Wiltshire's Blind Houses

Episode 29,  Jan 30, 2022, 05:00 AM

It’s the eleventy seventh of January and we’re sick of the endless grey days but Spring is in the air. We’ve seen snow drops and crocuses, and the River Till behind Paul’s house has finally risen from its dry river bed. It won’t be (that long) before we’re out taking photos of bluebells again, although in an act of extreme provocation Glyn has already posted bluebell images on his Twitter feed.

Things have been a bit busier since the last podcast. The Hippenscombe walk has finally been posted on the website and Facebook pages. It’s been a real labour of love with Paul returning to the location five times in all to refine the walk and capture photographs in something other than flat grey light. It’s been quite a struggle to get the right balance of distance for the walk whilst taking in all the locations that really should be seen in this part of Wiltshire. Since we had to admit to not being finely tuned athletes some of the climbs along the walk proved to be pretty challenging, one of which saw Paul prostrate in the mud!

It was also good to get the Quaker’s Walk blog up on the website after we did the walk as part of a podcast with Steve Dixon.

Since the last podcast Glyn has delivered his talk to the Bratton History Association on the subject of Wiltshire Blind Houses, the main topic for this episode of the podcast. Glyn plans to visit every Wiltshire Blind House, just as he undertook to visit every Wiltshire hill fort (seems he may have been beaten to this)! We then managed to disappear down an enormous rabbit hole talking about hill forts and whether they were really forts at all. Rather than muse about the purpose of these from a base of our limited understanding we thought it would be far more sensible to invite an expert onto the podcast to speak about them. Watch this space.

Meanwhile we’ve got a few more walks planned which Paul and his walking buddy Stu will be scheduling over the next month or two. Meanwhile Glyn and Paul will be joined by long-term Hidden Wiltshire follower and contributor Bo Novak (who was responsible for the guided walk Glyn led in Bradford-on-Avon last year) on a walk based around Winsley. A walk that we were asked to do by Sarah Lucas who lived there some 30 years ago before she moved to Scotland. We’re planning to record some audio whilst we walk for a future podcast.

Speaking of recording, we are almost ready to release the film we made with David Carson last summer around Alton Barnes and Alton Priors, and the surrounding hills. This will be posted on YouTube. It’s been a long haul and a lot of work!

Then on to the main topic of this episode of the podcast - Wiltshire’s Blind Houses. When Glyn delivered his talk he illustrated it with a number of slides, and you can see the photographs in his blog from 24 January 2021 (see link below). We talk about the origin and purpose behind these little lock-ups which in fact had a relatively limited life, having become redundant once Wiltshire’s constabulary was founded in 1839. 

They were built for the temporary detention of troublemakers, drunks, criminals and miscreants, but were also used to detain prisoners in transit from the assize courts to gaol. They come in various shapes and sizes – round, square, octagonal but are always small buildings designed to house one or two prisoners for short periods. Glyn was armed with a range of fascinating and amusing stories about individual blind houses. One was even constructed for the set of the BBC series Cranford and seems to have been a replica of the Steeple Ashton blind house. The replica now resides on a West London housing estate!

Then on to the wrap up:

Steve Dixon’s piece leading into our main subject could only be the curiously titled “Holgar the Can Man” for obvious reasons. As ever the piece in the introduction and at the end of the podcast is entitled “The Holloway”.

Don’t forget to check out the Hidden Wiltshire online shop on the website if you’d like to help us keep the lights on. Both Hidden Wiltshire books can be purchased there. The second book is also available at Devizes Bookshop, Wiltshire Museum in Devizes and now Wiltshire’s libraries. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Hidden Wiltshire Newsletter from the website.


You will find the Glyn’s blog and photographs used to illustrate his talk here Blind Houses

Glyn’s photographs can be found on his Instagram feed @coy_cloud
He is also very active on Twitter where his username is @Glyndle

Paul’s photography can be found on his website at Paul Timlett Photography and on Instagram at @tragicyclist

Steve Dixon’s sound art can be found on Soundcloud where his username is River and Rail Steve Dixon River and Rail. His photographs can be found on Instagram at @stevedixon_creative and his graphic design business website is at Steve Dixon Creative

And finally you’ll find the Hidden Wiltshire online shop here Hidden Wiltshire Shop 
and a link to Glyn’s blog about the latest book and how to purchase a copy here Hidden Wiltshire from near and far