Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Northleach, Gloucestershire

Blink and you’ll miss it

It’s easy to miss, this. Right in the centre of the small town of Northleach, in shady a corner of the Market Place in a spot shielded by other buildings, is a small brown door. The building to which is gives admittance has been propped up with an ungraceful pier of concrete blocks, so that the doorway is seriously obstructed – only about two-thirds of it is visible, and anyone of broader-than-average beam attempting to get in might have to try to enter sideways.

Tiny as this entrance is, what it is remains clear from the sign and the bars on the door. It’s the door to a town lock-up, which contains a cell about eight feet square. It’s not one of the classical free-standing lock-up structures with a stone roof that I’ve noticed before.* It’s a room adjoining the neighbouring building on the Market Place. It may be 17th or 18th century, but I could’t find out when it fell out of use. Northleach acquired a large prison, the House of Correction, just outside the town in 1789–91, but this small cell in the town centre might well have been retained after then to lock up drunks and rowdies overnight.

With its doorway partly obstructed, the cell can’t be usable for anything very much nowadays. But with its bars and its distinctive lintel, the curves of which seem to belie the utilitarian strength of the rest of the structure, it catches the eye. It would be good to think that the far-from-ideal propping could be replaced and that the building could find a use, but meanwhile one has to be grateful that a bit of history has survived.

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With thanks to Emma Bradford for pointing out this building to me.  

*Other lock-ups I’ve posted about include: Wheatley, Shrewton, Breedon on the Hill, and Bisley.


Billy Blue Eyes said...

I have heard of places with lockups but never seen one. Even our Village was reputed to have one once though no trace remains now.

John Hartley said...

Good to see Northleach lock-up - thank you. Deeping St James in South Lincolnshire has a dramatic one. Said (probably correctly) to have been fashioned from the base of the village cross, it stands about 50m from the church, complete with door with grill etc. Google search offers images: had street lamp on top at one time, according to one postcard!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thanks for these comments. I'll do a search on Deeping St James.