Your Local Lock-up: FAQs

What is a lock-up?

For the purposes of this project, a lock-up is any building or structure that was used to confine or restrain temporarily those accused of committing a criminal act or apprehended for drunken, disorderly, or riotous behaviour, between 1500 and 1999. Many were purpose-built, and had no other function. A large number of lock-up cells were located in police stations, town halls, and courthouses; some could be found in a variety of other institutions such as prisons, workhouses, commercial and buildings, and a few in private dwelling houses. Stocks are also included in this project as a type of lock-up.

Often lock-ups were used in the interval between apprehension and appearance before a magistrate, but they could also be used to accommodate prisoners during criminal trials and as staging posts when prisoners were being moved between institutions and/ or jurisdictions.

For a more expansive description of lock-ups, please see our User Guide.

How do I find a lock-up in the database?

You can search for lock-ups in our database in two ways: by using the search box in the header of the Home Page, or by using the search box and limiting fields next to the map on the ‘Find a Lock-up’ page.

The search boxes, which look for keywords across certain fields of the database, can be used to find specific lock-ups or lock-ups located in a particular city, town, village, parish or county.

Fields on the ‘Find a Lock-up’ page can be used either to limit results when searching by keyword or as search terms. For example, by selecting ‘Town Hall’ under ‘Building Types’, the search will return all lock-up cells located in town halls operational between 1500 and 1999.

Search results can be viewed on a map (Map View) or as a list (List View). Click on the map pins to discover the name of a lock-up. From here, you can click to see the full record for that institution. Similarly, the List View will take you to the full records of each lock-up which meets your search criteria.

The search results say there are four lock-ups matching the terms I selected, but only one pin appears on the map?

The map is set, by default, to show as much of the British Isles as possible. This means that pins representing lock-ups in close proximity often stack on top of each other. Zooming in on the map, that is, to a particular region or town, should disperse the pins. To do this, use the ‘+’/ ‘-‘ buttons in the bottom right-hand corner of the map.

It may be that, even after zooming, some pins continue to stack on top of each other. The reason for this will be that several historic lock-ups have been discovered to have existed in one town or parish, but because we are missing exact geographical coordinates for these lock-ups, they have been pinned to the default centre of that town or parish.

To view the details of each lock-up pinned to a location, or to bypass zooming to disperse pins, you can use the ‘List View’ to see a list of all the lock-ups matching your search criteria.

If you have more precise location information for any of the lock-ups in the database, please do send it to us, we are very eager to ensure that all information on lock-ups is as accurate and detailed as possible. Please use the ‘Anything to Add’ button on the lock-up record to submit additional information on existing lock-ups, or see our User Guide for more information on contributing to this project.

Why are there two entries for the same lock-up?

In the Lock-up Search Results, you may also notice that some lock-ups appear to be listed twice. Some towns and often cities had multiple lock-ups in different locations, not just for convenience, but because, in the nineteenth century especially, different authorities operating within the same local area needed their own facilities. For example, within one town, there might be lock-ups belonging to the county and lock-ups belonging to the borough; and/ or lock-up cells in a police station and lock-up cells in the basement of the courthouse.

Old, inconvenient or unhealthy lock-ups were also replaced by new ones. Where repairs or rebuilding happened on the same site, a new record for the lock-up was not created in the database. However, we don’t always have this valuable information about location to help us distinguish between lock-ups. Therefore, where descriptions of lock-ups in similar locations (e.g. same town) clearly did not match, we created separate records for the lock-ups, but retained their similar or identical names. Where date information suggested that a new lock-up had been constructed but no location information was given for one or both lock-ups, separate records for each were created.

If you think we might have got it wrong, and the same lock-up has been listed twice, or that one record contains the details for two separate lock-ups, please do get in touch and let us know – we would be very grateful!

I have selected a lock-up from the list of search results. How do I see all the information for that institution?

Once you have clicked through from the search results to an individual lock-up, you are presented with an overview of the information about the lock-up together with a map showing its location (either exact or within the vicinity of), historic and/ or contemporary descriptions of the lock-up which have been collected, and a sample of images, if any have been made available.

Further information can be accessed by using the various options on the page.

For every lock-up for which images have been found, there is an image gallery, which can be accessed via the tab above the map and overview box, by the large button at the bottom of the record, or by clicking on one of the ‘featured images’. Each image in the gallery is accompanied by a description and copyright information.

A list sources from which information about the lock-up has been derived, or where more information on the lock-up can be found, can be accessed by using the ‘Sources’ tab above the map and overview box, or by clicking on the large ‘View Sources’ button at the bottom of the entry. When in the ‘Sources’ area, click on ‘Sources’ to reveal contemporary and historic printed material (including books, Parliamentary Papers, and websites) as well as any local history sources such as oral history and anecdotes. An option to view ‘Archives’ will appear when archival documents relating to that lock-up have been found and entered into the database.

Finally, there is a ‘Comments’ tab, which will take you to the bottom of the page where comments have been left by others viewing the record and will invite you to submit your own comments. We warmly welcome any comments on the lock-ups – for example, your thoughts on the information we have collected including any points of refinement; any anecdotes about the lock-up; and especially any remarks on how you have used the data on the lock-up. Please note that in order to protect the site against spam all comments are moderated and need editorial approval before they are made visible to all users.

If you have any further information about a lock-up, including images or descriptions, or if you see something in the record which you think is incorrect, please do tell us. You can use the ‘Anything to Add’ option on the lock-up record, or you can ‘Contact Us’.

How can I access the surviving archives for a particular lock-up?

To access the surviving archives of an institution listed in the database you will need to make contact with the repository which holds the material. Every piece, file and collection listed in the database has information linked to it to help you find it, including the name of the repository (or Archive) where it is located, and the Catalogue Reference (or Ref) number (also known as a shelfmark) which has been allocated to it by the repositories. We recommend that you take a note of the Catalogue Ref number, the Collection, the covering Dates and the Description of the particular document you are interested in. You will need to give this information to the archivists at the repository so that they can help you to locate the document.

The lock-up I want information on is not included.

When we launched our database with just over 400 lock-ups, we knew that this was just the tip of the iceberg! We recovered this initial set by working through a series of historical and contemporary sources which we knew to be rich in detail about historic lock-ups, but these were by no means exhaustive. We know there are many hundreds, possibly thousands, of lock-ups yet to be recovered and/ or entered into this database. But this is only something we can do with the help of local knowledge.

If you know of a lock-up which is not in the database, please do tell us about it. You can either use the ‘Submit a Lock-up’ form, or you can ‘Contact Us’. We can also try to assist you in finding more information about it: there are many sources which we know about, but have not yet been able to work our way through to put the information into the database.

Because initial data was derived from the sister project, 19th Century Prisons, which focuses on English penal institutions operational between 1800 and 1899, Local Lock-ups needs information on lock-ups which existed in the other three nations of the British Isles (Wales, Scotland and Ireland) and which were used in centuries other than the 19th.

I have more information, or pictures, of a lock-up included in the database.

Please tell us about it! Information and images can be added to existing lock-up records by using the ‘Anything to Add’ button, located on the right-hand side of the page displaying the lock-up record. This will take you to a short form. To avoid any ambiguity about which lock-up your new information refers to, the form automatically pins your information to the lock-up you have identified. This makes things much easier at our end! Alternatively, you are very welcome to Contact Us with the information.

Please note, when submitting images of lock-ups, we need to know where the pictures come from. If we can’t check copyright, then we can’t use them. Even if images come from your camera, we need to know that we have your permission to publish them on this site.

How do I tell you about my local lock-up?

We would love to know about your local lock-up!

If it is not in our database, why not complete our new lock-ups submission form? For more detailed instructions on how to complete the form, see our User Guide. Please be aware that, although the form looks long, we do not expect you to be able to answer every question we ask about the lock-up (though if you can, that would be extremely useful). Please just give us as much information as you have about the lock-up, even if that is just a name and location. And please do tell us where your information about the lock-up comes from, even if it is just a local anecdote.

If your local lock-up is in the database, you could leave a comment about it on the record for other users to see and respond to. As part of this project, we hope to facilitate some lively discussions about local lock-ups. If you have more to tell us about your local lock-up, or if you think some of our information on it might be incorrect, please do let us know, by using the ‘Anything to Add’ button on the lock-up record or by contacting us. We are especially keen to collect more descriptions and images of lock-ups in the database, both historic and contemporary.

Finally, please consider submitting a story about your local lock-up. We want to hear about lock-ups within their local context: what they mean to local communities, both today and in the past.

I have information on several different lock-ups. However, after submitting two lock-ups to the database, the form has stopped working.

Because of the high incidence of malicious attacks via web submission forms, we have had to put in place site security which may block you from making multiple submissions to the database consecutively. If you have encountered this problem, please do get in touch so that we can help you to get the information into the database.

If you do have information on more than two lock-ups, you might like to consider becoming a contributor. By registering with the site, we can make the submission of multiple lock-ups much easier for you. We can also give you the ability to curate your own submissions – i.e. to add new data, and shift information around, as and when you want to.

Can I submit information on lock-ups without registering as a contributor?

Yes. You can add information or images to lock-ups which already exist in the database, add new lock-ups to the database, comment on lock-ups in the database, and submit stories on lock-ups, all without registering as a contributor.

On all the forms, however, we do ask for your name and email address. This is so that we can get in touch with you to clarify or further discuss information that you have provided. It also helps to protect us against malicious spam. We will not use your personal details without your permission. For more information on how we use your data, please see our Privacy notice.

You are inviting people to become contributors to the project. What is a contributor?

As a very small group of academic historians, we know we cannot do this project without the help of local communities. More than that, we want this project to be for local communities. Hence, we are inviting people with an interest in this project to become ‘contributors’.

As a registered ‘Contributor’, you will effectively become a member of the project team. You will be given a username and password which will allow you to manage directly your contributions to the project, including lock-ups which you have submitted to the database, comments you have made on specific lock-ups, and any stories you have written for the Your Stories section of the site. We will also keep in touch with you regularly, and send you general updates on the project.

Reasons you might consider becoming a contributor could include:

  • You have a general interest in lock-ups and/ or criminal justice history and you would like to get involved. We can suggest small projects which would help us to grow and improve the data. For example, perhaps you might be interested in extracting information about lock-ups from historical sources that we have identified.
  • You belong to a local history society which has an interest in one or several lock-ups, extant or extinct. We would be happy to allow you to curate the records of your local lock-up on this site.
  • You are operating a business out of a former lock-up or you are responsible for a heritage site which includes a lock up. We would like to work with you to protect and promote the history of your lock-up, and to demonstrate how these buildings can be used as important community hubs.

To ‘Become a Contributor’, all we need from you is some simple information about yourself and your interests. Please complete this form, or, for more information, contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

I have submitted a new lock-up/ information on an existing lock-up/ a story. What happens now? When will the information or content I have provided appear on the website?

When you contribute to this project via one of our forms, you should be redirected to a page thanking you for your contribution if submission has been successful. If you are not redirected, or if you are concerned that the information did not go through, please contact us.

All contributions are sent to an editorial area where they will need approval from a member of the project team before being released for public view. This happens, primarily, to protect the site from malicious spam. But it also allows us to double check the format in which information is submitted, and it gives us a chance to clarify any information with you before it goes live – so please do give us your contact details.

The editorial process should be completed within a week or two. However, because we are a very small team, things might take a little longer during busy periods (when lots of data is being submitted) or during holiday periods. We thank you in advance for your patience. But please don’t hesitate to contact us if you think we might have mislaid your contribution, or missed it somehow. We are always happy to hear from you.

How do I cite the database?

For information on copyright and guidance on how to cite both the database and the information on individual institutions within it, see our Copyright and Citation page.