The Drunkard's Cloak: A Forgotten 16th-Century Punishment For Partying Too Hard

By Sarah Norman | February 8, 2024

The Drunkard's Cloak

In the modern era there's nothing quite as upsetting as being "cancelled," but that's nothing compared to the public shame that came with the Drunkard's Cloak. This unique form of punishment popped up in 16th-century England and while it's faded from memory it remains one of the most embarrassing punishments ever imagined. Join us as we explore the fascinating tale of this unique form of punishment, its connections to drinking culture, and its surprising effectiveness.

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Picture this: a person found guilty of multiple drunken offenses being forced to wear an empty beer barrel with holes for their head and arms. This makeshift "cloak" became the emblem of public shaming, paraded through town as a stark reminder of the consequences of excessive drinking. It makes sense that just seeing someone forced to wear a barrel would put you off the sauce for good. 

It All Begins In Newcastle

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Newcastle upon Tyne, nestled in northeast England, is often associated with the Drunkard's Cloak. Some historians believe it was here that this peculiar punishment first saw the light of day. Why Newcastle? The city had a reputation for its deep-seated drinking culture, and even in the 18th century, "Newcastle hospitality" meant treating someone to a night of heavy drinking.