Farewell to Bridport’s Police Chief

At midnight on Saturday 20th July 1935 Supt. Beck retired, after 40 years in the Dorset Constabulary, 16 of those years in the Bridport Division. Supt. Beck, who was approaching his 60th Birthday, was the longest serving member of the Constabulary at that time.

During the last few weeks of July, thanks were give to Supt. Beck at both the Bridport Borough and Division Courts, a reception was held in the borough gardens Bridport hosted by the Mayor and a photo was taken with all the police officers in the Division. The Bridport News and Western Gazette both reported on the speeches of thanks at the Courts and the reception given by the Mayor.

In later years Auntie Jo (Grandad Beck’s second wife) remembered this time with affection and pride in her husband’s achievements. As a child I can remember Auntie Jo showing me the items he was presented with, laid out on a table. After Grandad Beck’s retirement, they moved to Longfleet, Poole, where they were to spend the rest of their days together.

All the policemen of the Bridport Division, (this includes Bridport, Beaminster, Lyme Regis and surrounding villages) gathered in the Borough garden to have the picture taken to mark Supt. Beck’s retirement. 19 PC’s, 3 Sergeants, Supt. Beck and Mrs Beck.

Click on photo for more information.Supt. Beck's retirement with all police officers in Bridport Division 1935

The Bridport News considered the event important enough to send a reporter to interview Supt. Beck at his home Peel House, St Andrews Road in Bridport. The reporter writes that he found getting information out of Supt. Beck difficult, he was unwilling to speak about himself. The reporter was so impressed that he writes Reticence, which has been one of the characteristics of this estimable officer and if ever I have a close secret to share I shall confide in Supt. Beck.

Bridport Divisional Court Sessions
Bridport Borough Police Court the senior Magistrate, Mr H. S. Suttill lead the tributes paid to Supt. Beck on his most satisfactory and exemplary career. Genial and courteous and always ready to be of help when required, Supt. Beck had conducted the police proceedings at their Court with scientific care and clearness. “For my part,” said Mr. Suttill, “I appreciate his work very much and I shall miss him greatly when he is gone. He has my best wishes for a very happy retirement.”

Mr J. Roper on behalf of the solicitor’s added his “little word”. “I am sure this hall will not seem at all like home without the Superintendent,” he said. “We have had our little differences in the past, but one does know he has been an exceedingly efficient and assiduous police officer, sometimes to my confusion.” (Laughter). He did not know what Supt. Beck intended to do to occupy his time. “What I should really like, he said “is that he should remain here as a licensed victualler, or that he should be a motor driver. (Laughter). I do not know what his intentions are, but perhaps he will come up and see us sometimes.” (Laughter).

The Superintendent of the Special Constables Major G. M. Dammers and Mr. Austen Whetham the Magistrates’ Clerk added their praise and thanks. Mr. Whetham said “Many cases would have been brought before that Bench and also the County Bench had Supt. Beck taken out summonses for every little offence that come to his notice. The Supt., however, had always sought to prevent the repetition of minor offences by simply warning the delinquent whether he be of the better or poorer classes, and generally that warning had been sufficient. Consequently, a great many people had Supt. Beck to thank for not having been brought before the Court.”  He also said he would be missed by his staff, who he was a friend and offered his assistants to the keen constable to learn his job.

Supt. Beck replied by saying he was not sorry to be leaving his job. “I have had a good innings,” he said, “and I feel the time has arrived when I should go.” Supt. Beck paid tribute to the magistrates in Dorset, who he valued as friends. “I have given evidence at most of the Courts in the County of Dorset, in Assize Courts, in London and other places, and I do feel,” said the Supt., “that the magistrates of our county are out to do all they possible can to help the police in the onerous duties they have to perform.” “I have had some of the best and most efficient sergeants and constable, and I should like to say publicly how much I appreciate and value the help they have given me.” He was grateful also to the solicitors practising in the Court for “tolerating my layman’s way of conducting a case.”

Supt. Beck said that oftentimes when the police refrained from prosecuting in a case, contenting themselves with a warning, the impression was gained outside that partiality had been shown, but he could assure the public that he had never been influenced in this way. He had always endeavoured to carry out what he believed to be the wishes of the Magistrates, and if he had succeeded he was very grateful. He concluded by assuring Mr. Roper that he would not become a licensed victualler and thanking the Magistrates and their Clerk for the help and courtesy they had given him and hoping that they would do the same to his successor.

Bridport Divisional Court Sessions
More praise for Supt. Beck and good wishes for his future and regret at him moving away from West Dorset where expresses by the magistrate and solicitor at the Bridport Divisional Court. Major J. Gundry, Chairman of the bench said “Supt. Beck has had a most honourable career and he will be much missed by all of us, magistrates and public”.

Mr. Austen Whetham said “He has always been helpful to anybody who wanted help, and a great many people used to go to him and ask advice on all matters”, he said. “He generally used to say he was not a solicitor, and then give good advice.” Mr. W. G. King (probation officer) said Mr. Beck had been the means of helping many young people to retrieve their characters and do well in life. The Magistrates’ Clerk, Mr. S. Edgar Howard, said the Superintendent had been the very greatest help to him, putting his cases fairly, and if there was a point in favour of the accused, he had been the first to bring it out.

Supt. Beck replied, speaking with emotion, that he had know Major Gundry for nearly 40 years “you as a magistrate and I as a policeman. I can remember you sitting on the Bench at Quarter Sessions when I was a quite a youngster”. “It is because I have so many friends in West Dorset, and I do not think it would be fair to my successor to stay, and so for the time being I am going into East Dorset, but it is quite possible that I shall come back some day. In any case, I shall never forget my association with West Dorset and all the friends I have got here.”

Farewell Gathering at Municipal Gardens
On the evening of the Monday July 26th, the same day as the Divisional Court, The Mayor of Bridport, Councillor W. S. B. Northover held a social gathering to honour the retiring Police Chief in the municipal (borough) gardens. Invited were magisterial and other friends of Supt. Beck from West Dorset including the Mayor of Lyme Regis, Chief Constable of Dorset, Major Peel Yates, Mayor of Dorchester. The Bridport News lists 40 people including councillors and aldermen, doctors, magistrates clerks, Captains and Colonels, and plain Mr, Mrs, and Miss. Supt. Beck was in uniform and accompanied by his wife and mother-in-law. Apologies for being unable to attend from another 16 people, one of these being Major Colfox who wrote a letter that the Mayor read out. The Bridport News transcribes the letter as follows.


Dear Mr. Mayor,
Unfortunately I am laid up and shall not be able to come to the gathering and bid good-bye to Mr. Beck. I am very sorry not to be able to be there for many reasons; but particularly because he is a man for whom I have for very many years had the very highest esteem and regard.
He has always been the kindest and most sympathetic upholder of the law, and had always done everything possible to help people to see the error of their ways without having first had to be punished. He has always shown himself to be a man of ripe experience and generous impulses; and his advice when asked for has always been readily given and when followed has always been most helpful. He has a great knowledge and understanding of human nature and knows when to be severe as well as when to be lenient.
One knows that the reason for his retirement is to make room for the promotion of younger men. One knows also the old saying that there is as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it. But all the same he is certainly not too old for his job, and I very much doubt if Bridport will ever have so efficient, so peace-loving and, above all so kind a Superintendent of Police.
I know that all his friends in Bridport and district – and that surely is everyone – wish him a long life and every happiness in his retirement.
Yours Sincerely,
W. P. Collfox.


Major Peel Yates, Dorset’s Police Chief Constable spoke about how Supt. Beck had been a good friend and colleague. “I part with Mr. Beck with the very greatest possible regret. He has always been my standby in the country.” “if I every wanted advice – and there are many knotty problems in police work – I always consulted Mr. Beck, whose ripe experience has always been very helpful to me.” Major Yates reflected on 40 years and the changes seen by Supt. Beck. He mentioned the rise of motor car and in the earlier years having to deal with dangerous driving of horses. “I rather wish the petrol engine had never been invented. We were very much more comfortable in the peaceful days of the horse, and I think Mr. Beck will agree that the petrol engine has been the curse of the police of everywhere”

Supt. Beck then replied saying this was the most difficult job of his career. In his speech as reported in the Bridport News he said “I have had a wonderful innings and I am very grateful for all the kind things said about me. I have had a wonderful lot of friends during my time and it is due to the help I have received from them that I have been able to carry on as I have. I have come to the conclusion that there are only two things that really matter in life – good health and good character. I thank God for good health and I thank all you and others who are not here for helping me to be of good character. I have been blessed with two of the best wives the world has ever given to a man, and I so say now publicly how much I value the help my present wife has given me during the past six years.”

Supt. Beck went on to thank the Chief Constable for eleven happy years served under him. He thanked all 11 mayors of Bridport he had served under and the Mayor and Town Council of Lyme Regis.

Refreshments were serviced with the guest seated around tables on the lawn arranged by Mr. Walter Trump, of the Greyhound Hotel. All the guests signed a handsomely bound album which was presented to Supt. Beck as a memento.

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