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The Branks, or Scold's Bridle, is a sort of metal gag, which was principally used on scolding housewives. It was typically fashioned as a cage that locked onto the head, aided by a metal protrusion that fit into the mouth. This tongue-piece was often enhanced with spikes or a rowel (small spiked wheel) to discourage attempts to speak. They appear to have originated in Scotland in the 16th century and passed from there to England and thence to the Americas, although there is some evidence that a type of branks may have been used even earlier
Some were also fitted with a chain to permit securing the wearer in a public place. Ancient houses in Congleton, Cheshire had a hook fixed beside the fireplace to which the town gaoler could fix the community bridle if the wife nagged too much.
Occasionally a bell on a spring was added to herald the approach of the wearer. An example of this type is on display in the Torture Chamber of the Tower of London.
Branks were also used to silence witches to prevent them from chanting or reciting their magic spells.
In the Americas, the brankswere a type of humiliation punishment, while in medieval Europe, they were used more as a torture device.