Village lock ups, also known as round houses, cages, watch houses, blind houses and clinks were temporary holding places for petty criminals. They were used in small communities before Police Stations with cells were commonplace.
These small and often quirky-shaped buildings were frequently used to house local drunks before they were taken and hauled up in front of the magistrate.
Our latest Curiosity of the Week features the lock ups that can be found in a collection of villages on the Leicestershire and Derbyshire border.
In Packington, Leicestershire, you will find a small red brick lock up nestled in a hedgerow at the side of the road. Built in an octagonal shape, it dates back to the eighteenth century when lock up usage was at a peak.
Breedon on the Hill‘s lock up is a small round building made from local stone. Its round structure and conical roof makes it look as though it should be inhabited by an elf. However, it doesn’t look particularly like somewhere you’d like to wake up with a hangover. It can be found, rather conveniently, opposite the Three Horseshoes. The Three Horseshoes has a farm shop and chocolate workshop so if you are thinking of visiting the lock ups you won’t go hungry.
Another lock up in the area can be found in Smisby, Derbyshire. This is another octagonal red brick building. It features a tiled spire and heavy door (to keep miscreants inside no doubt). Situated just around the corner from St James’ church, jutting out of a wall, this quaint lock up could easily be missed. Smisby had, at one time, three pubs serving the small community which could explain the need for the lock up!
There are other lock ups in the local area, in Ticknall and Worthington. The lock up in Ticknall is another octagonal example which dates from 1809. The minor criminals who found themselves spending the night here were fortunate enough to have a small fireplace.
The one which survives in Worthington is believed to be late eighteenth century and is a Grade II listed building and an Ancient Scheduled Monument. It has a brick spire and is only about 5 metres high. There is also a small slit window in this lock up which may have been put there later on, as many of these lock ups were used as guard posts during WWII.
All these villages and their lock ups can be found on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border and are easy to visit. The Go Leicestershire website has a trail that you can follow, so why not do a cycle tour of the villages and their round houses?
Lock ups can still be found in many villages across England and Wales. Curiosity of the Week will be bringing you more of these wonderful little buildings in the future. There are some great examples that can be found in the most unlikely places. So, if you see one of these little lock ups then send us a photo and we’ll post it up on the website.
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