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A closer look at the village lock-up, Swinford Museum, Filkins.

A closer look at the village lock-up, Swinford Museum, Filkins.

Village Lock-up at Filkins

27 March 2023

Once a common site in English villages, the lock-up at Filkins is one of the few remaining examples in Oxfordshire.

Sandwiched between a cottage and the old village post office, this small inhospitable room would have been used as a temporary repository for drunks and criminals. The prisoners would spend the night here sobering up or considering the error or their ways until the morning when they would either be released with a sore head or accompanied by an officer of the law to the nearest police station at Burford to be formally charged.

The Filkins lock-up is in surprisingly good condition considering that it dates from the 18th century and its extremely sturdy-looking door is over 200 years old. Inside there are few luxuries other than a stone bench for the incarcerated to lie down on. Although not as visually striking as Wheatley's cone-shaped village lock-up, the lock-up at Filkins is more typical of the sort that were once common in Oxfordshire villages.

A teapot of beer for the prisoner

In Folklore of the Cotsworlds, Katherine M. Briggs explains how sympathetic bystanders would make the stay of those trapped in the Filkins lock-up a bit more tolerable. There were once only a very small breathing hole in the door of the lock-up, making it hard to pass things to people inside, but locals found an ingenious way around this.

Briggs states that the wives of those trapped inside would purchase beer at the pub across the road, and borrow a teapot to put it in. They would then poke the spout of the teapot through the small hole in the lock-up door and thus were able to pour beer into the grateful mouths of those inside! They would often follow this up with a meal of bread and cheese, which would have to be broken up into small chunks in order to fit through the hole.

Visiting Filkins lock-up

The lock-up is not often open to the public, but the building next door to the lock-up now houses the Swinford Museum, so if you time your visit to coincide with the two days a month during the summer months that the museum opens then you can learn more about the lock-up and perhaps get a look inside.


  1. historicengland.org.uk
  2. 'Folklore of the Cotswolds' by Katherine M. Briggs (Batsford Books, 1974, ISBN: 0713428317)