Joining the police: First Beat at Stourpaine, Dorset

As I would expect the further back I go the harder it is to find information. Nonetheless, it is surprising what can be found, a useful article from 1878 tells us something about Grandad Beck’s childhood.  We can only guess at why he became a policemen but we do know that this was a good move and that the job was to suit him.  Having written about him as a Superintendent, it is harder to imagine the raw 19-year-old starting his training as a Constable at Dorchester Police Station.

Childhood and education

Grandad Beck was born and spent his childhood in the village of Buckland Newton, Dorset.  He would have been educated with his siblings in the local village school.  The Elementary Education Act 1880 set compulsory attendance from 5 to 10 years. Children between 11 and 13 were allowed to be employed providing they had a certificate to show they had reached the educational standard.  Buckland Newton’s school was built in 1857 and had an average attendance of 107 pupils in 1881. The school mistress was Mrs Mary Ann Smith. (Kelly’s Directory 1889). In 1878 Grandad Beck’s father (Eli) won two prizes, awarded by the Labourers Improvement Society for regularly sending his children to school and Sunday school.   Eli and Frances Beck had three children in 1878 Charles aged 7 years, Olive aged 4 years and Grandad Beck (Arthur Percy) aged 3 years. Therefore this would have referred to Charles’ school attendance.

Newspaper article
Labourers Improvement Society: Western Gazette 6 Sept 1878

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Arthur Percy Beck married Rebecca Illes at Buckland Newton

Rebecca Illes and Arthur Percy Beck married at Buckland Newton Church, in Dorset on Wednesday 26th August 1896.  Grandad Beck’s father Eli and his sister Olive signed the church register.  I don’t have any early photographs of Rebecca, the ones below were taken in the early 1900s.

A man and women, seated
Grandad Beck and Rebecca

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A Son and a Daughter born at Lyme Regis Police Station

Grandad Beck and Rebecca Illes married at Buckland Newton on 26 Aug 1896.  Grandad Beck had just been moved to Lyme Regis, Dorset as a 21-year-old police constable.  At 35 years old Rebecca must have been anxious to start a family but it was 2 years later before she announced the happy news.

Lionel Howard Beck

On Tuesday 21 March 1899 Lionel Howard was born at Lyme Regis police station.  Three days later he was baptised by Rev. William Jacob, the church register notes this was a private baptism.  A private baptism suggests that Lionel was unwell and the baptism took place at the police station.  Rebecca would have been 37 years old, which would have been considered old for a first baby.

Anouncement of Birth
Bridport News 31 March 1899

Despite a difficult start in life, Lionel continued to thrive.  I believe this is a photograph of Lionel.  It is on the first page of one of the ‘best’ albums and if you look careful at the photograph I showed at Christmas you will see this photograph on the piano.

Baby photograph
Lionel Howard Beck C1899

Laura May Beck

Two years later May, my grandmother was born on Friday 10th May 1901 also at Lyme Regis police station.

Announcement from Newspaper
Bridport News 24 May 1901

She was baptised Laura May on 14 July at St. Michael’s church Lyme Regis by the same vicar who had baptised her brother. This photograph is most likely of Lionel and May, a watering can has featured in a photograph of Lionel before.

Young boy standing besides baby in pram
Lionel and May C1901

In an era that children were often named for relatives or Godparents, I can find no mention of the names chosen by Grandad Beck and Rebecca.  May was most likely chosen for the month she was born in.

Family life

I wonder how much time Grandad Beck had to spend with his children when they were young.  As a police constable, he would have often worked 15-20 hours a day without a break, seven days a week.  If a prisoner needed to go to Dorchester goal then the constable would walk the nine miles to Bridport, catch a train to Dorchester, after handing the prisoner over, he would return the same way.  Often with the prospect of going back on duty when he arrived back at Lyme Regis.  Grandad Beck told the Bridport News, on his retirement, that he had done this duty a number of times during his time at Lyme Regis.  As the family lived in the police station I think that Grandad Beck would have found it possible to at least see his wife and children for a few minutes in-between duties.

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References
Bridport News: 31 March 1899 p8; 24 May 1901; 19 July 1935

Lyme Regis – Attempted Suicide and Overcrowded Steamboats

Grandad Beck and his wife Rebecca lived in the police station at Lyme Regis from 1896 to 1903. The station was in Horse Street, renamed Coombe Street in about 1901. This is now a private house. Sergeant Henry Battrick with wife his Mary, Son William aged 9 and Daughter Elizabeth 8 also lived in the station in 1901.

In 1902 the Standing Committee approved repairs to several police stations around the county including Lyme Regis.  Grandad Beck and the family may have benefited from the £25 10 shillings spent on the repairs.  The contract was awarded to A.O.F. Wisecombe.

1902 was also notable for the coronation of  King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 9 August.  The coronation had to be postponed from 26 June as the King was ill and required surgery.  The Chief Constable authorised  £25 for decorating the 17 police stations in the county for the occasion.

As a Police Constable, there are fewer reports in the newspapers for me to follow Grandad Beck’s career.  The only one I found of him, giving evidence in court, was in 1900.

The Dorset Standing Joint Committee spent considerable time discussing the monitoring of passenger numbers on the steamboats.  Though I can find no mention of him, I am sure that Grandad Beck would have been one of the P.C.’s deployed to count the people, at the Cobb, Lyme Regis.  I thought you would enjoy a couple of photographs taken aboard the steamboat, though these are most likely from when the family lived at Beaminster in the 1920s.  There is a link at the bottom of the page to more photographs of the steamboat Victoria at Lyme Regis.

Women seated on a boat
Rebecca Beck aboard the steamboat c1920

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