Essentially, pinfolds, or pounds as they are also known, were built to hold errant livestock found wandering about towns and villages during market days, or when fairs were held. In the days before the enclosure of land, animals could, and often did do considerable damage to the crops of the folk of a settlement. The owners were required to pay a fine to recover their animals from the pinfold. There were also a series of fines for owners who attempted to ‘jail-break’ their animals without paying the fine, more serious sanction against those who assaulted the pinder - the person responsible for tending to the stray beasts (a title reflected in the surname).
The pinfold at Caerwys is a curious thing, since it dates to the last quarter of the 19th century, a time when these buildings were already largely obsolete, due to near two centuries of enclosure. This, of course, meant that it was less likely that stray livestock would damage fields, hedged and fenced as they had become. The pinfold in Caerwys probably reflects, instead, the importance of the town as a market, which was centred off nearby Holywell Road in Smithfield (previously known as Crown Field).
The location of the pinfold, close to the centre of town and the market, is no coincidence, but it also sits close to the Piccadilly Inn, which possibly dates to around 1622 - far older than the pinfold. One can imagine the clientele of the inn, perhaps a little worse for wear, finding their animals gone a-wandering, having to stagger round the corner of Drovers Lane to reclaim their stock, clumsily sorting through the change in their pockets to find the fee sufficient to regain the freedom of their beasts, newly bought or soon to be sold. We should also mention the tradition that the pinfold was also used to temporarily hold those visitors that had drunk rather too much in the inns of Caerwys.
The pinfold at Caerwys is a delight - an indication of the town’s importance. You don’t find many pinfolds these days - most having been pulled down as their need diminished, and the stone reused elsewhere. Others have been reutilised for other purposes, including as a rather wonderful surround for the war memorial in Caergwrle.