A View from The Bridge
Our current view is the temporary footbridge, the signs and the repairs. Turning back 220 years we’d see a device that struck fear…the ducking-stool. There is a report in the 1863 Halifax Guardian of a hale old Elland lady who, when a girl, saw the stool used. It then stood on the north end of Elland Bridge, which only spanned the river because there was no canal at that time. The old lady said that she ran away when she saw the stool with its occupant immersed in the water. She feared that the culprit would be drowned before those who held the other end of the pole depressed it so to bring the stool out of the river. This event was dated to around 1790. William Brook, in his memoirs over 110 years ago, recalls a square ducking stone in the same area. Mr Brook recounts that he never saw the punishment in use but the Calder was crystal clear when he was a lad. Probably not much comfort for the poor wretch about to suffer a barbaric drenching.
Not to be outdone Stainland also had a ducking-stool. It stood at the top end of the village opposite Dob Royd. The pond continued to be known as the ducking-pond long after the stool disappeared. Eventually the pond was drained and a blacksmith’s shop built upon it.
This tale dates from 1864 and was probably the final use of the Stainland Stocks. John Briggs, alias ‘Lanky Jack’, sat in the stocks for six hours in lieu of paying 18s 6d for being drunk and disorderly. Briggs was fetched from his works at West Vale, and being put in before dinner, he never tasted of anything from his breakfast until going on seven o’clock. He endured his punishment very patiently, and even with bravado, so that upon being taken out he told the policeman he would sit another six hours if paid a shilling! A man sitting in the stocks was, by that time, quite an unusual sight so hundreds turned out to glimpse at Lanky Jack. Probably not the deterrent that the magistrates envisaged.
The Elland stocks are still on view – but not in use – at South House (the old Council Offices). Before their transfer in 1963 the stocks were located by the Pinfold (Town Rooms) at the top of Dewsbury Road. They were definitely in use during 1863 because David Halstead was condemned to sit in them for three hours in substation of a fine for Sunday gambling. The day is reported as being bitterly cold and that Halstead was certainly a cooler if not a wiser man.
If South House is to be sold the ancient stocks may have to be moved once again. There was some pressure in 1963 to return them to the churchyard (their original home) but the rector, wardens and council were not persuaded.
David J. Glanfield
Greater Elland Historical Society