At the beginning of a New Year, many of us think about booking our holidays, I am sure the Grandad Beck was no different. Up until 1909 the only time he had off was 5 days annual holiday. One year the family went to Bowleaze Cove near Weymouth. I know this because Lionel and May very kindly built a sandcastle. Little did they know how useful this would be over 100 years later. Thank you Granny!
“Grandad was the first plain-clothes policeman in Dorset” my father informed me. Grandad Beck obtained the rank of Sergeant in 1908, 6 months before being made Detective Sergeant.
A descended to the training sergeant at the time, gave me this account of Grandad Beck’s promotion. “Because my Great Grandfather was the Training Sergeant he was aware of what was required and with the increase in crime, he and the top Senior ranks decided they needed a senior PC to help deal with the serious crime of the day. They looked at all the senior PC’S and quickly worked out that “Percy” would be ideal. He was promoted to Sergeant straight away to make his job easier for all, even though it would have had a small financial impact on the Force, as now there was an extra Sergeant.” Ian Swatridge.
As Dorsetshire’s first and the only Detective between 1908 and June 1915, Grandad Beck was based at Headquarters in Dorchester. He travelled around the county at the request of divisional superintendents to assist in more complex or longer investigations.
Thank you to all my readers, this is my 52rd post, I find it hard to believe that my first post was a year ago. Through this blog I have ‘met’, family members I didn’t know existed, descendants of Grandad Beck’s colleagues and friends that have enjoyed my scribbles. I can’t thank you enough for all your kind comments. I hope you will all keep reading as I write the last few posts of Grandad Beck’s life as a policeman.
To celebrate the New Year I thought I would give you a challenge. Can you help me identify May and Lionel in these school photographs. The first two are taken at Broadwey School. From 1904-1908 the family lived at 6 Prospect Place, Upwey. At first I wondered why the children went to Broadwey school when there was a school in Upwey. Then I found that the police house was in a lane just off the main Dorchester to Weymouth road and between the two schools. Lionel was born in March 1899 and May is two years younger born in 1901.
I have included some photographs of the family to help identify the Children.
I thought I would let Lionel and May wish you a Happy Christmas, can you hear Lionel on the violin accompanied by May on the piano coming to you through the years? This photograph must have been taken over 100 years ago, around 1910. The room is the same one as in the photograph here and is at Overton Villas in Dorchester. Christmas Bells is a one of Ezra Read’s ‘Descriptive Fantasias’ which was popular with music teachers at the time. Continue reading “Christmas Bells to wish you a Happy Christmas”
“A Policeman’s Lot is Not a Happy One” was a popular song from The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert & Sullivan, since 1880. I am sure Grandad Beck, heard this and chuckled, he loved his job and working in Dorset but others were not so happy.
Grandad Beck was promoted to Sergeant in 1908, while the family were living at Upwey. As a police constable he would have been working long hours, 7 days a week, the family must have only seen him for short periods each day. While his promotion would not have effected the hours he worked, it would have meant a modest increase in pay. Police Officers had 5 days annual holiday, for Lionel and May it must have been strange to see their father out of uniform. The newspapers reports of the Joint Standing Committee meetings (1909-1914), shows how this was all to change. The police Weekly Rest Day Act of 1910 was to give all policemen 1 day off per week, this was voluntary for the police forces until becoming mandatory on 26th July 1914, just before war was declared.
The request for policemen to assist the military in 1910 came as Dorset, along with other force, were having problems retaining and recruiting men. Young men, including Great Uncle Ernest, were joining the Metropolitan Police as they paid more. First a report about mounted police, which gives me an excuse to show you this photograph of Grandad Beck again. This was taken in the 1920s when he was a Superintendent at Beaminster.
I have written before about the Dorset Police Athletic Club, when in 1935 Grandad Beck, as vice-president, said he was the last serving member of the club. He had been an active member from the first meeting in 1896. Though he enjoyed the sports and supported them, the only reference to him taking part was when he mentioned the cycle races and loosing. During the years he was a Detective at Dorchester (1908-1915) it is likely that he took the photographs that the family still have. In this post I will share some of these photographs with you.
Weymouth had a separate Borough Police Force at the time and joined the Dorset Constabulary sports day. I understand that on occasion the event may have been held in Weymouth.
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.
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”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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