Object of the Month December 2016

The Block, 1837 | Lithograph by H W Burgess (c. 1792–1844)

This print relates to Charterhouse School, the charitably-funded grammar school which flourished on this site between 1614 and 1872. The artist, Henry William Burgess, was the school’s drawing master in the 1830s and his still-life records the items used to instill discipline in the boys by means of corporal punishment.

The print shows the flogging block, the ‘swisher’ (flogging was known as ‘swishing’) and The Black Book where the names of misbehaving boys were recorded. A boy whose name was entered in the book 3 times in one week was swished, however trivial his offences.

In 1818 the School Master, Dr Russell tried to abolish flogging and substitute fines as a punishment. Surprisingly, the boys themselves protested: ‘we thought that flogging was very gentlemanly but fines ungentlemanly’, one wrote.

In 1872 Charterhouse School moved out of London to its present site at Godalming in Surrey. Following the move, the use of corporal punishment was scaled back. The practice was finally abolished in the 20th century.

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