They were little prisons or lock-ups, for petty felons who just made themselves a nuisance by becoming drunk or abusive, and I don't know when they first came into use, but these two examples date from the 18th century.
They were called 'blind houses' simply because they had no windows. The miscreant would be locked in for a night or two, until he had seen sense or sobered up. Most of them had a little fire-place with a chimney for the cold winter months (that thing that looks like a stone urn at the back is, in fact, a chimney pot!) - they were surprisingly humane compared to the brutality of modern holding places like Guantanamo Bay, which also needs no magistrate to lock someone away for a day or two.
If your animals strayed onto the highway in these times (mark my words, John), then they would be taken to the village 'pound' and only released after a fine of a couple of pennies was paid. This is where we get the term impounding for modern day vehicles that have been towed away.
I am utterly knackered and have been for about 3 days now, but I will continue boring you with my rantings as of this weekend.