This portable instrument of torture was popular in England and Scotland during the 1500′s, but was seen as late as the nineteenth century. The scold’s bridle (also known as branks) was a cage that was locked around a woman’s head as punishment for nagging and gossiping too often. Attached to this iron muzzle was a curb-plate inserted into a woman’s mouth to, literally, subdue her treacherous tongue. Most of these metal curb-plates were spiked, averaging in length of about half an inch to an inch. The smaller spikes were a mild discomfort while the longer ones pierced the tongue and caused the victim to bleed continuously.
To make matters worse, some curb-plates had an additional round gag at the end which, when the device was worn, rested in the back of the mouth, irritating the throat. Some of these gags were shaped as animal heads to symbolically refer to her crime (e.g. donkey meant fool).
Wearing the scold’s bridle was far from a private affair. Women were taken through town, led by a leash, for people to see and know of her transgressions so that she may be ridiculed for them. If the verbal assaults weren’t enough, women were stoned and beaten by the townspeople.