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© Copyright ~ 2020

The House of Correction

Village lock-ups have acquired a variety of nicknames within their communities in the 300 years or so of their existence; names such as bone houses, bridewells, blind houses, round houses and so on are quite common. In light of these, the name of Hawarden’s impressive example seems somewhat formal and rather gothic -  The House of Correction. But then, the name as given is etched into the stone above the doorway.

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Village lock ups are largely a 18th and 19th century response to the difficulties villages faced in managing criminal behaviour within their communities. They were used to temporarily hold miscreants before their transportation to towns for trial, or before being hauled before a visiting magistrate. They have become synonymous with drunkenness, holding the previous evenings inebriants before being released in the morning, and there is plenty of 19th century literature that describes them as such.

 

'Not far from the churchyard wall stood the "Nook" or Lock-up. It was a place about twelve feet square, with only one iron-grated window. The floor and walls were damp and dirty; the floor had only a little straw to cover it, was infested with rats, and filthy in the extreme, and it seemed no one's duty to clean it [.] Into this hole drunken and bleeding men and women were thrust and allowed to remain there until the following day, when Batt, the Bumble of those days, would put on his three-cornered hat and long blue coat (both of which were trimmed with gold lace), take his staff of office, and march majestically to the 'Nook' to take the poor crippled and dirty wretch before a magistrate, followed by half the boys and idle fellows of the town.'

E.F. Goldsworthy, Recollections of Taunton by an old Tauntonian (Barnicott, 1883)

 

They are generally small free standing buildings, though some are often incorporated into walls or other buildings. In some cases they show considerable ostentation while maintaining a generic theme - some are quite beautiful, in fact. In the larger settlements they often formed part of a series of civic buildings, which included the town hall, police station, courts, pinfolds and so on, and it is notable that at Hawarden the House of Correction is close to the late 19th century police station and town hall. Curiously, however, the Hawarden lock-up is at least 100 years older than the existing police station.

 

Hawarden’s House of Correction is an atmospheric little building, described by Hubbard as of,

 

‘stone, with embayed front and, to one side, a wing with rudimentary Doric doorcase.’

The Buildings of Wales, Clwyd, E. Hubbard (1986)

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Hubbard’s rather cursory description does little to convey its impression as you come across it on the corner of Crosstree Lane. It has a surprising weight - civic power condensed into miniature. A sturdy looking door flanked by Doric columns and a faded but ominous looking ‘House of Correction’ engraved above them. Internally it has two storeys and a basement, of all things, with a stone vaulted roof. It has been attributed to Joseph Turner and dated to around 1740. However, Hubbard is sceptical, since Joseph Turner, or at least the Joseph Turner that lived nearby at the Elms was born in 1729 - thus a Turner designed House of Correction would have been the act of a terribly precocious talent at the age of just 11 years of age.

 

An atmospheric building, a reminder of a time when villages existed in a sort of exiled isolation and were required to manage themselves to a considerable extent. The only other example of an extent village lock up in north east Wales is in Ruabon, though there are suggestions that Bagillt retains a 19th century example. A drawing by Gastineau of Caergwrle in 1840 Shows a round house on the corner of Castle Street, close to the village pinfold (which now contains the wonderful village war memorial), but which has since been lost.