CHRIS ORTON gets in touch to pillory us over a picture in Memories 515 of the Teesdale village of Romaldkirk.

“Your caption states that the Kirk Inn had some “ancient stocks” in front of it,” he says. “Other pedants will have probably told you by now that what is pictured is a pillory. Stocks are the torture device through which the victim puts legs.”

The Northern Echo: Romaldkirk archive

We are not entirely convinced by this piece of pedantry.

In the stocks, a miscreant would sit with his legs outstretched before him. His legs would be pinned so he couldn’t move and his punishment would be that things like rotten fruit could be thrown at him – the worst punishment, apparently, came from boys who would whip off the offender’s shoes and socks and tickle the soles of his feet.

A stocks, therefore, usually has two holes in it, whereas Romaldkirk’s has four.

A pillory was a more severe form of punishment and required the miscreant to stand so that his head and arms were placed through the holes. He would then have unpleasantness hurled at him, and his backside was also available for beating.

Pillories, therefore, usually had three holes in them – but Romaldkirk’s has four.

There are examples of double stocks with four holes in them so that two people could sit side by side for their punishment but, due to the shape of humans, these are usually two sets of two holes. Romaldkirk’s has four in a row – it is difficult to see how two people could be locked in if these are stocks.

So, please, if you can tell us what form of punishment is being carried out in Romaldkirk, let us know – we’d hate to be left looking like a laughing stock.

And do any other towns or villages have stocks, pillories or indeed whipping posts still on display?

FIONA RICHMOND, "Britain's premier sex queen" of the 1970s, first cropped up in our article on the 50th anniversary of decimalisation, which posed one of life’s big questions: why was a sixpence known as a tanner?

Pete Winstanley in Durham draws out attention to some Royal Mint information that explains that it comes from a Romany Gypsy word “tawno”, meaning “small one”.

The Royal Mint goes on to say: “ A sixpence was known as a “bender” because due to its silver content it could be bent in the hands. This was commonly done to create ‘love tokens’, many of which survive in collections to this day.

“The value of a sixpence was also enough to get thoroughly inebriated as taverns would often allow you to drink all day for tuppence. This gave rise to the expression “Going on a bender”.”

What a fabulous piece of useless information!