Village lock-up

Village lock-up

Village lock-ups are historic buildings that were used for the temporary detention of people in rural parts of England and Wales.

They were often used for the confinement of drunks who were usually released the next day or to hold people being brought before the local magistrate.

A typical village lock-up is a small structure with a single door and a narrow slit window or opening. Most lock-ups feature a dome or spire shaped roof and are commonly built from brick, large stones or timber.

The village lock-up can either be round or polygonal in plan and minor variations in design, materials and appearance do occur although they were all built to perform the same function.

Village lock-ups have acquired a range of local nicknames that include blind-house, bone-house, bridewell, cage, jug, kitty, lobby, guard-house, round-house, tower and watch-house, to name but a few.

Rise of the village lock-up

The majority of surviving village lock-ups date from the 18th and 19th centuries when rural communities struggled to police thefts, burglaries, shootings, drunkenness, the obstruction of watchmen and the stealing of livestock.

During this period a number of lock-ups were built as a place of detention for local rogues and miscreants until they could be removed to a town.

Over time they became synonymous with drunkenness and many references to this coupling can be found in famous works of literature, including Barnaby Rudge (by Charles Dickens) and The Water Babies (by Charles Kingsley) which contains the following line:

'Put him in the round house till he gets sober.’ref|waterbabies

An 1830 description of a lock-up in Taunton describes:

'. . . a hole into which drunken and bleeding men were thrust and allowed to remain until the following day when the constable with his staff of office take the poor, crippled and dirty wretches before a magistrate, followed by half the boys and idle fellows of the town.’ref|pamphlet

Some lock-ups also had stocks, ducking stools, pillories, or pinfolds alongside them and the origins of the 18th century village lock-up evolved from much earlier examples of holding cells and devices.

The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, refers to a round-house as a place of detention for arrested persons and dates its first written usage to 1589.ref|oed

In 1281 a structure similar to a common village lock-up (the Tun) was erected in Cornhill, central London. It was a two-storey barrel shaped design and had a single cell on each floor.ref|tun

Decline and later uses

The village lock-up fell out of use when the County Police Act was introduced in 1839 and local police stations were built with their own holding facilities. The Act allowed Justices of the Peace to set up a paid police force in each county, and made it compulsory for that force to be provided with proper police stations and secure cells. The village lock-up became a redundant edifice as a result and only a small fraction have survived the intervening century and a half.

During World War II many lock-ups were used by the Home Guard as sentry posts or places for storing arms.

In recent years a number of village lock-ups have been lovingly restored, and graded as listed buildings. Some are regarded as local heritage attractions while others remain in a ruinous state or have been converted into private buildings.

There is no official register of these structures and their locations.

Notable village lock-ups

The crest of Everton Football Club features a round-house based on Prince Rupert's Tower which still stands on Everton Brow, Liverpool.

D. H. Lawrence and his German-born wife Frieda had to report to the lock-up in Wirksworth during the First World War when they lived at Middleton-by-Wirksworth.

The roof of Castle Cary lock-up is reputed to have inspired the design of the modern British police helmet.

Existing lock-up locations by county (incomplete)

Below is list of existing lock-ups in England and Wales. An asterisk is used to denote lock-ups that have been assimilated into other buildings such as a church or house.









*Eaton Socon




*Derwent Valley Mills*


*Bradwell on Sea
*Great Bardfield
*Steeple Bumpstead



Greater London



*Easton Ruinous condition








*Deeping St James




*Mansfield Woodhouse*




*Castle Cary
*Kingsbury Episcopi
*Monkton Combe








*Steeple Ashton


*North Stainley









# Kingsley, Charles. The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby.
# The Round House Worthington, Worthington Parish Council Pamphlet, produced by North West Leicestershire District Council.
# Oxford English Dictionary.
# [ 'Cornhill, Gracechurch Street, and Fenchurch Street', Old and New London: Volume 2 (1878), pp. 170-183.]

ee also

Bridewell Palace

External links

* [ Smisby Village Online Website]
* [ Bisley Village Online Website]
* [ Bagillt Heritage Society]

Further reading

*Juliet Shipman, "The Bisley Lock-up: A story of crime and punishment"
*Plumridge, Andrew "The National Directory of Village Lock-Ups, Stocks, Pillories, Gallows, Gibbets, Pounds and Pinfolds, and Other Pre-Police Force Punishment and Detention Devices"

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lock up — can refer to:* Lock up provision, a corporate finance term * Lock up period, a term concerning initial public offerings of stock * Lock Up (US band), an American rock band, featuring guitarist Tom Morello during his pre Rage Against the Machine… …   Wikipedia

  • Village — A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet, but smaller than a town or city [ [ r=67 village: Definition and Much More from ] ] . Though generally located in rural areas …   Wikipedia

  • Lock-ups — This article refers to the toy cars. For temporary gaols see Village lock ups Lock ups were toy cars made in the early eighties by Kidco. These cars had doors and a trunk that could be locked by using a key that comes with the car in a keyhole on …   Wikipedia

  • Lock Springs — Lock Springs, MO U.S. village in Missouri Population (2000): 69 Housing Units (2000): 31 Land area (2000): 0.122236 sq. miles (0.316591 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.122236 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Lock Springs, MO — U.S. village in Missouri Population (2000): 69 Housing Units (2000): 31 Land area (2000): 0.122236 sq. miles (0.316591 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.122236 sq. miles (0.316591 sq. km) FIPS… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • lock|ram — «LOK ruhm», noun. a linen fabric or cloth formerly made in England for garments and household use. ╂[< French locrenan < Locronan, a village in Brittany, where it was made] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lock Haven, Pennsylvania — Infobox Settlement official name = Lock Haven, Pennsylvania other name = native name = nickname = settlement type = motto = imagesize = image caption = Clinton County Courthouse in Lock Haven flag size = image seal size = image shield = shield… …   Wikipedia

  • Lock Springs, Missouri — Infobox Settlement official name = Lock Springs, Missouri settlement type = Village nickname = motto = imagesize = image caption = image imagesize = image caption = image mapsize = 250x200px map caption = Location of Lock Springs, Missouri… …   Wikipedia

  • Lock Haven Electric Railway — Tramway de Lock Haven Ancien réseau Tramway de Lock Haven Situation Lock Haven  Pennsylvanie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lock Haven Street Railway Co. — Tramway de Lock Haven Ancien réseau Tramway de Lock Haven Situation Lock Haven  Pennsylvanie …   Wikipédia en Français