The Twickenham Museum
For children

The Watch House, Stocks & Pillory
The administration of summary justice and quarantine
1684

The Watch House

Here’s a brainteaser. What do the names lock-up, round house, cage, watch house and crosshouse have in common?

They all refer to an early type of jail.

Twickenham’s first Watch House was built in 1684. It was used to cage those who had broken the law. Here they were held until they were sentenced for their crimes.

The name 'The Watch' referred to a group of men from the parish who guarded the town and patrolled the streets at night. 'The Watch' was the forerunner of our modern police force.

The Watch House in Twickenham would have been a miserable and frightening place. It was constructed "in ye (the) manner of a cage with a strong lock and keye...". Those found guilty of their crimes could expect severe and humiliating punishment.

Pillory and Stocks

Parish records refer to a pillory or stocks, and a whipping post. A pillory was a wooden frame on posts with holes through which the head and hands of a criminal were thrust. The stocks, also made of wood, imprisoned the ankles.

A spectacle

In 1640, John Greene of Twickenham was ordered to be held in the stocks for six hours, wearing on his head a notice describing his crime. Punishment in 17th century England was seen as a public spectacle and a form of entertainment. So a crowd would gather and jeer and throw projectiles at John Greene and any other offenders.

The Police Force

The practice of cageing prisoners in Watch Houses was abandoned when the Metropolitan Police Force was established in 1829.

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