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.
In the same year Grandad Beck’s mother, Frances, won 7 shillings and 6 pence in the Category Cottager’s wife or widow whose house and premises shall have been kept in the tidiest and cleanest state, regard being had to the number of children (the four best in each district). I think we can say that Grandad Beck had a good childhood, with the exception of Charles death in 1882, and obtained an education which would later allow him to join the Dorset Constabulary.
Why Join police – possible influences
Why become a policeman? The hours were long and the pay wasn’t particularly good. There was a pension, medical care and the chance of promotion. Living in a village would have meant that Grandad Beck knew the local policeman, they may have close neighbours. Grandad Beck’s uncle, Frances’ brother was a police constable with the Metropolitan police. In the 1881 Census William Foot is living at No 28 Labanon Street, Newington, London. William and Frances had both been born and brought up in Buckland Newton. Before joining the police, Grandad Beck worked for Captain Williams at Herrington House. Captain Williams was a Justice of the Peace and a Magistrate and may have encouraged him to join the Dorset Constabulary. Rebecca, his wife to be, may have also been an influence as we saw in my last post.
What we do know is that at 9 am on Monday, March 11th 1895, nineteen-year-old Authur Percy Beck, presented himself for service in the Dorset Constabulary and became P.C. 22.
Stourpaine and lodgings
Grandad Beck spent the first few months of his training at Dorchester police station before being sent to Stourpaine on 20th April. Stourpaine is a small village near Blandford smaller than Buckland Newton. Stourpaine’s population in 1891 was 490 while Buckland Newton had a population of 873 (Kelly’s Directory 1895). Grandad Beck is listed as the Stourpaine Constable in this directory.
During this time I can find no mention of P.C. Beck in the newspapers. One incident that Grandad Beck would have been involved in, though not named by the newspapers, happened on 10 December 1895. On the night before two gipsies attached two constables in Blandford. While trying to arrest the men, one of them escaped. On Tuesday morning all policemen in the area received information about the escaped prisoner. From tidings received by Inspector Brown during Tuesday morning he, accompanied by P.C. Symes, at once proceeded to Hancock Bottom, in the parish of Stourpaine – an encampment place for gipsies. As this was on Grandad Beck’s beat, he may have supplied the information, as I am sure that on receiving the report the first place he would have enquired was the gipsy camp on his beat. By the time the Inspector and Sergeant arrived, the man had moved on. The prisoner was arrested 6 miles away at Gunville.
In the previous census 1891, the Stourpaine policeman P.C. Legg was lodging with Walter Jeans at Turnpike. Walter was a groom and gardener, while Walter’s sister-in-Law Susan Yates, kept house. It is likely that Grandad Beck boarded in the same house. Grandad Beck was to remain at Stourpaine until his marriage 16 months later.
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References: Quotes in italics
Western Gazette: 06 September 1878 p8; 03 August 1883 p5; 13 December 1895 p7
Bridport News 19th July 1935
Kelly’s Directory 1889 & 1895