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Crime and PunishmentHouses of correction and other punishments Return to the main page
What were the aims of punishments between 1450 and 1750? Task Glossary

The punishments meted out by the courts in this period changed only slightly from those used in earlier times (see Gallery Punishment before 1450). Physical punishments, such as whipping or branding, were still widely used and so was the fiercest punishment on the statute-book: hanging, drawing and quartering for treason. Shaming punishments, such as the stocks and the pillory, continued.
As part of the new laws to suppress vagrants (see Gallery
Crime 1450-1750), Houses of Correction were built in many areas in the late 16th century. These were often called "Bridewells" after the first one, at Bridewell, in London. These were like prisons in some ways, but the inmates had to work, usually spinning or weaving. Not only vagrants, but anyone the JPs thought was "idle", could be sent to a House of Correction for a while, to learn the virtues of hard work.
The late 17th and 18th centuries saw a decline in the "older" punishments in favour of fines, prison and, a new solution to the problem: transportation. From the Transportation Act of 1717 up to 1769, 36,000 convicts were sent to British colonies in America. 70% of offenders at the Old Bailey in London in this period were transported. (For documents and more material on Transportation, see Gallery
Crime 1750-1900).

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