The Wilfully and Malice Murder of Winifred Mitchell

As a detective, the murder of a young women in 1913 was Grandad Beck’s highest profile case.  This case was noted on his Obituary, September 1947, in the same year Mr. Beck was appointed to the Merit Class.  Grandad Beck, Mr Plummer, Deputy Chief Constable, Superintendent Ricketts, and Sergeant Stockley were commended for their presentation of the case in a letter from the Public Prosecutor, Charles W. Matthews.

Policeman with shot gun
P.C. Stockley: The policeman who discovered the body (Western Gazette 23 May 1913)

There are numerous accounts of this murder in contemporary newspapers from all over the UK and more recently in books and on the Internet.  The Western Gazette included photographs, which was unusual. The illustrations used in this post are taken from the on-line British Newspaper Archive.

The murder reads like an Agatha Christie without Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot! Continue reading “The Wilfully and Malice Murder of Winifred Mitchell”

Photographs, Highdays and Holidays

During the years that he lived in Dorchester (1908-1915) Grandad Beck took lots of photographs.  From reports of court cases we know that as a detective he took photographs as part of his job.  We don’t know if his interest in photography preceded his promotion.  We do have lots of photographs taken by Grandad Beck of his family, many of them from the early 1900s. Today I thought I would share some of these family photographs, some of these may have been taken at Upwey before the family moved to Dorchester.

Between the family home and the police station in Dorchester, Dorset, is the earthworks Maumbury Rings.  This was originally a Neolithic Henge, modified by the Romans into an amphitheatre and then used as an artillery fort in the English Civil War.  The people of Dorchester use this area for recreation and picnics. While researching, I found that from 1908-1913 the archaeologist Harold St George Gray excavated the rings.  He sank about 45 shafts, up to 36 feet deep, into the chalk.  This probably explains the structure visible on the right of this photograph

Family photograph taken on steep grass bank
Photograph taken at Maumbury Rings, Dorchester. The couple on right is unknown, Lionel, May and Rebecca

Continue reading “Photographs, Highdays and Holidays”

3rd Dorset Regiment: Mutiny and fatal shooting at Upwey

On night of Sunday 28th November 1914 there was a mutiny at Upwey, near Weymouth. Private Wallace Williams of the 3rd Dorset Regiment was killed and Private Lane injured.  The papers report that Grandad Beck attended the Coroner’s court but gives us no information about his involvement.  The civil courts part in this was to ascertain how the death happened and if it was a criminal offence.  The war had started 4 months before.  I am sure that the investigating the incident had to be handled with care, as it involved both the military and civilian police.  It is likely that Grandad Beck, as Dorset’s only detective was involved in the investigation and liaising with the Dorset Regiment.  This may have helped to secure his promotion the following year, to Superintendent of Blandford Forum, a town with a military base nearby.

I know it is not really relevant but I couldn’t resist another picture of Lionel in uniform take in 1917.

Young man in uniform
Lionel, Grandad Beck’s son in the uniform of the Royal North Devon Hussars C. April 1917

Continue reading “3rd Dorset Regiment: Mutiny and fatal shooting at Upwey”

Promoted from Detective Sergeant to Superintendent

Grandad Beck was promoted to Superintendent of Blandford Division on 16 June 1915.  The local newspapers were listing the men killed or wounded in the fighting in the Great War.  Prior to being promoted he was a Detective Sergeant based at Dorchester.  It is a possibility that the promotion came very quickly, the day before Superintendent Ricketts had died.  Rickett’s had been Superintendent of Wimborne Division.  The Chief Constable, Captain Granville must have been very quick to move Superintendent Sims based at Blandford to Wimborne and promote Grandad Beck.  This was a significant promotion and was to be his last. This not only entailed moving to Blandford but he would have had a significant pay rise.  Something his wife would have appreciated, costs were rising fast, as I wrote about in last weeks post.

Two Police Superintendents
Superintendent James Sims and Superintendent (Grandad) Arthur Percy Beck

Move to Blandford Forum

Grandad Beck’s days would have been taken with up passing over his current duties and learning his new ones.  For his wife, Rebecca this would have entailed packing up the house and, I assume, moving at very short notice.  I am sure Rebecca was delighted with the promotion but must have had misgivings about the move to a new town.  The house they lived in at Dorchester had 6 rooms including the kitchen.  The neighbours were from different trades, (1911 census) none of them were Policemen, though they were not far from the Police station and other policemen lived nearby.  Blandford was very different because they were moving into the police station. Police stations at this time, housed the men and their families, any visiting policemen, the offices and other rooms used by the police, prison cells and stables.  At Blandford, the 1911 census lists a Sergeant and 2 Constables with their wives and families besides the Superintendent.  Superintendent Sims lists 7 rooms occupied by himself and his family, suggesting the accommodation was slightly larger.

A young man with a large bicyle
Lionel Howard Beck C.1915

Lionel and May

Lionel would have been 16 years of age and I would assume working.  We know he moved with the family, so he must have had to change job.  When he enrolled in the Army 2 years later he was working in a shop, so it is possible this was his job in Dorchester.  Given the circumstance of Grandad Beck’s promotion he must have had to hand his notice in very quickly, lets hope it was a job he was glad to leave.

A young girl dressed in her best cloths
May Beck C1915

May would have been 14 years old and may have still been at School.  In 1911 census is seems usual for 13 year old daughters, including those of policemen, to be still at school.  Girls 14 and older, living in the same area as the family, were usually listed without any occupation.  As the war progressed girls and young women were taking jobs to help replace the men that were called up.  We believe that May worked in Blandford telephone exchange at the end of the war.  Whether May was at School, at home or working the move to Blandford would have been an upheaval and she would have had to leave her friends behind, but it could have been exciting as well.  New places to explore and people to meet for both Lionel and May.

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Ref: Bridport News 19 July 1935