Cheshire Lock-Up’s and Prisons
This Lock Up is situated on the old main road towards Chester, and is on the end of a barn, (Weldon House) opposite the Royal Oak Hotel. Described by British listed buildings as being mid to early 19th Century, rock faced buff sandstone, massive slabs forming the roof. !.6 metres in height, semi circular in plan. Possibly built on the site of an earlier pinfold. At the Quarter Sessions of 1842 it was criticised by Magistrates as being unfit for use further than to deatin a prisoner for an hour or two, and it was recommended that prisoners be taken to Tarpoley or Frodsham instead.
For a little while now I have been looking out for prisons, lock-up’s, Gaols, Bridewell’s etc in Cheshire, as part of research for http://www.prisonhistory.org. I have found it interesting in seeing how the places of temporary enforced confinement played a role in the development of society as we know it. Apart from the physical evidence, i.e. the places themselves, there is little remaining. I suppose this is mainly due to the transient nature of the occupants, possibly detained overnight until they had sobered up, or had been dealt with by the authorities.
Early lock-up’s seem to have been a requisite of places where a market was held, and took the place of stocks and pillories, which themselves were used to hold prisoners. Cheshire was unusual by having the centre of Justice in Chester, at the furthest point from most of the county. Therefore when we know that a felon was tried in Chester, they had to be transported a huge distance, in the days when roads were very basic, but there were few alternatives means of transport.
It is possible that lock-ups were built not only for the local criminals, but for the ‘passing trade’ of felons being taken for more serious crimes to be dealt with at Chester. There does seem to be a close association with inns – there are not many lock up’s that are not very close to a pub or Inn. Is it possible then that the prisoners were lodged in the lock up whilst the escorting officers spent the night resting at the Inn, before trudging onward the next day? Could the lock up be an additional source of income for the innkeeper?
There is a very good chance we will never know the stories, but with a little research, who knows what picture can be built up.
Lock – up’s , Stocks, and some prison’s in Cheshire
I haven’t had time to put any new entries in for a while, but I have been working on identifying places of confinement in Cheshire – more to follow soon.
Taylor was the under gaoler at Chester Castle. In September 1589, John Hocknall was sentenced to imprisonment for disemminating false prophecies – during his his imprisonment Taylor murdered him with a pitchfork, and was sentenced to death
On 1st February 1752 5 Irishmen, Richard Stanley, Edward Macinally, Morgan, Patrick Boyd, and one other went into the Farm called the Raike, at Eccleston, 2 miles from Chester, to rob Mr Porter, who was there with his family. They had previously been employed there as seasonal hay makers.
The robbers threatened the family with pistols and cutlasses, and tied up one of his daughters, but the other escaped , and went to fetch her elder brother who lived at Pulford, nearby. The brother and a friend immediately.
The villains threatened Mr Porter with being thrown on the fire, but just then his son and his colleague arrived, and in the ensuing fracas, one of the robbers was shot and killed by his fellow villain. Two of the robbers fled, but one was apprehended and tied up on the spot, and the remaining two were pursued, and caught on a bridge over the River Dee.
They were tried in March 1752, (along with a servant who had not helped his master, but was not prosecuted). Richard Stanley escaped from Chester Gaol the day before his sentence of Death was pronounced. McCannelly and Morgan were hanged on 25th May 1752
Source, The Gentlemans Magazine, 1752