One of the most bizarre pieces of Victoriana appeared at the Antiques Roadshow in Bradford during filming recently. The very un-pc ‘wife tamer’ promoted along its side as a cure for cross wives, looked rather like an adult cradle. The cross wife would duly be ‘imprisoned’ within this contrivance if her husband felt that he was being unreasonably henpecked. How long she was supposed to stay in this thing wasn’t clear, presumably until the husband decided to let her out.
It was Fiona Bruce who decided to ‘model’ this contraption for the cameras. Although a self-confessed feminist and Greenham Common activist, she said:
“Even though it goes against every principle in my body, I couldn’t resist getting in and having a little go and actually it’s quite comfy.”
However, its coffin shape would have most women feeling extremely nervous rather than comfortable with the possibility of being incarcerated in this thing on a whim if husbands felt they were not performing their wifely duties as they should.
The Victorian era was one of extremes and often the taste for the bizarre produced many pieces of weird and wonderful antique furniture that were essentially pastiches from any time in history or any country of the world. The ‘wife tamer’ looked rather like a form of torture from the Spanish Inquisition. Hardly surprising that it was so hilariously funny at the time of its construction by a pub landlord in 1862, yet surely very unpopular now in these more enlightened times, although Fiona Bruce seemed to be enjoying her time in it.
Much Victorian antique furniture survives today and remains popular. When looking for something essentially different in a cabinet or antique chest, Lancashire antique dealers will be able to help.
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