Beheading machine (detail), known as The Maiden

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from Edinburgh

Postcard of Beheading machine (detail), known as The Maiden.
© National Museums Scotland

Beheading machine (detail), known as The Maiden

This is a detail of a beheading machine called 'The Maiden', the only one of its kind in Scotland. The detail shows the lever at the back of the machine. This lever held a rope which was attached to the blade via a pulley at the top. When the lever was pressed, the rope was released and the blade fell.

Instrument used for beheading criminals in Edinburgh, called the Maiden, 1564 -1710

'The Maiden' was used to carry out around one hundred public executions in Edinburgh between 1564 and 1710. Executions took place in open spaces. A popular place in Edinburgh was by the Mercat Cross. It was close to the old Tolbooth, where the criminal was imprisoned before his or her death. Other popular places in Edinburgh were the Grassmarket and Castle Hill, where large crowds could gather. A platform was built for each execution so that people could see the Maiden more easily.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-107-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  H.MR 1
Date: 1564 - 1710
Made in 1564; used until 1710
Material: Wood and metal
Dimensions: 4000 mm H x 3000 mm x 3000 mm
What: Guillotine / maiden
Subject: Instruments, of torture (NMAS Classification)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
  • Calder, J. (ed). The Wealth of a Nation. Edinburgh & Glasgow: NMS & Drew, 1989 
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