Object of the month
The birch is a switch made of thin branches from the Birch tree. A 30” birch was used on offenders up to 10 years of age, and a 44” birch used for older offenders; girls were never birched. The last birching in Kent took place in Maidstone in 1946. Before use the birch was soaked in water for 24 hours to make it supple so it would not break the offender's skin. It was used as a punishment by courts in the Victorian era.
The Victorian legislation on birching stated:
“…and when the child is a male the court may, either in addition or instead of any other punishment, adjurdge the child to be, as soon as practicable, privately whipped with not more than 6 strokes of a birch rod by a Constable, in the presence of an Inspector or other officer of police of higher rank than a Constable, and also in the presence, if he desires to be present, of the parent or guardian of the child.”
The method used for flogging was in a ‘figure of eight’ movement so that only the strength of the man’s outstretched arm was brought to bear on the offender, not his upper body strength.