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 beheading machine, called 'The Maiden', was the only one of its kind in Scotland. It was used to carry out around one hundred public executions in Edinburgh between 1564 and 1710. The photograph shows the machine with the blade raised.

The machine was operated by a lever at the back. 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.

After use, the Maiden was taken apart and put into storage. The block, blade and rope were then removed from the machine. The wooden structure was then dismantled; it was in two parts so this could be done easily.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-110-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
Description: Instrument used for beheading criminals in Edinburgh, called the Maiden, 1564 -1710
  • Calder, J. (ed). The Wealth of a Nation. Edinburgh & Glasgow: NMS & Drew, 1989 
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