Broad Street Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

The village "lock-up", 1825
Pages 75 - 78

Sources: Specification and contract for building a lock-up, 1825; Xerox copy of original MS. (Somerset Records Office, Ref: D/P/Wri).
Vestry Minutes (Wrington Parish Records)

On the 3rd December 1824 The Revd. Mr Leeves proposed to the Vestry that a watch House be erected on the ground where Richard Challenger's stable had stood. The Vestry approved the measure and directed that a Public Meeting be called forthwith.
On 10th December it was resolved, presumably at the Public Meeting, "that a watch (this word being crossed out) Prison House be erected by the side of Mr Durham's house, Mr, Knowles to furnish an estimate and plan to the next Vestry Meeting". On Christmas Eve Mr. Knowles submitted his plan and specification of the "intended Prison about to be erected by Mr. Durham's house" ; the meeting approved this, except for moving the fireplace, and flooring with stone instead of boards, and concluded that
"The said house shall be forthwith erected with all possible despatch and the expense to be defrayed by and from the Poors rate".

On 7th January the following year the above decision to build was ratified by the General Vestry Meeting. Nothing further seems to appear about its completion or first use, either in the Vestry minutes or the Churchwardens accounts. We know, however, that on the 2nd February an agreement was reached - "between the churchwardens and overseers of the Poor and others of the Parish of Wrington on the one part and James Cook of the same parish Carpenter of the other part".

James Cook agrees with the Churchwardens and Overseers "to erect a prison house adjoining Mr. Durham's house at Wrington of the Dimensions and according to the plan this Day produced by him, and signed by the said James Cook and the said Churchwardens and overseers and others with only this alteration that the Wall next to the Penns stable to be twenty inches thick and built quite independent of the said Stable wall, at the price or sum of Thirty six pounds, and also to erect an Iron railing in the front, fixed into pennant Stone, the railing to be three feet and half high, the standing bars to be one inch square, and the others three quarters. The two inside Cells to be pitched with pennant Stone, in lieu of the said James Cook's paving, the front outside with Nailsea stone of a proper thickness, and the aperture against the penns stable to be supplied with iron railing - the said railing, and plinth to be erected at the sum of five pounds. And the said Churchwardens and Overseers agree to pay the said sums of money to the said James Cook immediately on the Completion of this Contract. The whole to be under the superintendence of Messrs. Thomas Cox, John Councell and Charles Knowles.


James Cook, John Counce11, Charles Knowles, Tho. 0. Cox, Wm. Councell, John Bennett, Charles Thatcher".

This little building still stands in the High Street, adjoining the premises of Mr. P. F. Bennett: which in 1824 formed "Mr. Durham's house" already mentioned. Unfortunately the original plan referred to does not survive; but the specification does, which is as follows :

"1825. January 7th.

Specification and Contract for Building a lock up house at Wrington joining to Mr. Jos. Durhams. A Double inch Oak Door with large head nails, Oak Frame to ditto 4 X 4, two inch Oak doors for the cells. Ditto to be hung with pivotts, Lock, Bolts and hinges of good materials and Quality. 1½ in. seats with boxes to ditto for the outside room and seats in the cells, the ceiling joice 4½ X 2 the rafters 3½ X 2¼, the purloins ditto 5½ X 4¼, the whole to be of Red Deal and covered with Queen slate and freestone carcase, with 2½ rabetted Battens and Copper Nails, a freestone Chimney piece and freestone chimney head, the wall in front to be faced with Nailsea Pennant and plinth course under. The wall to be of common stone as the plan directs, the 2 inside cells to be brick arched and plaistered 1 coat, the outside room to be plaistered 2 coats, and ceiled. -A Nailsea step in front, and a good Banwell or Nailsea stone floor, with 2 grates in the cells for sink. 1 stove grate. The whole to be done according to the Plan and in a good substantial and workmanlike manner, to the satisfaction of the Vestry by me

James Cook, for the sum of £36".

We have, however, been able to produce a plan from the existing building, which was purchased by a local grocer in 1952 and is now used as a store room. The building is in its original condition except that the wall dividing the cells has been removed, and the roof is now tiled. The present owner tells us that when he took over the building, the original wooden beds were in the cells and the Constables' desk was in the outer room. These were, however, removed by the vendor.

It would appear that the inmates must have spent a very miserable time in their cells. There was no ventilation except for about 5 small holes in each door , the size of a five shilling piece, and as there were no windows it must have been pitch black - and of course unheated. Sanitary arrangements consisted of a stone sink at ground level in the corner of each cell.

The Constable had, however, the benefit of a fire in the outer office, and an old account book of the Golden Lion Inn records that meals were, occasionally, taken up to the lock-up, although whether for Constable or prisoner is not altogether clear.

There is no surviving record of how many people were committed to the cells, but considering the speed with which the building was planned and erected there appears to have been an urgent need for it.