branks (n.)

"scolding-bridle," an iron-frame headpiece with a flat iron piece to be inserted in the mouth to still the tongue, formerly used in Scotland and later in parts of England "for correcting scolding women" [Century Dictionary], 1590s, of unknown origin. Perhaps from a North Sea Germanic language. Earlier as a verb, "to bridle, restrain" (1570s).

Paide for caring a woman throughe the towne for skoulding, with branks, 4d. ["Municipal Accounts of Newcastle," 1595]

Ungallant, and unmercifully severe, as this species of torture seems to be, Dr. Plot, in his History of Staffordshire, much prefers it to the cucking stool, which, he says, "not only endangers the health of the party, but also gives the tongue liberty 'twixt every dip." [John Trotter Brockett, "A Glossary of North Country Words," 1829]

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