Rowdy drunks lashed in 200-year-old prison you’ll easily miss

When walking down Childwall Road it’s easy not to recognise a tiny, sandstone building surrounded by trees – not far from the clock– as a former prison for drunks and reprobates.

The Wavertree Lock-up is an 18th-century grade II listed building that has stood for over 200 years.

It was constructed in 1796 as a drunk tank to hold rowdy fellows who had chugged one too many ales until they were sober enough to stand before a magistrate.

Bizarrely, before it was built, a local unpaid constable would claim an expense of two shillings to look after drunks in the constables own house.

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Drunkenness was a major problem 200 years ago so villagers decided it would be cheaper for them, in the long run, to pay for a purpose-built lock-up to keep things in order.

Objections were raised by Mr John Myers, the wealthy resident of Lake House (where Monkswell Drive is today) who claimed the proposal “showed a desire to annoy him” and would spoil his view.

However, he was overruled and a Mr Hind was engaged to prepare plans and get the work in hand.

A small stove was installed to keep the prisoners warm, and they were supplied with food and water, but there were few home comforts.

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Originally built with a flat roof, it was later replaced with a pointed one to prevent friends of drunken prisoners knocking a hole through the roof to help them escape.

The lock-up was built in 1796 to house the village drunks before they were sober enough to stand before a judge

But the two-storey sandstone octagonal building has not just been used as a jail for drunkards throughout its history.

During the 1840s, the lock-up served as an isolation room for cholera victims who were housed there to isolate them from the rest of the village.

The lock-up became a designated listed building in 1952

It also served as temporary accommodation for destitute Irish families making their way out of Liverpool into the surrounding countryside.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the lock-up was no longer needed as a proper police station had opened in the High Street.

The building gradually fell into decay until 1868 when local historian James Picton came to the rescue.

He and drew up plans for its repair and ‘beautification’, including the addition of the new pointed roof and weather vane.

  • In 1952 the Lock-up became a listed building and in 1979 Wavertree Village was designated as a conservation area.

For several years the former jail was used by the council’s parks and gardens department for the storage of tools and grass-cutting equipment.

Currently empty, it now only stands as a curious reminder of the Wavertree of two centuries ago.

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