Where corruption is concerned, Ireland has a poor record. Year in year out, there’s a new story about a politician on the take but rarely is anyone punished. Our medieval ancestors had a very different attitude; they were far more proactive if brutal when it came to punishing corruption in Dublin. In 1310 the city’s bakers painfully discovered how medieval Dubliners dealt with corruption.
In medieval Ireland, bread was one the main source of sustenance for the majority of the population. A shortage in bread or high prices in grain which translated into high bread prices could result in riots. In Dublin the city authorities carefully controlled and monitored the production of the city’s bread. This was done through testing or assaying the flour content in the bread as corrupt bakers were tempted to dilute the amount of floor in their bread. This saw the city officials introduce a system of accountability where each baker had to stamp their bread and were fined what was a hefty sum of six shillings and eight pence if they failed to do so.
In 1310 when the bakers of Dublin were found to be cheating the populace due to “their false weight of bread” there was outrage.
In a city where such an incident could produce major upheaval and there was no delay in doling out punishment. The annalist of St Mary’s Abbey recalled that the bakers of Dublin
“suffered a new kind of torment which was never seen there before, for that on St Sampson of the Bishops day they were drawn upon the hurdles through the streets of the city at horse tails.”
The hurdles were lats of wood placed on the muddy medieval streets. This painful punishment and humiliation of being drawn through the streets no doubt ensured Dubliners enjoyed tasty bread the following day. Read more about corruption in medieval Dublin here
Source – The Chartularies of St Mary’s Abbey