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image M1184

A head frame used to prevent an enslaved person from eating


Museum number: M1184

Curatorial note

This object was variously described in historic inventories of Soane's collection as 'An Iron Instrument of Torture or Imprisonment' or 'a scold's mask' or 'scold's bridle'. In fact, it is probably a head frame, a hideous and fearful device enslaved people were forced to wear when working in the fields to stop them eating - a pierced metal grille covers the lower part of the face.

It is possible that this item was acquired with the group of slave shackles (M1185, M1194, M1195 and M1196) in Soane's collection. Their provenance is unknown but they must have been in the Museum by c.1834-35 because they are described in Soane's Description published in 1835 as 'implements of iron, to the honour of humanity no longer in use'. Soane certainly knew what they were because the early inventories drafted before his death describe one as 'An Iron Negro shackel' [sic].

John Soane supported the emancipation of slaves - his Library contains pro-Emancipation pamphlets and his reference to the shackles in his guidebook makes it clear that he disapproved of slavery. The Thornton family, for whom he worked at Moggerhanger and other houses, were cousins of William Wilberforce, a leader of the campaign for the abolition of the slave trade.

Associated objects

M1196, another similar
M1195, another similar
M1194, another similar
M1185, another similar

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk