19th Century Prison History : 19th Century Prison Search

Bradford-on-Avon Lock-up

Overview

Location   town bridge, Silver Street  Bradford on Avon

County   Wiltshire

Year Opened   unknown

Year Closed   unknown

Century of Operation   1700-1799, 1800-1899

Remarks   Roy's Blog states 'dates to the 18th century when it was built onto the integral foundations of a 13th century chapel'. Leslie Brooke, in his gazetteer of West Country lock-ups, states that Bradford-on-Avon lock-up was certainly in use in 1740. He notes the difference between the height of the door from the pavement. Local historian, Ivor Slocombe, notes that the chapel was rebuilt in the early 18th century as a single all-purpose room. In the 19th century it was altered to include two secure cells with iron doors and beds. The date of the cells is usually given as 1820, but more recent research suggests the alteration occurred as late as the 1840s. The iron beds and toilets were likely added in the 1880s. Slocombe's research also makes several important corrections to information from other sources - including the myth about the imprisonment of Methodist preacher, John Wesley (see below). Historic images of this lock-up show the changes of use, and concerns about security.

Bridge with lock-upPhoto © Martin Clark (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Further information can be found at
https://www.prisonhistory.org/lockup/bradford-on-avon-lock-up/

Descriptions

  • 'The Town Bridge has C13 origins as a packhorse bridge (and an earlier bridge may have stood on the site), and at least two arches of this date survive to the east side. A request for alms for its repair by the Pope is recorded in 1400. A ford (after which the town is named) adjacent on the western side of the bridge was used for larger traffic up until the late-C19, despite the bridge itself having been widened in the C17 to accommodate larger traffic. The round arches on the west side of the bridge date from this period. Many occasions for repair are recorded prior to its widening. The ‘Chapel’ on the south end probably dates from the C17 and was used as a lock-up or ‘blind house’ in the C18. The copper gilt weather vane has a fish emblem and is known as the “Bradford Gudgeon”. The bridge is shown as Bradford Bridge on the tithe map of 1842. On Ashmead’s 1864 apportionment the building on the bridge is named as the “Blind House”, probably due to its lack of window openings. The Ordnance Survey Map of 1887 shows it as being a ‘Chapel (Magazine)’ and during its history the building may have also served as a toll house for the livestock market. The 1887 map shows breakwaters attached to the west face of the bridge, which are not marked on the revision of 1899 and later mapping, and are no longer extant. Cutwaters on the east face of the bridge are not shown earlier than 1887, but they may be of early-C19 date or earlier. Some adaptation and repair work has taken place to the bridge in the C20 and C21.'
    Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 'The Town Bridge', LEN 1036011

  • 'Leslie Brook notes the height of the door from the pavement - and wonders whether this might have caused trouble when depositing drunk prisoners! He also notes the distinctive copper-gilt weathervane in the form of a fish, known as the Bradford Gudgeon: "It used to be said of someone who had been in the cells that he had been under a fish but over the water". Also, that John Wesley, Methodist preacher, apparently spent a night in this lock-up.'
    Leslie Brooke, Some West-Country Lock-Ups (Castle Cary, Fox Publications, 1985), pp. 18

  • 'The bridge was not a pack horse bridge - it was always about 10 feet wide and sufficient for carts. It was doubled in width in 1769 - not in the 17th century. The original chapel was almost certainly 13C and built with the bridge. John Aubrey mentions it as a chapel in 1660-70. It was rebuilt in the early 18C using some of the original material including the two medieval windows. It was then a single all-purpose room. John Wesley was not imprisoned there. it was another Methodist preacher, William Hitchens, who wrote to Wesley about his imprisonment. The interior was considerably altered in about 1820 to form two more secure cells with iron doors, iron beds, etc, The lock-up was fully restored in 1927 before the Lord of the Manor passed ownership to the Wiltshire County Council.'
    Ivor Slocombe, The Bridges of Bradford-on-Avon (Bradford-on-Avon Museum, 2013)

Sources

  • Roy's Blog, 'WILTSHIRE. Lock-ups at Box, Bradford on Avon and Bromham.' (20 March 2013)
    http://roys-roy.blogspot.com/2013/03/lock-ups-at-box-bradford-on-avon-and.html
  • Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 'The Town Bridge', LEN 1036011
    https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1036011
  • Leslie Brooke, Some West-Country Lock-Ups (Castle Cary, Fox Publications, 1985), pp. 18, 113 & 115 (sketch).
  • Ivor Slocombe, The Bridges of Bradford-on-Avon (Bradford-on-Avon Museum, 2013)