Wheatley Lock-Up – Wheatley, England - Atlas Obscura

Wheatley Lock-Up

Wheatley, England

Over 100 years ago this pyramidal holding cell was reserved for rowdy drunks but now only offers five minute sentences. 


Built in 1834, the small lock-up in the village of Wheatley was once used to detain the surprisingly large number of drunkards and hooligans in the area, but now offers willing inmates to simply play prisoner in five minute stretches during historical festivals.

The incongruous stone pyramid that stands out iconically in the relatively small village with its six, tall sides and balled top. At one point Wheatley held at least ten public houses (bars) for a fairly small population, which resulted in an unsurprisingly large amount of public intoxication. However with no courthouse of their own, constables would have to bring disorderly citizens to the small stone cell to hold them until they could be tried the next day in nearby Oxford. The small room was near eight feet tall with a six foot square of floor space to accommodate each night’s guests. The door is made of thick wood with a sturdy iron lock and it even contained stocks for the truly unruly. The purposefully windowless, airless jail came to represent a general decline in the civil tenor of the village.

Today the Wheatley lock-up remains in much the same state as when it held intoxicated villagers nightly, and is now a protected historical site. While the unbreakable door is left locked most of the year, the chamber is opened in the public once a year on May Day and anyone interested to see what is was like to sleep one off in the 1800’s can be locked in the dark cell for five long minutes. Afterwards they even receive a certificate to commemorate their brave approximation of petty crime.        

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