Distender, England, 1700-1800

1700-1800 in England

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Distender, possibly originally for surgical use, reputedly from the Tower of London, by Gill, English, 1700-1850

This standard surgical instrument is reputedly from the Tower of London. It appears to have been used as a torture implement. The jaws of the distender separate when the thumbscrew is turned and can forcibly open a mouth. The distender is embossed with the maker’s name, ‘Gill’. It was supposedly found at the Tower after a fire in 1841. Torture was used in the Tower to extract information from prisoners. However, contrary to popular belief only a small proportion of prisoners were tortured.


Wellcome (general)
Object Number:
body, iron, jaws, ivory

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