Lavenham Lock-up




Comments Print


Nation   England

County   Suffolk

Location   rear of Guildhall, Lady Street  Lavenham

Map location   exact or closely approximate

Year opened   1833

Year closed   unknown

Century of Operation   1800-1899

Building Type   Town Hall

Remarks   In the care of the National Trust.


'LOCK-UP AND MORTUARY BUILDINGS These buildings were purchased by the National Trust from Lavenham Parish Council in 1992. They were in state of dilapidation and have been restored as thoroughly as possible to their original appearance. Information about their history is minimal but two facts are known as they were erected in 1833, and at that time they were within the boundary of the Guildhall premises. In 1833 the Guildhall was being used as a Workhouse and it would seem the Mortuary, and to some extent the Lock-up, were an integral part of the premises. The Workhouse had been in existence since 1787, and prior to that the building was used for 100 years as a Bridewell (prison). The Lock-up would also have been used for inmates of the Workhouse, or others who had been apprehended in the parish for some contravention of the law. They would be held here pending trial either by the local Justices of the Peace or by County Courts. It is significant that the Lock-up was built in 1833, around the time when the first police forces were evolving. They were an essential part of the more orderly system of crime prevention slowly developing, but still a long way from the system we know today.'

Information plaque, quoted by Roy's Blog, 'SUFFOLK. Lock-ups at Boxford, Lavenham, Sproughton and Stoke by Nayland.' (26 June 2013) (

Featured Images

  • Alley to the lockup and mortuaryPhoto © Mick Lobb (cc-by-sa/2.0)
  • front of GuildhallPhoto © Richard Croft (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Description: Alley to the lockup and mortuary

Photo by: Photo © Mick Lobb (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Description: front of Guildhall

Photo by: Photo © Richard Croft (cc-by-sa/2.0)


    Roy's Blog, 'SUFFOLK. Lock-ups at Boxford, Lavenham, Sproughton and Stoke by Nayland.' (26 June 2013)



Is there something you’d like to tell us about this lock-up which doesn’t fit easily into the categories of information above? Perhaps you have a good story about someone who was confined in the lock up. Would you like to start a conversation about the lock-up with others who are also interested in either lock-ups or local history? Or would you like to tell us how you have used the data on this lock-up? Please leave a reply!

Alternatively, if you would like to correct or add to the data in the record, please follow this link. Or, click here if you like to find out more about contributing to this project.


  1. Helen Carrick

    Hi there from Brisbane, I have an ancestor – Henry Smith – who was born in Lavenham in 1880. In 1831 he was charged with house breaking and sentenced to death. Luckily (for me) he ended up being transported to NSW. He was my ggggrandfather. I have done a lot of research on his life here, but am hoping that perhaps he was actually a prisoner in the prison there. He was actually put onto the hulk Levetian and was there for six months. I would also love to hear about what Lavenham was like in the 1820s and 1830s. Happy to share what I know. Helen Carrick.

    • Rosalind Crone

      Hi Helen, Sounds like you have a fascinating ancestor! If Henry Smith committed the crime in the parish/ town of Lavenham, and was seized by the authorities there, there is a good chance he spent some time in the lock-up there before being seen by a local magistrate who would have committed him for trial. Again, if this is right, he probably spent his time awaiting trial at Bury St Edmunds County Gaol and House of Correction. We have an entry for that prison in our companion project, 19th Century Prisons: Bury St Eds has a wonderful set of prison registers (gaol receiving books). Unfortunately for you, they begin in the 1840s! As for life in early 19th century Lavenham – others might provide more help than I can, but a good place to start might be John Glyde’s study, ‘Suffolk in the Nineteenth Century’. I think this is now freely available on google books or BW, Rosalind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *