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Witchcraft is a bit of a grey area where the law is concerned, so many of the tests devised to tell if someone was a witch would involve tying up innocent people and throwing them in rivers to see if they could float.

In 1731, Hull was allowed to install a ducking, or cucking stool, at South End. This contraption stood off Humber Street, roughly where the old dry dock. Every town had its own ducking-stool (also known as a cuck or cucking-stool). It was an instrument of punishment meted out by the town court for the offense of scolding or back biting – – normally women were the accused, but not always.

Its purpose, in a time of widespread misogyny, was primarily to punish “unquiet” women, but the contraption was also used for anyone suspected of being involved in the practice of witchcraft. As late as October 1853, it was argued that some cases involving arguing should be dealt with using the ducking stool. When Ann Gibson, of Wilson’s Entry, was accused of assaulting Mary Ann Gray, it was suggested that both should face the stool, but fortunately, more sober minds prevailed.

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