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Dec 11 2015

Is it a House, Teepee, or Lock-Up?

I love it when I find something unusual – something that I’m not expecting.  This Foto Friday is one of those accidental finds.  I was waiting at a bus stop in Wheatley, a village in Oxfordshire, to get a bus back to Oxford when I spotted this unusual-looking building.

A stone lock-up in WheatleyOnce I had seen it, I had to go over to investigate.  It looked like a stone teepee, with a locked door.  What it actually was, I had no idea.  I couldn’t find a plaque or any information about it, so, later on, I had resort to good old Google for the answer.

Can you guess what it was used for?  I would never have guessed.

Built in 1834, this small, stone, round structure (teepee, to me) was a lock-up, a cell, a place where people who had been arrested were held overnight.  This lock-up serves as a reminder of hard times when life and the landscape in England was changing.  Small holdings were merged to create larger farms; communal land became private; and manual labour was increasingly being replaced by machinery, which meant people were moving away from villages and the countryside to towns and cities for work.

Interestingly, Wheatley had ten pubs at the time this lock-up was built.  That’s a lot of pubs for a village.  As a result, there were a fair few drunks.  Without a courthouse in the village, police officers had to detain troublemakers somehow until they could get them to the courthouse in Oxford.  That is why it was constructed.  Troublemakers were kept there overnight and either released or moved the following day.  It’s a tiny space with just six foot square of floor space.  I can’t imagine being stuck in a small building like that overnight.  Once local police stations with cells were built, these lock-ups were no longer required.

The door to the lock-up remains tightly shut now.  However, once a year, the door is opened and people can go inside and experience what it would have been like to stay overnight.

This is the first one I’ve ever seen.  There are others around England and Wales, but they don’t all look like this one.  This one is now a protected historical site.


This is only about 10 miles from Oxford in the county of Oxfordshire.

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Have you seen a lock-up like this?  If so, where?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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