, “ignore that” or even “scrub that”, yet you, dear, typed “strike”.

    Clear case for a perverted subconscious, yes?


  • 21 October, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Hands up who thinks our Danish readers should be made to re-enact their national traditions?

    @Toby – and you think it’s *sub*conscious?!

  • 21 October, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I was illustrating that *even* your unconscious mind is corrupt, dear. You know, that supposed place of pure thought that lies uninfluenced by experience?

    (Can you tell that anthropologists hate Freud?)

  • 22 October, 2010 at 7:46 am

    @Toby – a “place of pure thought”? Sorry, don’t recognise that concept…

  • 22 October, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I wonder whether you recognise the concept of self-imposed deadlines?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *