A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO 'A POLICEMAN'S LOT' - PROBLEMS IN MARGATE'S FORCE.
BY MICK TWYMAN, RESEARCH BY ALF BEECHING.
In our continuing efforts to bring you, the reader, fresh and interesting material, Alf and myself always strive to tread the research paths ignored by others. As part of our plans for this year, we decided to look at the 150th anniversary of the Borough of Margate and Alf, in his usual lucky fashion, stumbled upon a goldmine at the Whitfield Archive by finding minutes from that period.
Those concerning the early years of the Borough Police Force are simply priceless, as they detail not the routine operation, but the aftermath of things that went wrong. What they disclose is a Force beset with problems of all kinds - indiscipline, inefficiency, dishonesty and drunkenness - which permeated the whole set up. Despite the seriousness of what transpired within the Force, there is humour in some of the situations disclosed. The formation of the Borough Force was expected to herald a new dawn for the town, but just bear in mind as you read of the many shortcomings of the early Borough Police that they were arresting people and giving evidence on oath in Court. However, just to set the scene for you on what has become a bit of a saga, let us take you back to the very last days of the Town Police Force and see just why better things were hoped for!
For December the 29th, 1857, we find the following. 'Superintendent of Police, Mr. Marchant, after a service of twenty years, has been compelled to resign his post, and Police Constable Shelvey has been appointed temporarily in his place'. The reason for this unfortunate state of affairs is explained by the following from the 12th of January. 'The report of the Police Committee made mention of the resignation of Superintendent Marchant and the appointment of Constable Shelvey; pro tem and as it was uncertain when the Local Board would merge into the Town Council it recommended that the Board advertise for candidates for the Superintendent's situation. The Board then discussed the question of at once advertising for a Superintendent. Mr. Keble opposed and severely animadverted on the conduct of the Police Committee, who constantly allowed the most flagrant dereliction of duty on the part of the Superintendent and Constables to pass censure, when it was manifest to every inhabitant that they (the Police) were totally incompetent in the performance of their duties. The Board ultimately agreed to postpone the question for two months, Constable Shelvey to act in the interim at £2 per week. On Friday the Watch Committee met at the Town Hall for the purpose of electing a new Superintendent of Police rendered vacant by the resignation'. And from the Kentish Gazette of the 25th of April, 1858, comes the following optimistic piece. 'We are glad to hear such satisfaction expressed upon the improved state of our Police Force under the new Superintendent, Mr. Saunders, and we hope that 'ere long it will be a credit to the Watch Committee and of considerable value to the town'. As the old saying goes, 'Hope springs eternal'!
'A POLICEMAN'S LOT',
BY MICK TWYMAN WITH RESEARCH BY ALF BEECHlNG.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Margate's elevation to Borough status, and it was whilst researching that event for us at Whitfield Archive for an article on the subject that Alf had access to some very early Council minutes, which contained many rather choice tit-bits relating to the Borough Police Force. In common with many other fledgling forces the Margate one had some teething troubles and it would appear that a few of its recruits were not quite the acceptable face of the Law that the Borough might have wished for. So here are is a little insight into the early days of the town's 'Boys in Blue', which will both interest and amuse the reader as well as showing why that august body known as the Watch Committee, much ridiculed and maligned in the later years of its existence before modern times saw its demise, was very necessary in the 19th century.
The first entry in the Watch Committee ledger is dated the 26th of March, 1858 and is revealing inasmuch as it is an authorisation for Superintendent Henry Saunders to receive weekly at the Bank the sums now listed for the Police wages account. It would seem that at that date, the Borough still ran with its original Town Police Force of a Superintendent at £1.18s 0d per week, one Sergeant at £1.5s 0d, and four Constables and one Supernumerary at £1 each. Superintendent Saunders was an ex-Metropolitan Policeman of 16 year's experience and he would have been well-used to the ups and downs of Police life, but whether or not that made him any better suited for the experiences he would have here seems doubtful. He was required to present the wage list weekly to the Mayor for his personal signature in his role as Chairman of the Watch Committee.
Also in that first minute was an order to the Superintendent that he station one of his Constables outside Trinity Church each Sunday between 7 and 8pm, to 'preserve order among unruly boys' and an item concerning the Police uniform, 'Resolved that the Council be recommended to procure a button die for the Police and that the device in such die will be the Arms of the Borough surrounded by the words 'BOROUGH OF MARGA TE'.
On the 29th of March the matter of uniform came up again. 'Ordered that the Sergeant's dress coat have two buttons on each cuff and two stripes on the right arm. That the cuffs on Police Constables be without ornamental buttons. That the collars of the Constables and Sergeant have the same badge as at present in Worsted Lace. That the Superintendent's coat be a Frock Coat. That all the hats be the same as the Metropolitan Police. That the Great Coats in future be without pout pockets. That newer and smaller capes be recommended for the use of the Police Constables'.
It would seem that once the lads had their shiny new buttons some of them were not averse to throwing their weight about just a little and it is plain in the instance about to be recounted that their judgement could at times be faulty. Given that the recruits for the new Borough Police were drawn from the local population, it is perhaps not too surprising that there seem to have been occasions when old personal enmities came to the fore and the chance to settle a score presented itself.
That could possibly have been the case in April, 1858, when a minute of the 12th records the following – ‘A complaint was made in writing by the Superintendent, in obedience to the instructions of the Magistrates, against P .C. Edward Young and P .C. Aaron Solly for hastily having seized a horse and cart and two sacks of Malt and taken the driver, Edmund Lawrence, into custody who, after two remands, was discharged by the Magistrates. After investigating the above complaint and hearing the statement and explanations of the Constables and Superintendent, it was moved and seconded that the consideration of the complaint be adjourned - carried. It was moved that the services of William Hobday be dispensed with after Saturday next'.
I believe that Hobday was the Supernumerary Constable mentioned previously. What are we to make of the situation regarding Young and Solly? It is clear that the Magistrates (who were also heavily represented on the Watch Committee) had no faith in the story as told by the two Constables, or in the ability or desire of their Superintendent to deal with the matter fairly. To have to order him to lodge a written complaint against his own men would seem a very serious step and here is that written complaint verbatim. "Gentlemen, I beg to report that on the 26th ultimo. Police Constables Edward Young and Aaron Solly brought a man named Edmund, Lawrence into custody to the Police Station and charged him on suspicion of having stolen Malt in his possession. He was taken before T. Blackburn and W. J. Gilder, Esqrs, the sitting Magistrates, who remanded him until the 27th ultimo. He was defended by Mr. Towne, Solicitor, and further remanded until the 30th ultimo and then discharged; there not being sufficient evidence to substantiate the above charge. The Magistrates severely censured the Constables for the manner in which they had acted in apprehending the man without sufficient grounds for so doing, and directed that a report of the case should be made to the Watch Committee. Signed Henry Saunders Superintendent". It would appear that following an adjournment this affair was simply 'swept under the carpet', as it is not mentioned again.
A minute of the 31st of May addressed a subject which would become a recurrent theme running through the Minute Book, that of alcohol. 'Ordered - That the visiting of Public Houses on Sunday for the purpose of ascertaining that they are closed to be confined to the Superintendent and Sergeant of Police'. A clearer indication that there was little faith in the sobriety of the Constables it would be hard to find, especially as this minute continues thus: - 'Ordered - That the Superintendent be directed to inform the Constables that a report to the Watch Committee of any of them being found in a Public House, will be followed by instant dismissal, except on duty'.
Right on cue a minute of the 28th of June found a Constable in trouble. This time there was no excuse for inaction on the part of Superintendent Saunders, who had the miscreant bang to rights. 'Superintendent Saunders handed in the following report relating to Police Constable Richard Crump, whom he had found drunk when coming off duty and stated that he was one of his best men, orderly and cleanly and that he had never seen him under the influence of Liquor before. - P .C. Crump stated, "On Monday was off duty. It was my birthday, I drank some ale with my friends, served some notices, drank some Gin, being unwell it overcame me, I did not go into a Public House".
Suspended for a fortnight (after an admonition from the Mayor) and ordered to bring in his clothing'. Despite the Superintendent's glowing testimonial as to the sterling qualities of his Constable, Crump was obviously a man who had a serious drink problem. Returned to duty after his suspension for the June incident, he was nevertheless back on the carpet before the Superintendent and Watch Committee in the November, as this minute of the 3rd relates. 'Committee met to investigate the charges against Police Constable Richard Crump for drunkenness and also disobedience of orders, which charges were entered in the Report Book and dated ' respectively the 2nd and 3rd inst. Police Constable Crump was called in and the entries in the Report Book having been read to him and having been asked what he had to say respecting the same, he replied that, "He had nothing more to say, than he beg leave to resign". It was moved and carried unanimously that the resignation of Police Constable Crump be accepted, and that his services immediately cease'.
Returning to the 20th of September, 1858, we find a most informative minute regarding the enlargement of the Borough Police by the addition of another Sergeant and four Constables. There were a total of 26 applications for the posts on offer. There were 6 applicants for the Sergeant's positions, the names of which follow: - Stephen Gibbs, Edward Young, Richard Crump, Edward Hogbin, Henry Hayward and Aaron Solly. Given the histories of Young, Crump and Solly their applications must have been made in hope, rather than expectation and in the end it was Stephen Gibbs who triumphed. As for the Constable's positions the applicants comprised:- Richard Ridnell, Michael Harlow, William Hobday, Richard Tritton, Charles Fegen, Joseph Hill, John Impett, Francis Cobb, John Palmer, Edward Saunders, Edward Hurst, William Sawyer, William Maxted, Henry Charrison, James Griggs, John Mills, Alfred Philpott, Henry Sturgess and Edward Mirams. Given subsequent events, we have to wonder just what the precepts for selection were, but the list was finally whittled down to four:- John Ridnell, Michael Harlow, John Mills and William Hobday, the dismissed Supernumerary Constable who now had a permanent position.
A minute of the 7th of March, 1859, tells us that Sergeants Gibbs and Shelvey had been awarded a 10/- gratuity each for 'vigilance and activity in detecting the perpetrators of a burglary at the house of Mr. Watson, in St. John's Road'. What this minute also infers is that Sergeant Shelvey was the original holder of that position. Following on the heels of that minute came one of March the 21st, in which our old friend Police Constable Young was reported by Councillor Chambers for allowing night soil (the contents of the chamber pot) to be deposited near Vicarage Place on the 15th and failing to report the incident in the Station Occurrence Book. On being questioned, Young denied it was night soil, claiming instead that it was dry ashes and that it had gone to the Brickfield. He was admonished to log such occurrences properly in future. And in the same minute Police Constable Alfred Douglas was the subject of a complaint of improper conduct by Alderman Mercer, during an incident when the officer had ordered him to move on when he was engaged in talking to two other gentlemen in the High Street. Douglas denied the charge and claimed he had spoken respectfully, and the incident was eventually smoothed over.
An entry in the Minute Book for the 4th of April, 1859, shows that it was not just Police Constable Young who was negligent in making correct reports regarding incidents. The same Councillor Chambers who had reported Constable Young for the 'night soil' incident also accused Constable John Mills of failing in his duty as far as the making of reports went. Mills was hauled over the coals when he was brought before the Watch Committee and reprimanded, he promising to be more correct in his reports in future. And speaking of Constable Young, who appears to have had the escapology skills of Houdini in dodging dismissal for his sadly lacking behaviour, he was in trouble again on the 4th of April. 'Superintendent Henry Saunders reported Police Constable Young for being in front of the Bar of the Brewer's Arms Public House on the 25th of March at 7.10pm while on duty - fined 2/6 and reprimanded informing him that he would be suspended for the next offence and probably discharged for the third'. It doesn't seem to have worried Young a great deal as a minute of the 15th of June reads thus: - 'Police Constable Edward Young having been reported by the Superintendent Henry Saunders to have been under the influence of drink at 6.30pm. On the 14th inst. it was resolved that he be suspended for a week'. Shades of the boozy Constable Crump in the story of Constable Young, who seems to have been completely useless, if a great survivor. And the name of Crump reared its head again in that minute of the 15th of June. 'Ordered - That the hats and boots worn by the late Police Constable Crump be given to him as they cannot be worn by any other Constable'. As strange as this may seem, Crump appears from another minute to have put himself forward for a job with the Fire Brigade, so the gear would have been very handy!
We tend to think that yobbish behaviour is a manifestation of modem times, but it has, of course, always been with us. That fact is illustrated by a minute of the 25th of July which indicates that even the 'Kings' of Margate were upset by the bad attitude of some of their 'subjects'. - 'Received a letter signed by Francis Cobb, Esq. and other householders of King Street, complaining of a nuisance committed by persons at the top of the court opposite Number 2, King Street, such as insulting the inhabitants and passers by and assembling on the footway. It was moved that the Superintendent's special attention be directed to the suppressing of the nuisance in King Street complained of as above'. As there seems to be no follow-on from this minute, we must assume that the Police did indeed move swiftly to stop the nuisance, a far cry from the situation of today when it is not the behaviour which is so different, but the will of authority to stamp on it!
Moving on to the September of 1859, a minute of the 19th sees the hopeless Constable Young in trouble yet again. 'Police Constable Edward Young reported by the Superintendent for being asleep while on duty at 2.30am. On the 13th of September inst. Ordered that Constable Edward Young attend the next meeting of the Watch Committee'. He did attend and was admonished for sleeping while on duty and fined 2/6. In that same minute of the 19th Constable Ridnell was in trouble which should have cost him his job, given the disciplinary guidelines laid down previously, but like Young he seemed to lead a charmed existence. 'The Superintendent reported Police Constable Ridnell for drinking a glass of beer at the London Tavern at 10.45pm. While on duty on the 13th inst. - cautioned to be more careful in the future'. What on earth were they telling him, that it was alright to have a drink in defiance of orders but that he mustn't get caught?
It is obvious that the enforcement of discipline in the Borough Police Force was nowhere near as strict as it should have been and despite the obvious failings of its Superintendent the Watch Committee must shoulder a lot of the blame for that. After all, it is no use laying down disciplinary guidelines unless they are enforced rigorously, but just look at the record of Police Constable Young as an example. It is not unfair to say that he was a total liability, yet he hung onto his job. And you have to ask yourself just what effect it had on public respect for the Force when a large proportion of its Constables regularly went about half-cut and slept on the job?
Superintendent Saunders did not have a large force under his command, and even given his other responsibilities with the town's Fire Brigade the situation should have been brought under tight control. But far from that being the case, things got steadily more chaotic and the first ten years of the existence of the Borough Police highlight far too many problems of drunkenness, inefficiency and lack of discipline. With hindsight, it is obvious that Superintendent Saunders was not really up to his task, and by the time 1867 rolled along that had become all too plain as events moved to their logical conclusion, but for now we shall return to the records of 1859 and pick up on the stories of just what our heroes were up to in those now far off times.
As the old song says, 'A Policeman's Lot Is Not A Happy One' and we have seen that was often very true, but one of the Watch Committee minutes for 1859 records an incident which comes across as highly amusing now, although I doubt that the unfortunate participants thought it quite so funny at the time. So step back with us now to the November of that year and read of the woes of Police Constable John Mills, who must have been wondering just what he had done to deserve such a special treat. Superintendent Saunders sets the scene for us in this minute of the 16th. 'I beg to report that on the 15th inst. I went in the company of Mr. Reeves, Sanitary Inspector, to a Slaughter House in King Street, belonging to Mr. Richards, and there found the carcass of a dead Bullock in a very decomposed state, which was seized by Mr. Reeves. Police Constable John Mills was placed in charge of it and directed by Mr. Reeves and myself to see It conveyed to the Town Yard and there to be deposited for the inspection of the Magistrates. About 7.30pm.
Police Constable Mills returned and stated that he had lost possession of the Bullock. That they had stopped on the hill in Mill Lane to give the horse a blow and he had walked on to open the gates for them, during which time they had escaped with the cart and contents. Police Constable Alfred Douglas had been previously sent to Police Constable Mills at the Town Yard to tell him to shoot the contents of the cart in the yard and return with it to take the remaining portion of the Bullock from the Slaughter House to the yard. The Constables went in search of Mr. Reeves, during which time the parties had returned to King Street and removed the whole, which was afterwards traced by Police Constable Douglas to a stable in Mr. Hudson's premises, in Long Mill Lane. The case was brought before the Mayor and Bench of Magistrates on the 16th inst., who considered there had been great carelessness on the part of Police Constable John Mills, and considered it necessary to suspend him from duty for a month'. Given the astonishing leeway given to the awful antics of Constable Young, it seems that poor old Mills must have embarrassed the wrong people, for a minute of the 17th records the fact that not only was he admonished for 'mislaying' the Bullock and suspended for a month for 'neglecting his duty', but that he was also warned that in the instance of any further complaint he would be dismissed the Force!
A rather amazing feature of this bizarre incident is that they had actually carted one half of a stinking, decomposing and probably maggot-ridden Bullock from King Street, up the High Street to Mill Lane in order to get it to the Town Yard, and it was a mercy that it was November and not August when a swarm of flies would have accompanied the cart! What a duty to draw for poor old Mills and our sympathies must lie with him in what would have made a good script for a scene in a 'Carry On' film, but the villains had run rings around him and now he was suspended without pay. But before we get carried away with ourselves about Mills' rotten luck (and rotten is the right word in this instance!), he almost certainly had another source of income, as we shall see shortly when we come across him again, and a paragon of virtue he wasn't! And as for the Bullock, by the time they had finished bickering about it the thing was too far gone to move again, so it was buried where it lay!
A minute of the 2nd of April, 1860, reminds us that the Policemen were out in all weathers. 'Resolved unanimously that a discretionary power be given to the Superintendent to relieve Police Constable Solly from his duty for a week, or if necessary a fortnight, to enable him to recruit his health, it having been mentioned that Police Constable Solly was suffering from Lung disease, in consideration of his long service'. It is plain from this minute that Police Constable Solly was one of the men absorbed into the new Borough Police Force from the old Town Constabulary, and Lung disease, whether of a Bronchial nature from exposure to the elements or from a Tubercular source, would have been very common in those days. And at the close of April, a minute of the 30th records that there had been some talk about the Policemen's silver buttons based, one suspects, on cost grounds. 'The Committee recommends that black braid and black buttons be substituted for the present silver and bright buttons on the Superintendent's coat, and that dark buttons of a larger size be used in place of the bright ones on the Constable's great coats'.
And the 16th of May saw the name of Police Constable John Ridnell brought to the fore again. He seems to have been a man with a sharp tongue who was not afraid to assert his authority, much to the resentment of some of the townspeople, and yet again the Superintendent was forced to give a glowing testimonial of one of his men. 'A letter was read from Miss Eliza Peal, Number 8, Lower Marine Terrace, complaining of violent and abusive conduct and language on the part of Police Constable John Ridnell. The case was investigated and, it appearing that Ridnell had, to a certain extent, lost his temper and used inappropriate terms, he was admonished to be more guarded for his conduct in the future, the Superintendent having reported favourably on his general conductor Ridnell must have breathed a sigh of relief, but on the 28th of May, in a minute recording that the Police had been requested by the Pier & Harbour Company to add the Pier and Jetty to the Station and Fort patrol beats respectively, his name appears again in a complaint by Mr. Rapson, Tailor. ‘A complaint was read of Mr. Rapson's that Police Constable Ridnell had acted arbitrarily in ordering a customer of his to remove his cart, which was causing an obstruction. This was considered and it appeared that the cart had been left unattended from half-past 7pm until 9pm. It was resolved unanimously that Police Constable Ridnell had not exceeded his duty'.
A protracted battle for Superintendent Saunders, which he appears to have failed to take seriously initially, began on the 7th of August, 1860, as the following minute records. 'A letter from Miss Plummer respecting the stand for Bath Chairs on The Fort referred to the Committee was considered. Resolved unanimously - that a stand for Bath Chairs be permitted at the South End of Fort Paragon, facing Zion Place'. But the Bath Chair operators obviously preferred their old stand opposite the Fort Lodge Hotel, in front of the green, as this minute of nearly 6 weeks later indicated on the 17th of September. 'The attention of the Superintendent of Police was called to the Bath Chairs continuing to stand in front of Miss Plummer's house, and he was instructed to use his efforts to remove them'. Another fortnight passed and the Watch Committee were a bit cross with Saunders, as this minute of the 1st of October tells us. 'Resolved unanimously - that the Superintendent of Police be instructed to use his best exertions to remove the stand for Bath Chairs from the front of Aldby Place to the neighbourhood of the Pump, behind Thome House and facing the "Rose in June" public house'. It would seem that the residents of Fort Paragon were no keener to have the Bath Chairs than Miss Plummer, and the decision had been taken to site the stand out of view in Trinity Square, which cannot have greatly pleased their operators!
We now return to that illustrious name featured with Police Constable Solly (he of the diseased Lungs) in that minute of April the 12th, 1858, and one that seems to have been omnipresent thereafter, that of Police Constable Edward Young. It will be recalled that the Superintendent had then been forced to write a complaint about the behaviour of these 2 Constables, and a minute of the 13th of October, 1860 saw Young back in the picture. 'A complaint having been made to the Committee that Police Constable Young had been found intoxicated on duty, he was called in and examined and, there being some extenuating circumstances, he was admonished and warned that for the next offence he would, in all likelihood, be dismissed the Force'. Yet just a few months later Young was at it again! A minute of the 23rd of January, 1861, reads as follows, 'The report of Superintendent Saunders that Police Constable Young was guilty of drunkenness and cadging on the 27th of December last was considered. Resolved - That Police Constable Young be suspended for one month and reprimanded'.
We now move to the 22nd of April, 1861, to meet an old friend! 'I beg to report that on the 17th inst. a Prostitute, named Jane Cock, was apprehended by Police Constable John Ridnell and charged with stealing from a sailor, named Henry Waller, a purse containing £3 in gold and some silver. At the Station House a note was found on her, written and addressed to her by Police Constable John Mills. The above named Jane Cock now stands committed to take her trial at the next Dover Sessions. I questioned the Constable as to his acquaintance with her, and he did not deny knowing her but said that he did not know she was a Prostitute, but was aware that she was a Gay Girl. From enquiries made in the neighbourhood of King Street, I find that Police Constable Mills has been acquainted with her for upwards of 12 months. Signed, Superintendent Henry Saunders. It was resolved that Police Constable Mills be dismissed the Force'. It would seem that there may have been a little enmity between Mills and Ridnell, who would have been well aware of the liaison between Mills and Jane Cock, and if that was indeed the case then Mills did not have long to wait to see the bumptious Ridnell in trouble!
On the 19th of August, 1861, Superintendent Saunders was back before the Watch Committee with more bad news for them to digest, and it would seem that his previous defence of the attitude of Constable Ridnell was now haunting him. 'It was made known to the Committee that Police Constables John Ridnell and Thomas Jarman have been served with notices of action to be tried in the County Court on the 26th of August, the claims in each case for trespass and false imprisonment are £24.14s.8d. Plaintiff William Wales, Bath Road, Beer Seller, Plaintiff's Attorney J. Towne. And inasmuch as the Committee believe and are of the opinion that they only exercised their proper duty according to their judgement, when requested by the Complainant, Frederick Stickells, and finding in the Police Clauses Act:- Clause 9, Cap. 89 of the 10th/11th Victoria - power to defend any Constable in the execution of his duty, we urgently recommend the same to the notice of the Council, trusting they will grant to the Watch Committee funds sufficient for legal aid and protection in these actions'. Brave words from the Superintendent, and they served their purpose as funds to provide legal aid were forthcoming, but the outcome was a disaster as the next minute from the Committee of the 31st of August details. 'Gentlemen, Wales versus Ridnell and another. I am desired by the Superintendent to report to you the resolution in this case, which was tried at Ramsgate on Tuesday last before Mr. Harwood and a Jury. By arrangement Mr. Gore appeared with me for the defence, and supported by argument the legal objection I took to the, absence of any notice of the action. This objection, however, was overruled by the Judge and then addressed the Jury in mitigation of damages, who formed a verdict for the Plaintiff with damages of £ 10. Before the rising of the Court notice of appeal was given and I have every confidence that if the appeal were carried out it would be successful. Yours, Herring'.
This optimism was totally misplaced. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and the advice of a legal expert, Mr. Poland was sought. A minute of the 4th of September reads thus: - ' The opinion of Mr. Poland relative to the appeal in the case of Wales versus Ridnell and Jarman having been received it was resolved - That it is inexpedient to proceed further in the matter but that the costs of the proceedings already incurred be paid out of the Borough Fund, subject to the approval of the Council, James Standring, Mayor'. A subsequent minute of the 16th read as follows:- 'The Mayor reported that he had reported the amount of fine and costs incurred in the case of Wales versus Ridnell and Jarman at the last meeting of the Council, and that the Council had ordered the sum amounting to £21. 1s. 4d. to be paid forthwith'. And there was another entry for that same date regarding the behaviour of Police Constable Everett. 'The Superintendent reported that Police Constable Everett had absented himself from his beat for three-quarters of an hour, and was found asleep and drunk although he had charge of the Police Station which had at the time three prisoners in it. Resolved - That Police Constable Everett be suspended for one week and cautioned against a recurrence of delinquency under pain of dismissal from the Force'.
A minute of the 26th of May, 1862, told of trouble with donkey handlers. 'A letter was received from residents of Upper and Lower Marine Terrace, "complaining of the Donkey Stand near the Iron Bridge and the language used by the boys and other persons in charge of them, and infringement of the Bye-Laws by persons driving, barrows on the footpath in that neighbourhood, to the great inconvenience of Residents and passers by. It was Resolved that the Superintendent of Police be instructed to attend to the same, and as far as possible prevent any breach of the Bye-Laws'. A minute of the 9th of June details the rather half-hearted response by authority:- 'Resolved unanimously - That the Borough Surveyor place a black painted line on the walls of the road under the Iron Bridge, .as decided upon, such line being the limits above which the Donkey Stand will not be allowed. It is hard to see what effect this would have had on the bad language complained of, or on the speeding barrow-boys terrorising pedestrians, but black line it was!
After a Boatman named William Jarrett had lost his life while attempting to land at the Jetty from a lugger, due to the apparent removal of a portion of the deck planking, a minute of the 30th of November, 1863, seems to apportion part of the blame to the Police. 'The Committee directed the Superintendent to desire the Police when they observed any place in a condition likely to prove dangerous to life or limb to call the attention of the proper parties to it, and requests them to provide a sufficient protection for the Public'. Presumably, part of the deck was under repair and somebody had removed the barriers without the Police raising the issue. Given the fact that the Pier & Harbour Company had a permanent staff of some size, and its own Policemen, this criticism would seem a little misplaced.
1864 saw two escapes of prisoners from the stalwarts under the command of Saunders. One of the 15th of August saw two of them apparently outwitted by a shrewd lady. 'The report of Superintendent Saunders of the escape of Mrs. Chandler, taken on a Warrant for attempting to murder her husband, having been read, and it appearing to the Committee that Constables Hobday and Horn had been neglectful of their duty, it was resolved that they, under the particular circumstances of the case, be only admonished by the Chairman and warned to be more careful in the future. The Superintendent to endeavour to procure the recapture of the said Mrs. Chandler'. And that December saw the lads lose another prisoner, as this minute of the 12th informs us. 'Superintendent Saunders reported that Robert Vanheer, the prisoner on remand for burglary at Mr. Robinson's, affected his escape from the cells. It was resolved that the Superintendent be instructed to offer a reward for the apprehension of the prisoner'. For once, it doesn't seem to have been the fault of the Police Officers but rather the builders, constrained no doubt by lack of funding, as usual. 'In reference to the report of the Superintendent of Police upon the escape of the prisoner, Vanheer, from the Police Cells, it does not appear to the Watch Committee on investigation that any blame is to be attached to the Police, but the Committee are of the opinion that the construction of the iron bars over the cells very much conduced to the prisoner's escape. Such fault has since been remedied by order of this Committee'.
Another mundane entry relating to boots appeared on the 22nd of May, 1865. 'An application was received from the late Police Constable Harty that he might be allowed to retain his boots - Application granted'. And on the 5th of March, 1866, we find a rather telling indication of things to come in a minute which records that Councillor Osborne had been delegated by the Watch Committee to visit the Police Station, presumably with the intention of keeping an eye on things there and, hopefully, to spark a little respect and discipline, which seems to have been lacking. Also in that same minute, it was recorded that Superintendent Saunders had been appointed as Inspector of Common Lodging Houses, and that he report to the Watch Committee those used by Tramps and Travellers, he to use his judgement in deciding which fell within that category. And if 1864, 1865 and 1866 had been reasonably quiet and well-behaved, the long-overdue bursting of the bubble of the many years of indiscipline was ready to take place, and 1867 was the year it happened!
In February, 1867, it was the Superintendent on the carpet before the Watch Committee, and although the minute of the 18th is not specific, I rather fancy that the incident referred to stems from Saunders inspecting one of those 'Common Lodging Houses' and being a little indelicate in the choice of his words. 'A letter from H. B. Harrison, Esq., complaining of the Police Superintendent having insulted Mrs. Harrison having been read at the meeting of the 11th, a Deputation was appointed to wait upon Mr. Harrison and enquire. The Mayor reported that the Deputation had waited upon the Complainant, and that from conversation with him they felt that moral doubt existed that the lady had been unduly treated by the Superintendent'. That seems to clearly exonerate Saunders, but you get the feeling that he had outstayed his welcome here, as the rider to the minute indicates. 'Resolved - That the Superintendent be informed of the same and severely reprimanded and cautioned that upon occurrence again of any act calculated to weaken his influence, he will probably be called upon to resign'. A bit of hypocrisy here, isn't there? Found innocent for the public consumption and castigated severely behind the scenes, Saunders had almost certainly been a bit intemperate with his language - perhaps he had learned it from Police Constable Ridnell! And this incident can only further have weakened his already fragile grip on discipline and, no doubt, on his own perception of his future prospects here.
By September of that year the disciplinary code appears to have been in a state of collapse. A minute of the 24th of September is a litany of drunkenness and indiscipline. 'Several complaints having been received of the inefficiency of the Police Force - Police Constable Harlow complained of for allowing a person given into his custody (at the Hall-by-the-Sea during a disturbance) on the night of Saturday the 21st inst. to escape. The same Constable charged with being found asleep at the Police Station while in charge on the morning of Sunday the 22nd inst. The same Constable charged with refusing to go to the assistance of a well-dressed man reported to be drunk and helpless with considerable property about his person, found by the Coastguard at 2.30am. Sunday the 22nd inst. and reported at the Station to Police Constable Harlow and Police Constable Douglas to be lying on the grass at Buenos Ayres covered with the awning of their boat, where he remained until further application at 9.30am when Sergeant Shelvey found him insensible and brought him to the Police Station - Police Constable Harlow to be suspended for one month'. Quite a shocking state of affairs, wasn't it? Police Constable Douglas was charged with the same offence, same time, same place and he too was suspended for a month. Two Constables down, and it got even worse!
'Police Constable Everett charged with being asleep in the Station with Harlow on the morning of Sunday and being generally deficient in the requisites of a Policeman - Resigned, with leave to remain a month to suit himself. What a wonderful situation to find themselves in! With two useless Constables suspended for a month the Watch Committee were now forced to offer an olive branch of sorts to another they had just castigated as being totally deficient as a Policeman! And that wasn't quite the end of the tale of woe either, as that minute of the 24th finished thus:- 'The Committee, having investigated the several complaints and heard a number of witnesses, is strongly of the opinion that there has not been much vigilant supervision and attention on the part of the Superintendent Saunders, as the Committee expect to find in the Chief of their Police, and unless there is a great improvement in the discipline and management of the Force he will be called upon to resign'.
Not much comfort there for Saunders, who must have realised the hopelessness of his situation, and it doesn't seem that his Constables cared much about either his future or their being suspended, as this minute of the 14th of October tells us. 'A report having been made that Police Constable Douglas was drunk on The Parade this morning at 6 o'clock, which report was confirmed by Police Constable Jarman, then acting as Sergeant, and who stated that Police Constable Harlow raised him from the ground and assisted in bringing him to the Station. Resolved - that Police Constable Douglas be asked to resign'. What an absolute shambles it had become, but there was even worse to follow for the town and it’s Police!
It had become clear that there was some trouble with the Police Superannuation Fund, which paid the pensions of retired officers, and that trouble went right to the top of the Force as the Superintendent himself appears to have been responsible for its accountancy. In the same minute of the 14th of October which saw the demise of Police Constable Douglas, we read the following: - 'Resolved - that the Sub-Committee appointed at the last meeting to investigate the deficiency in the Superannuation Fund are not being yet prepared with a report, this and the further complaint of a report of Misconduct against the Superintendent of Police be adjourned to a special meeting. Resolved - That Superintendent Saunders be desired to pay the Balance of the Superannuation Fund into the hands of the Treasurer forthwith'. So there it was, a clear-cut case of the town's Police Superintendent being caught red-handed with his fingers in the till! Perhaps he had despaired of things here and decided that he was owed a little gratuity, who can say? What we can tell the reader is that there was £25.17s.11d. missing, not much by today's standards but that figure then was a substantial amount and would have paid a lot of pensions.
Superintendent Saunders had done himself no favours with his own behaviour, and was obviously about to be shown the door, but the last item on that minute of the 14th of October is absolutely beyond belief in its banality, and you have to wonder ; exactly just what the Watch Committee were playing at. Having told Police Constable Everett that he was useless, and he having taken advantage of the option of that month's notice offered to him, the minute now confirmed that, '...he was to consider himself discharged at this time, and that the Superintendent be instructed to engage him as a Supernumerary temporarily'. So a man who was about to be sacked was forced to employ a man who just had been, the situation was completely unsatisfactory
By mid-November, 1867, the situation was lurching towards its inevitable climax. A minute of the 12th makes very gloomy reading: - 'Superintendent Saunders having reported that he had failed to obtain the money required to make up the deficiency in the Superannuation Fund, the report of the Sub-Committee upon the state of the Superannuation Fund was received and ordered to be entered in the minutes - Resolved that Superintendent Saunders be called upon forthwith to give three month's notice to resign his appointment as Inspector of Police'. That he did in a letter of the 25th. To close our tale, Police Constable Hobday is noted on the 12th of December as again being reprimanded for, being found intoxicated while on duty' - a fitting end to a sad decade!!
TO BE CONTINUED.