Birching Table
West Highland Museum

Content warning. Some visitors may find this object upsetting.  

This birching table is from the old court house in Fort William where the birchings were carried out.   

It was last used in 1948, when a 15-year-old boy was birched for shoplifting. It is easy to forget in the present day how recently corporal punishment was thought fitting and useful both as a punishment and deterrent.  

Right up until the mid-twentieth century it was a commonly administered to the perpetrators of petty crimes. Birching involved having to lie face down on a table with arms tied together underneath, and legs held still by strong straps. A bundle of stripped rods of birch was then used to whip the recipient’s bare buttocks. Occasionally the back and shoulders were whipped. Type, number and weight of branches used (as well as the number of strokes) varied with the severity of the crime.   

It was legally required to have a doctor on hand when these punishments were being administered.  

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Date: 1900-1940
Materials : Wood
Size : 153cm x 118cm

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