LONG before Trading Standards (officially the Chartered Trading Standards Institute) was set up, Worcester folk had their own way of dealing with dodgy Del Boys.

They were carted off down to the banks of the River Severn, secured in a ducking stool and dunked in the water. History has it that such an ordeal was reserved for potential witches and nagging women and that is undoubtedly true. But here in the Faithful City they didn’t stop there, extending the punishment to traders like brewers, butchers and bakers who had sold bad food and drink and these were mainly men.

Possibly an early, and much applauded, example of sexual equality. For a river ducking attracted considerable crowds in the days when no-one had to get home to watch Only Fools and Horses on the telly.

The event was treated almost like a ceremony, with the ducking stool - originally known as the cucking or cockold stool - paraded down Cooken Street from High Street to the slip on South Quay by the old Wherry Inn.

Both names don’t mean much now for the Wherry is long gone and Cooken Street is today’s Copenhagen Street, re-named after Nelson’s visit to Worcester in 1802.

Neither is the thoroughfare any longer much of a “street” in the accepted sense of the word, for few buildings line it.

But they did in the old days, because it was one of the main roads through Worcester’s St Andrew’s parish, among the city’s poorest areas with a network of dark alleyways, tenement slums and dockland deprivation, where the locals would find the ducking stool immense entertainment.

A dousing was never short of an audience and it would empty the Wherry Inn.

At the top of Copenhagen Street, on the corner with High Street, used to stand a well known landmark called the Earl’s Post and it was there the Royalists made their last stand in the 1651 Battle of Worcester.

The name suggests a boundary post and it may well have marked the limit of the city in Saxon times.

Unfortunately the post seems to have disappeared in the 17th century when a large house was built on the site.

Although Worcester’s ducking stool also disappeared long ago, a surviving example does exist not far from here.

It’s at Leominster Priory and after being hidden away for about a hundred years, was brought back into public view in 2004. A special service was even held to mark the occasion.

It is believe to be the only original left in England and according to records was fitted with wheels in 1566 to allow it to be moved around town.

The device has irons to restrain the occupant and a link that allows the chair to be suspended high in the air for the crowd to see the unfortunate’s disgrace. Wonder how much it costs to hire?