Pressing and Stoning

Man being pressed under what looks like jugs of water or shaped pieces of rocks.

A. Martyr buffeted, kicked, and pounded with the fists. B. Martyr being stoned./ C. Martyr whose face and jaws are bruised and broken with a stone./ D. Martyr crushed under a huge stone.


Pressing, also known as peine forte et dure, was both a death sentence and a means of drawing out confessions. Adopted as a judicial measure during the 14th century, pressing reached its peak during the reign of Henry IV. In Britain, pressing was not abolished until 1772.

Margaret the martyr was one unfortunate victim of pressing. She was a devout Catholic in a time when being a Catholic was as dangerous as being accused of being a witch.

On 25 March 1586 Margaret, wearing a flimsy gown, was taken to die at the Tollbooth, six yards outside the prison. She and the womenfolk accompanying her begged that she should die in the white gown she had bought into prison for the purpose. The request was turned down. She laid down on the ground, covered her face with a handkerchief, her privacy only protected by the gown laid across her. Both hands were tied to posts to make her body the shape of a cross. A stone the size of a fist was put under her back.

She once again refused to change her views and the first weight was laid on her. By nine o'clock that morning, about eight hundred-weight (0.4 tonnes) was in place. The stones crushed her ribs which pierced the skin. Within 15 minutes she was dead (Farrington 37-39). Giles Corey, an elderly farmer in Salem, Massachusetts, was also killed via pressing. His torment was the only recorded incident of pressing to death in the United States.

After eighty years in the settlement, most of them spend in hard work on his farm, he was still hale and healthy when the madness of 1692 started. He was subject to superstitions, as were most people in his day, and mentioned that he had observed his wife, his third, reading books. That was enough to bring her to the attention of the witch-hunters. His efforts to stop the insane persecution landed him in front of the judges. Giles was a crafty sort; he knew that his property might be confiscated by the state if he was condemned as a wizard. To avoid this and to ensure that his sons would inherit his land, he refused to plead. When asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, he stood mute. Under English law, he could be thrice asked to plead. After standing mute, he could not then be tried, but he could be, and was, subjected to the old punishment of peine forte et dure.... When the law was used against Giles Corey, he behaved with dignity. His last words were: "Put on more weight"

I want to give credit too who wrote this but I forgot the source, if anyone knows give me a ring.


A group event! When you were a child did you ever have the insatiable need to chuck things and small animals? Well try to imagine a person as chipmunk or squirrel and you'll understand. Or in some circumstances a squirrel in a large pit while rocks are being dropped on him.