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

P.C. Beck arrested attempted suicide

In 1900 The Bridport News reported how Grandad Beck came to arrest Samuel Curtis.  On Friday evening,  19 October, Samuel come home drunk or somewhat under influence of drink.  He told his wife Frances that he was going to die, he was going to cut his throat.  When Frances went upstairs a little later she found Samuel on the floor and she saw a drop or two of blood.  A neighbour Joseph Hounsell answered her call for help and found Samuel had cut his throat.  Mrs Curtis sent for the police and P.C.Beck came and took Curtis to the Police Station. Until 1961 it was illegal to attempt to commit suicide in England.  Therefore Samuel Curtis found himself before the Lyme Regis magistrates, Mayor Edwards, Mr Henley, Mr Osborn and Mr Wallis.  Because Samuel expressed contrition and promised to behave better in future, the Bench cautioned Curtis severely and discharged him.

Overcrowding of Steamboats

In July 1900 the Chief Constable told the Dorset Joint Standing Committee that he did not agree with the directive from the Home Office to monitor the numbers of passengers boarding the steamboats.   He felt very strongly against being held responsible in any way, because he felt that unless he could perform the duty properly it was no good undertaking it at all.  With his present staff he could not spare the men to count all the passengers arriving and departing by steamers at such places as Weymouth, Lulworth, Swanage, and Lyme Regis.  It might be all very well to do that sometimes, but it would be at such times as Bank Holidays that this counting would be most necessary, and they would be times when he could least spare the men for the purpose.  If an accident did occur it would most likely be at such a time as Bank Holiday, and then the Board of Trade would be down upon him.  

4 people standing on the upper deck of a steamboat
Rebecca Beck, Francis Beck? Ernest Beck? May Beck on the steamboat C.1920

The Chief constable was authorised to reply to the letter from the Home Office, stating that the present staff of police in the county was not sufficiently large to enable him to carry out the provision of the Act.

A year later the issue was still being discussed. The Chief Constable observed that the proper supervision of passenger steamers by the police would call for a considerable increase in the force.  It might be convenient one day to count passengers, but inconvenient the next day, when perhaps, an accident might happen.

In February 1902 a letter from the Secretary of State was read, basically saying they have to carry out the work.  In the absence of any effective supervision over steamer traffic in Dorset grave danger to the public is likely to arise. It was agreed to carry out supervision as the Board of Trade asked and inform them of cases of overcrowding.  The Chief Constable stated that convenient “tellers” for easily counting the number of passengers boarding a steamer could be provided for 10s each.  The report does not say if these were purchased.

More about the Victoria Steamboat
http://www.freshford.com/Victoria%20Steamship.html

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Ref: Quotes in italics
Western Gazette: 27 July 1900 p7; 26 July 1901 p3; 28 February 1902 p5; 25 July 1902 p4

2 thoughts on “Lyme Regis – Attempted Suicide and Overcrowded Steamboats”

  1. Lovely to see a photo of Sgt George Charles Knight Diment (1888-1957) in your first post, I thought I would see him pictured somewhere. As I knew he served on Sgt Beck.

    1. Thank you, Helen. I have read a lot about Sgt Diment in the newspapers as I was researching this blog. I am assuming you are related, it is lovely to hear from people descended from the policemen Grandad Beck served with.

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