Remains of a medieval whip uncovered at Rufford Abbey

Emily Gillott has mocked up a metal copy of what the medieval one (green, boxed) would have looked like as a full whip.

Emily Gillott has mocked up a metal copy of what the medieval one (green, boxed) would have looked like as a full whip.

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Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a medieval whip in the grounds of Rufford Abbey.

The pieces are believed to be a monastic copper scourge – and are one of only four in the country.

Scourges, or whips, were woven copper-alloy wires braided together and used by people in the middle ages to chastise themselves.

It is believed the Cistercian monks who lived at the abbey in the 1300s may have used the scourges to whip themselves in an attempt to keep the Black Death at bay.

Nottinghamshire County Council community archaeologists made the find underneath a meadow at the site.

It had a stain of green colouring the soil surrounding the copper metal, but recent tests have only just revealed its significance.

Similarities with the scourge on display at Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire led archaeologists Emily Gillott, and Lorraine Horsley to make the connection and they have now had confirmation of its significance. A third similar scourge had previously been found at Grovebury Priory, Bedfordshire, with the fourth found at Roche Abbey, South Yorkshire.

Glyn Coppack, a medieval specialist, said: “There must be a number of unidentified scourges from monastic excavations. However, apart from the one from Grovebury, I have not seen any others myself.

“I suspect they are very rare indeed. This is an exceptional find.”

Councillor John Knight, culture committee chairman, said: “Each archaeological dig at Rufford Abbey unearths something new about its remarkable history and this is another fascinating discovery which helps us to build a picture of what life could have been like for the monks living in the abbey during the dark days of the Black Death and its aftermath.”