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Wootton Lock-Up

Wootton Lock-Up 1972 [Z50/136/3]
Wootton Lock-Up 1972 [Z50/136/3]

As can be seen from the photograph above, this small building stood not far from the west end of the church in the grounds of Wootton House. It ws, presumably, an 18th or early 19th century structure. It would have been used for detaining miscreants for long enough to cool their heels or sleep off the effects of drink or for detaining them until they could be taken Bedford Gaol. On 23rd March 1892, in a query about lock-ups remaining in the county, Bedford Division of Bedfordshire Constabulary noted of Wootton lock-up: “in a fair condition used for keeping tools in used by the men working on the roads”.

In 1938 there were plans to convert the lock-up into a shop. The County Surveyor wrote on 2 February 1938 county surveyor “In my opinion this old Lock-up does not stand upon the highway, but is upon the manorial waste. It is in close proximity to the Church and I consider that it is very wrong for this old Lock-up to be handed over for the purpose of converting it into a cobbler’s shop and goodness knows what else it might develop into later on. We are not rich in this County in these ancient landmarks, and in my opinion it should be restored and kept as a relic of the old days. It is not a handsome lock-up; it is brick built, with the old type of cell door with a grille therein. It requires a certain amount of expenditure to keep it properly maintained, but I do hope you will be able to persuade Mr. Ormsby Gore not to allow it to be used for any other purpose than as a relic of the past … This is a most charming situation, very few there are to better it in this County, and to allow it to be spoilt in the manner suggested in this correspondence, in my opinion, would be sacrilege” [CCV34].

This then led to a discussion as to whether the County Council should purchase the building under the Ancient Monuments Consolidation (Amendment) Act 1913. The County Surveyor, however, despite his enthusiasm, stated “I was not really pressing that the Country Council should accept the responsibility for this” though he went on “but would rather see the County Council accept it, even under present conditions, than it be converted into a cobbler’s shop”. Sadly the acquisition did not occur and the next generation of council officers had a very different opinion, allowing the lock-up to be demolished, along with so much other built heritage, in 1972.