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The village lock-up or "Blindhouse" was used for the temporary detention of rogues and miscreants thought to be responsible for thefts, burglaries, assaults and the stealing of livestock, before they could be brought before the magistrate. Over time they became synonymous with the overnight detention of drunks who were usually released the next day.
Many lock-ups were small brick, stone or timber structures with a single door and a narrow slit window or opening (the resulting darkness giving rise to the name of "blindhouse").
Some lock-ups also had stocks, ducking stools, pillories, or pinfolds alongside them and the origins of the 18th century village lock-up evolved from much earlier examples of holding cells and devices.
The exact site of the blindhouse in Hungerfod is not known. It may have been a lockup within the Town Hall, which stood in the market place. One Town Hall dated from 1607, and it was replaced by a Georgian building in 1786. However, the description and references to the Blindhouse in the records seem to imply that it was a separate building.
The Constables' Accounts includes references to the blindhouse between 1678 and 1782 (see below). Mention is often made of locks being made, timber, planks and nails, and straw for the floor, and even a lantern in 1755. In 1694 two entries appear to link the pound and the Blind House. Maybe they were adjacent? There were two town pounds - one was in Park Street (opposite the present-day police station), and the other was on the north west corner of Church Street and Parsonage Lane.
In 1770 the "Tyles" were moved in the Blind House, and in 1771 4d was paid "for a key to the House ajoining to the Blind House". This seems to discount the possibility of it being part of the Town Hall building.
We do not yet know when the blindhouse stopped being used. (In nearby Ramsbury their blindhouse was closed in 1836 and was demolished in 1859). It is possible that Hungerford's blindhouse was in use until the new police station was built in Cow Lane (Park Street) in 1864.
- The stone blindhouse at Lacock, Wiltshire
- The 1607 Town Hall in 1769.
References to the blindhouse in the Constables' Accounts include:
Pd for a lock for the blinde house 00 01 02
pd for mending the blind howes 00 04 00
pd for Iorn work for the blind howes 00 02 00
pd for a lock for the blinde houes 00 01 4
Gave Tim. Yorke when he was in the Blind house 00 00 01
Paid Robert Coxhead for goen to Newbury to fetch back horses(?) and maken clean ye blindhouse after ….?…. souldier ….?…. out 00 01 06
paid for straw for ye blind house 0 0 2
paid to Joseph Kember for tember and plancks used at the pound and blinde house 00 13 3
paid John Povey for worke don abought the pound and blinde house 00 02 6
neails used then abought it 00 01 3
gave Plaster in bred & bear in the blind hous 00 00 09
Paid him for mending the blind Hous 00 00 ?
pd for mending the Blind house 00 00 08
Pd Jehos Kimber for a bord & work about ye blind hous 0 1 2
Paid John Ball for bord and worke to mend ye blind house 00 02 3
Paid Mr John Butler as apers by his bill for a lock for ye blind house and naill for ye same and naill for ye brig 00 04 4
Pd Gorg Whit for mending of the blind house 00 01 00
Pd for a lock for the blind hous 00 00 06
pd for a lock for the blinde house door 00 00 10
pd for straw for a Souldier to lay on in the blinde house 00 00 02
pd Joseph Poye for bear to the wachmen for taking kear at the blind hous when Thomas Backen wass in holt 00 00 7½
Reced of Henry Buckridg for Rente of the Blinde house 00 04 00
Recd of Will -?- for ye Blind House 0 5 0
Recvd of Wm Nalder for the Blindhouse 0 5 0
Pd for a Lock for the Blind house 0 0 8
Reed of William Nalder for one year's Rent for the Blindhouse 00 05 0
For a lock to the blind house 0 01 00
For bord nailes and strawe to ye blind houss 0 01 00
Pd. for a Lock to the blind house 0 1 0
Pd. for a lantern for the blind house 0 2 0
pd. for a padlock for ye Blindhouse 0 0 9
Pd. for a lock to ye Blind House 0 0 10
Paid for moving the Tyles in the Blind House 1 0
Paid for a key, to the House ajoining to the Blind House 0 0 4
Gave the Watch Extra when the Woman was in the Blind house
an A Count of Soldiers threatening fire 1 0