There is no need for Police Houses to have Telephones

I wrote about the Standing Committee as they debated the police budget during a recession. Dorset Police Pay and Promotion during the Great Depression.  In this post I looked several other issue that had been reported in the Western Gazette during the first half of the 1930s.

The Home Office wanted the police to have telephones in all police houses, to facilitate communication within the force and with the public. But the Dorset Standing Committee didn’t agree, partly on cost and partly because they considered it unnecessary in a rural area. This was discussed many times over the years.

The Dorset force was more compliant when the Home Office instigated motor patrols around the country to, among other duties, rigorously monitor the speed of motor vehicles. Dorset started with motorbikes before buying cars. Superintendents provided their own motorcars and were given an allowance for the use their cars for police duties. From the list given in 1933 Grandad Beck was the only one who didn’t own a car.

Improvements to both Bridport and Beaminster police stations were considered necessary. A new police station was considered for Beaminster which caused Beaminster people to be concerned that they would no longer have a local Justice court. After much discussion it was decided to keep the station in Prout Hill – now the youth centre.

Justices Hall Beaminster c1930 Decorated for Christmas? I think there is a tree at the back.
Justices Court, Beaminster c.1920-30 Decorated for Christmas? I think there is a tree at the back.

Improvements to Police Stations

In May 1934 Proposals for improvements at Bridport Police-station [South Street] were approved. Major J Gundry said he had been very distressed to see how the force at Bridport were expected to reside. The building was inadequate for the requirements. He hoped the Chief Constable would not hesitate to bring before the Police Committee cases like this where they ought to set to work to provide more suitable accommodation for the force.

The Standing Committee had been looking at the possibility of building a new police station at Beaminster but the plans the county architect submitted didn’t include the justices room. In July 1931 Mr Skyrme said there is a great fear in Beaminster, very frequently expressed, that there was an intention to move the sitting of the Justices from Beaminster. It had been stated that there was no such intention. Mr Skyrme proposed that the new Police-Station be not built until satisfactory provision had been made for a Justices Room.

The following year A scheme for the redecoration and repair of Beaminster Police-station was outline and approved. Colonel Colfox said the scheme would involve rather bigger outlay than they were in the habit of making on Police-stations. As they had now decided not to replace the police-station it would require rather extensive renovation.

Dorset motor patrol

The papers reported in February 1931 that Speed constables will shortly appear on Dorset roads. Eight have been allocated by the Home Secretary as Dorset’s share of the new Road Patrol Force. They will be men already belonging to the Constabulary and will be provided with motor-cycles and equipment costing in the neighbourhood of £600
The Home Secretary, … urged the desirability of putting the system of motor patrols for supervising traffic and detecting traffic offences into operation with the least delay. He stated that the object of the police should be not merely the detection of offences but the prevention of offences and of acts which impeded the free flow of traffic. …
Police employed on these duties will need to be specially selected and instructed, and in their instruction attention should be paid not only to the law and customs of the road but to the manner in which they should intervene when a case of dangerous, careless, or inconsiderate driving comes under their notice. In particular attention should be given as to when they should issue a warning and when they should report.
… the provision of motor vehicles for men already patrolling the main roads on foot or on pedal bicycles will add greatly to their efficiency for the purpose in question…
… solo motor-cycles (which the Chief Constable considers to be the best motor vehicle for Dorset)…
The Committee stated that the Chief Constable proposed to arrange for a machine to be placed in charge of each Superintendent for use as and when required under his directions.

In May the Chief Constable informed the committee that he had authorised the purchase of eight 5.88 h.p. Norton machines, together with the requisite equipment.

The committee debated the purchase of motor-cars to replace the motor-cycles, in May 1935, because a 30 miles an hour speed limit had been imposed in built-up areas. The Home Secretary had issued orders to all Chief Constables that the new law … must be rigorously enforced. As a temporary measure the [Dorset] police have been hiring cars to carry out the patrol duties necessitated by the speed limit law.

In July 1935 the committee was informed that the cars bought for traffic work were 10 h.p. Hillman £142 for Blandford; 14 h.p. Vauxhall £187 for Dorchester; 10 h.p. Austin, £139 for Poole. Two of the three motor-cycles are being sold.

Superintendents’ car allowances

In July 1933 the annual allowances to police superintendents for the use of their motor-cars on police duty: £65 for rural areas, Blandford, Dorchester, Sherborne, Wareham, Wimborne. £45 Poole and Weymouth.

Telephones in Police Stations and Houses

A threat by the Home Office that “unless steps are taken at an early date to add to the present telephone facilities the Home Secretary will be unable to regard the Dorset police service as being fully and properly administered” was discussed by the Police Standing Committee in February 1931. If the government withheld the certificate of efficiency then Dorset would lose its Government grant of half the cost of the police. The Committee argued That the Home Office be informed that in a rural county like Dorset the needs of the telephonic system are sufficiently met by the existing telephones at the various divisional headquarters and that it would be a useless expenditure to connect up one-man police-cottages, seeing that he is usually out on duty. This was carried by 21 votes to 13.

In July 1931 the Police Standing Committee discussed correspondence from the government. The Home Secretary had been pressing them to connect all police houses with the telephone. At present they had telephones communicating with every police house or station where two or more constables were stationed, but the Sub-Committee considered it was practically impossible to connect up the others…. Therefore, … the Sub-Committee recommended that they do not connect to the telephone police houses occupied by only one constable.

This issue was again discussed in February 1933, at this time 21 police stations were connected by the telephone The Chief Constable (Major L. W. Peel Yates) … Having discussed the matter with Chief Constables he found that the general experience was that telephones undoubtedly increased the efficiently of the Force, because a local constable was in constant daily touch with his superintendent. The committee considered that a local constable could always go to the nearest telephone office or private house to call up the central office.

“More Dorset Police ‘Phone” was a headline in The Western Gazette 20 July 1634. “17 villages to be linked up”. At this time 2 of the 70 one-man-beat stations were connected by telephone. In the Bridport Division Charmouth and Chideock were to be put on the telephone in October.

By November 1934 27 police houses were on the telephone and Mr L Skyrme raised questions about the total cost. It seemed to him that for £820 a year to be spent on telephones was an extraordinarily large amount.

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All original content by Sylvia Collins is copyright protected.

References Quotes in Italics:
Western Gazette:

1931: February 10th page 10; May 1st page 10; July 31 page 11
1932:  July 31st page 10; May 6th page 11
1933: February 10th page 10
1934: May 4th page 11; July 20th; November 2nd page 11
1935: May 3 page 11; July 26 page 11

 

3 thoughts on “There is no need for Police Houses to have Telephones”

  1. In these days of mass communication it is difficult to understand how the early 20th century policemen mangaged without telephones in their police houses. My husband’s great uncle in Hampshire, had to cycle a 22 mile round trip once a week to collect his wages and any other orders. He would have probably been out of his beat for most of the day, it was a good job that rural crime was low.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Heather. He was lucky to have a bicycle, most policeman walked everywhere. Someone was telling me that his friend, who was a police constable in a village near Beaminster, walked to the station, then had to salute to before he got his wages, which seemed logical to me but weird by today’s standards. One thing we need to remember is not to judge the past from the modern viewpoint.

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