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Stone plaque originally affixed to the village lock up

A Grade II Listed Building in Village, London

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Latitude: 51.4511 / 51°27'3"N

Longitude: -0.085 / 0°5'6"W

OS Eastings: 533158

OS Northings: 174196

OS Grid: TQ331741

Mapcode National: GBR HL.778

Mapcode Global: VHGR6.GSWG

Entry Name: Stone plaque originally affixed to the village lock up

Listing Date: 6 March 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423384

Location: Southwark, London, SE21

County: London

District: Southwark

Electoral Ward/Division: Village

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Southwark

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Dulwich St Barnabas

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Stone plaque. Dated 1760. Originally part of the village lock up, now demolished. Rediscovered in 1922 and erected nearby.


Limestone plaque, approximately 0.9m by 0.4m, is set in a glazed timber case on a concrete base within a narrow garden fronted by railings onto Carlton Avenue. The plaque bears the incised inscription ‘1760/ IT IS A SPORT FOR A FOOL TO DO/ MISCHIEF TO THINE OWN/ WICKEDNESS SHALL CORRECT THEE'. The case bears a modern information panel.

The timber case is of lesser interest; the modern information panel and concrete base are not of special interest.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 30/06/2015


According to Edward Walford in ‘Old and New London’ (Volume 6, 1878) the Dulwich village lock up or ‘cage’…‘formerly stood at the corner of the pathway across the fields leading to Camberwell, opposite the burial-ground’. He specifically remarks that it contained the motto "It is a sport for a fool to do mischief; thine own wickedness shall correct thee”. There is, however, conflicting evidence of the location of the lock up. The 1838 Tithe Map shows two small rectangular buildings to the north of the burial ground at the point where Court Lane and Dulwich Village intersect. These are adjoined by the semi-circular village pound which suggests that these buildings are the lock-up since village lock-ups were often associated with a pound. However, an entry in the Private Sittings Book of Alleyn’s College of Gods’ Gift for 10 September 1841 states that it was ‘Ordered that the cage at the corner of the churchyard be taken down and the gap filled up in continuation of the present wall’. This points to the lock up as the small building shown on the 1838 map at the southern corner of the burial ground, on the south side of Court Lane .

The stone plaque bearing the motto was discovered in 1922 during development of a parade of shops at the junction of Dulwich Village and Calton Avenue and was subsequently erected in a garden adjoining 1d Calton Avenue in 1968.

The motto is derived from a pair of biblical proverbs: ‘It is sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom’ (Proverbs 10:23) and ‘Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backsliding shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts’ (Jerimiah 2:19).

Lock ups, also known as round houses, blind-houses, cages and clinks, were temporary holding places for offenders being brought before the magistrate. They were often built by the parish or as a gift to the village or town by a wealthy resident and are generally centrally placed within the settlement. The earliest recorded lock up dates from the C13 but the vast majority were built in the C18 and early C19. Most fell out of use in the mid-C19 when they were made redundant by the formation of a regular police service. Lock-ups were often associated with stocks for the subsequent punishment of offenders, as was the case at Dulwich.

Reasons for Listing

The C18 plaque in the garden adjoining 1d Calton Avenue, Dulwich, dated 1760 and originally part of the village lock up, is listed for the following principal reasons;
Historical interest: as a tangible and evocative reminder of crime and punishment during the Georgian period;
Rarity: as a rare and particularly early example of an ‘improving’ biblical text used to embellish a now demolished village lock up;
Survival: the plaque survives in a very good condition with crisp lettering.

Selected Sources

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