Jail to become a tourist attraction

PUBLISHED: 06:21 18 January 2007 | UPDATED: 21:31 29 May 2010

Owen Wilson outside the jail house - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

Owen Wilson outside the jail house - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

MORE than 150 years after it was closed, Dunmow is to get its own jail house back again. The historic building, more commonly known as The Lock-Up, in North Street has been donated to the town by Mary Swainsbury and Valerie Dunton. The two women are th

Barrie Ashard

MORE than 150 years after

it was closed, Dunmow is

to get its own jail house

back again.

The historic building, more commonly known as The Lock-Up, in North Street has been donated to the town by Mary Swainsbury and Valerie Dunton.

The two women are the sisters of owner Barrie Ashard who died in March 2006 and had the building as part of his shoe repair business.

Mrs Dunton said: "After our brother's death we felt giving it back to the town was the right thing to do. It's featured in many photographs and is an important part of the town's history."

Dunmow Town clerk Owen Wilson said: "This is a very generous gift and everyone at the council is absolutely delighted.

"We haven't finalised plans yet but we are hoping we can restore it to its original state and open it up as a tourist attraction in the same way as the one in Great Bardfield.

"The earliest record of the building, referred to as 'The Cage', is in 1652 when a "suspicious person arrested for stealing a mutton escaped at The Cage door".

In May 1828 part of the building was opened up and plastered for lodging 'trampers' who could be discharged without going before a magistrate with the permission of either the vicar or the constable and the door on that side of the building was left unlocked.

The building stopped being used to hold criminals in 1843 when the police station opened.

During the 1890s the disused prison was reopened, this time as a soup kitchen for the poor.

The Countess of Warwick, who lived on the Little Easton Estate, was one of its benefactors and she supplied venison to give extra nourishment to the broths.

When the kitchen was closed in 1900, the building was used as a wine store for a local public house.

Master shoe-repairer George William Mason rented the building from Dunmow Parish Council during the 1920s where he ran his business until his death in 1938.

The next owner was Alfred Ashard, also a master shoe-repairer, who originally rented the building but bought it in 1956. It has been in the Ashard family ever since and has remained part of the shoe repair business.

The earliest known purpose-built lock-up was The Tun which was built in Cornhill in the City of London in 1282.

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