During the First World War transport for the Superintendents in Dorset Constabulary was discussed by the Dorset Standing Committee. Historically the Superintendents had used horses and carts to get around their areas, these were stabled and looks after by a constable. With the advent of motor bikes and cars, the police looked at these forms of transport to increase their efficiency. It should be remembered that though motorised transport was faster than horses they were restricted to a maximum of 20 miles per hour. How times have changed.
The move to Beaminster in November 1919, meant some changes for Grandad Beck, as Police Superintendent, I wrote about some of these here. Blandford had more military personal unlike Beaminster, Bridport and Lyme Regis which were more rural. Blandford Camp was a depot for the Royal Naval Division until 1918 when it became an intake camp for the newly reformed Royal Air Force. During 1919 there were several motor related court cases at the Blandford Petty sessions, I have written about two which involved RAF drivers. To give a flavour of life in 1919, the year after the end of World War One, I have included a summary of some of the other cases before Blandford Magistrates. First is a sad case of the death of a young girl that was killed in a motor accident.
On November 21st 1919 Grandad Beck took over his duties as Police Superintendent of the Bridport Division from Superintendent Saint who retired the day before. Prior to this Grandad Beck had been in charge of the Blandford Division, this was a promotion as the Bridport Division was larger than Blandford’s. The Bridport Division consisted of 2 Borough town, Bridport and Lyme Regis and the Market Town of Beaminster. The Division police station was built at Beaminster around 1862. The choice of location was most likely because, as a borough, Bridport had their own police force. Grandad Beck’s new division consisted of 3 Sergeants (one each at Bridport, Lyme Regis and Beaminster) and 22 constables, 11 of these based in the rural villages. Blandford was smaller with 1 Sergeant and 10 constables, 5 in nearby villages. It is unlikely that either of these divisions had their full number of constables, see last weeks post.
In this post Photographs of Beaminster Police station 1920 to 1925 I wrote that Grandad Beck may have had two horses to get his trap up the steep hills. From the Western Gazette, January 1920 in a report of the Standing Committee meeting I found conformation of this. The Chief Constable repeatedly asked the committee to provide the Superintendents with cars, but they thought this unnecessary and extravagant. We must remember that in the early 1920s the country was recovering from the First World War and the financial situation was difficult. Prices were fluctuating, up then down. Farmers were having a hard time, especially in Dorset which had one of the highest county rates in the country.
Superintendents needed to travel around their Divisions not only to supervise the local men but also to attend the local courts and other events. Grandad Beck attended courts at Beaminster, Bridport and Lyme Regis. I would assume that appearance of the Superintendent, clean and tidy uniform, was desirable at these occasions. This may have been one reason the Chief Constable was not in favour of motor-cycles, the roads would have been very dusty in the 1920s.
Dorset Constabulary were having to cope with changing priorities and keep within their budget. In 1920 Weymouth had its own police force which merged with Dorset Police Constabulary in the interest of greater economy. We also learn that a Police Constable looked after the Superintendents horse or in Grandad Beck’s case horses. It seems that it was the shortage of PC’s, that eventually lead to the horses being fazed out. I will write more about this next week.
This week I thought I would share some of the photographs that were taken at Beaminster Police Station during the 1920s. These are not dated but would have been taken during the time Grandad Beck, his wife Rebecca and daughter May lived there, from November 1919 to August 1925. In August 1925 Grandad Beck, and his wife moved to Bridport, I wrote about this here. The Station was not only a working Police Station, containing the visitors office, Court room, Police cells etc., but a home to the Superintendent and his family. It also contained separate accommodation for a Police Constable and his family. A Sergeant was also based in Beaminster and had separate accommodation in the town. In 1925 Sergeant and Mrs Symes lived in North Street, Beaminster while PC and Mrs Diment lived in a ‘cottage’ at the back of the Police Station. Grandad Beck and his family had their accommodation on the first and second floor, overlooking the main road through Beaminster.
Last week I wrote about the wedding of Grandad Beck’s daughter in the month of May 1925. (Laura) May Beck had lived in several police stations with her parents, she was born in Lyme Regis where her father was a constable, the family then moved to Upwey, followed by Dorchester and Blandford before coming to Beaminster. She must have known many of the police officers in Dorset and the local officers gave her with a guard of honour at her wedding.
The Bridport News reports that the weather was stormy and in this photograph it looks chilly and wet. Two of the guests have umbrellas up as they assembled for this photograph outside Beaminster church. Most of the guest are wearing coats and hats, from the photograph it doesn’t look like a summer wedding.
On a stormy day, at 2 O’clock on Thursday 7th May 1925 my Grandparents married in Beaminster parish church. My Grandmother, Laura May, was the only daughter of Grandad Beck and his wife Rebecca. Because she died when my father was a small lad, there are few memories of her. We have a few clues to their wedding day, family photographs, a Bridport News article and a hand written note book of invitations sent. From these sources I have written this post.
The wedding took place at Beaminster Parish Church, described as capacious and stately, and was filled with relatives and friends. The ceremony was impressively conducted by the Vicar (Canon G. C. Hutchings, M.A.) assisted by the Rev. Mr Kershaw, of Powerstock. The paper also tells us the hymns sung were, “Lead us heavenly Father lead us,” and “O perfect love all human thoughts transcending.”
Beaminster Police Station
When Grandad Beck took over as Superintendent of the Bridport Division of the Dorset Constabulary in 1919, the accommodation for the position was at Beaminster police station. The reason for this is that when the Dorset Constabulary was formed in 1856, Bridport was a Borough and had their own police force, stationed in South Street. The new divisional police station, with accommodation for the Superintendent and a court room, was built at Beaminster in c. 1862. By 1924 this was inconvenient for Grandad Beck as the larger portion of his work and staff was at Bridport and the vicinity. The Chief Constable drew this to the notice of the Dorset Police Standing Committee in July 1924 and requested that a suitable house be found in Bridport for the Superintendent’s accommodation. My father remembers Grandad Beck saying that this decision was unpopular in Beaminster, this may have been because they were afraid they would lose the police station and justice court.
Continue reading “Superintendent moves from Beaminster to Bridport”
Imprisonment with hard labour was often the sentence for people, found guilty by the local courts. I have chosen several examples from the newspapers of 1930, the charges were theft, drunk and disorderly. Quite what hard labour entailed I don’t know, or if there was any other form of imprisonment. The local police tried to keep the area free from “undesirables” and told anyone they considered to be in this category to leave town. All these court cases concern people from outside the local area of Lyme Regis, Bridport, Beaminster and the surrounding villages.
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.