Friday, April 8, 2016

Anstey, Hertfordshire


I really enjoyed my visit to the church at Anstey, which took place as the ringers were at work before a wedding, making it memorable sonically as well as visually and historically. But even before I got inside and started to look at the wonderful font, medieval graffiti, and other delights, the interest had started – right at the entrance to the churchyard.

This lychgate, said to be 15th-century or even older in its original form, is a timber-framed structure with a beautiful red-tiled gabletted roof, set on a gently rising footpath and framed by banks of grass dotted with primroses. So far, so marvellous. But what’s the bit walled in with flint and brickwork on the right-hand side? Once you’re through the gate, things become clear – it’s the village lock-up! It’s rather utilitarian from the other side, but no doubt served its purpose. The lock-up or “cage” was added to the lychgate in 1831 and kept drunks and other minor malefactors off the streets until, apparently, the beginning of the 20th century.
I’ve not come across a lock-up combined with a lychgate before. No doubt my readers will supply me with other examples, if any exist. For such are the pleasures of blogging: sharing your enthusiasms and learning about one’s readers’ enthusiasms too.


Jenny Woolf said...

Lychgate lockup! wow. I wonder if anyone incarcerated in there was spooked by the bodies passing through. (Hanged for stealing a lamb, etc.etc.) You do find some fascinating places.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jenny: Mostly people were put in these lock-ups for a short while – overnight, while they sobered up, that sort of thing. So I don't suppose that many of them 'coincided' with a funeral procession. If so, it must have been a bit odd for the mourners too, especially if it was a noisy prisoner.