Drunkard’s Cloak


A Drunkard’s cloak was a type of pillory used in various jurisdictions to punish miscreants. An early description of the drunkard’s cloak appears in Ralph Gardiner’s ‘England’s Grievance Discovered,’ first published in 1655. A John Willis claimed to have travelled to Newcastle and seen ‘men drove up and down the streets, with a great tub, or barrel, opened in the sides, with a hole in one end, to put through their heads, and to cover their shoulders and bodies, down to the small of their legs, and then close the same, called the new fashioned cloak, and so make them march to the view of all beholders; and this is their punishment for drunkards, or the like.’

Drunkenness was first made a civil offence in England by the Ale Houses Act 1551; the drunkard’s cloak became a common method of punishing recidivists, especially during the Commonwealth of England. From 1655 Oliver Cromwell suppressed many of England’s alehouses, particularly in Royalist areas, and the authorities made regular use of the cloak.

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