Thursday, 8 September 2011
The village lock-up
I don't suppose the 'king' of the Cragg Vale coiners was ever incarcerated here...but this is Heptonstall's village lock-up or dungeon: a small, damp, windowless cell in the basement of one of the inns. In the olden days when travel and communication were more difficult the local constable would make use of these small local dungeons to lock up drunks and petty criminals. Troublemakers were often then put in the village stocks - a wooden structure with holes to clamp their feet. The ridicule of the community, and being pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables, seemed to be the punishment for many a small misdemeanour. (I did think it might be a more fitting retribution for some of the rioters and looters we saw recently in this country, rather than the prison sentences they were given.)
Just to the left of my photo is a small well, one of the original sources of water for the village. Contamination of the water supply was a huge problem, because the bedrock is too close to the surface here and the water did not get adequately filtered. In 1843 there was a major outbreak of disease in Heptonstall, caused by the polluted water.