I’d like to relay some smacking memories from my own childhood – for the sake of anonymity, I’ll refer to myself as ‘Bobby’ if you don’t mind. Although a girl, this was my childhood nickname, so it does at least have some authenticity about it while protecting my privacy.
I was born in 1955 in Staffordshire. My mother and father were well off and had a range of staff caring for their home and children until such an age that the latter at least could be sent to boarding school. My brothers were sent away at the age of seven; my sister and I at the tender age of five. This was in the era of booming boarding schools, when 10% of Britain’s children attended them.
Before that, though – when we were very small – we had a governess who taught us to read and write and the basics of several subjects, including French and Latin. From the age of two onwards, we were expected to sit still and listen for seven hours a day. In fact, we girls were considered very lucky to be taught alongside the boys, as it meant we got access to the ‘harder’ academic subjects like Latin, alongside the basics and ‘soft’ subjects.
In all this, our governess Miss Middleton ruled with an iron fist. When we were very small, she would slap our legs, but once we were four or so, she applied a wooden ruler to the palms of our little hands. Of course, two-year-olds shouldn’t really be in the classroom, so we got lots of smacks.
When not learning, we were primarily cared for by a nanny. We had several nannies over the years, but referred to all of them as simply ‘Nanny’.
Each had different disciplinary techniques. The first nanny I remember gave traditional bare-bottomed spankings, leaving our buttocks red and our throats raw from crying. The next one applied the hairbrush with much vigour, mostly to the boys’ bare bottoms. Looking back, I suspect she was somewhat of a fetishist. Her successor favoured the slipper: she would draw us to her lap, push us over one knee, bare the appropriate part of the anatomy and smack it hard and fast.
Between the ages of five and 18, I attended a total of three boarding schools, and although the last didn’t have corporal punishment, the other two most certainly did.
The first, which I went to until I was nine, attempted to create a ‘family’ environment. Instead of dormitories, we lived in ‘houses’, each containing around five pupils alongside one or two staff members. My house was Babbitt, run by an English mistress named Miss Gibson and a homecraft mistress named Miss Barton.
Miss Gibson was sweet and Miss Barton was sour, and I can still hear Miss Barton’s voice screeching, “Bobby Bailey, get here right this moment!” She had a small, slim leather strap that she applied to bare bottoms and thighs. It stung terribly and left a very red bottom, but caused no long-term damage.
Miss Gibson only smacked me once. This was an over-the-knee spanking on my knickers at bedtime for playing in the coalshed and getting muck all over the house. I was nine by then, but still cried my eyes out.
Most of the mistresses at the school applied the ruler to the palm, or slapped legs – though a few favoured the slipper and the headmistress could use the cane if she felt necessary. She was a rather distant figure, though, and I never knew of any girl actually getting the cane.
I attended my second school until I was 15, and I only left due to its closure. It was far more formal and less homely than my first school, and I felt dreadfully homesick during my first year or two. Mistresses would slap our faces, and the headmistress caned palms fairly frequently. Thighs were also caned when serious misconduct occurred, and that was excruciatingly painful, as you might imagine.
As for my own parents, they were quite distant. Both gave me several sore bottoms, and one of my brothers received quite a few thrashings from Mother and Father. They primarily acted as the ‘ultimate deterrent’ – when Nanny referred us to our parents, or a school sent a letter home to complain about us, you could be sure you were in for a serious punishment.
Mother had an ornate silver-patterned hairbrush, and applied it with great gusto to our bottoms, while Father kept a cane for naughty children. My last beating was at the age of 17, when Mother put me over her ottoman, bared my backside and smacked me with her hairbrush until I was crying wildly.
As for my own children, they also attended private schools, though on a non-boarding basis, and only one of them ever received any corporal punishment at school.
The picture at home was somewhat different. My husband and I had no qualms about thrashing our children’s backsides when they deserved it. I opted for bare bottomed over-the-knee hand smackings, while my husband applied the belt.
Our children grew up into bright and beautiful adults who rarely smacked their own offspring, and I have no doubt that my first great-grandchild (born early in 2021, a product of the pandemic) will never be smacked at all.
The world I grew up in no longer exists – schools have no beatings, parents rarely smack and certainly don’t thrash their children, and there are few governesses and nannies any more. And so most childish bottoms, thighs and palms stay pain-free.