Public-Spirited County Policemen – A Difficulty Solved

During the early 1920’s the question of national police pay and conditions was considered which lead to a recommendation that policemen should work fewer hours and have more holiday, but the cost of providing enough policemen became an issue.  As the financial crisis in the country worsened the Home Secretary instructed the forces to make cuts in the police budget dispute the earlier recommendation.  The Dorset Police Standing Committee and Chief Constable discussed the question of how to satisfy both demands, eventually it was the Police Constables and Sergeants that provided the solution.

Group photograph of policemen
Taken at Bridport Police Station 1921/22
Back row PC 175 Alfred John Wintle ; 101 ?; PC 66 George Peach; PC 143 ?; PC 31 William J Jones; PC 135 ?; PC 64 William Charles Henry Carter
Front row PC 100 ?; Sgt Walter Bown; Supt. Beck; PC 36 William Meech acting Sgt; PC 107 Francis G Vatcher

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The “Vexed Question” of Motor-cars for Superintendents of Police

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.

Supt. Beck in uniform with his wife in a pony and trap
Superintendent (Grandad) Beck in uniform with his wife Rebecca in a horse and trap C.1920

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Fire! Get Out Your Buckets

Policemen were often involved in fighting local fires. From the family collection, the photograph below is of a fire at Burstock Grange, near Broadwindsor taken in 1921.  A terrible fire destroyed the thatched roof on the farm house.  Due to this fire, today only about a third of the farm house remains thatched.  I haven’t had time to research more but I thank the Facebook group ‘Memories of Bridport’ for helping me identify the location of the photograph and  Andrew Frampton who confirmed his family have farmed there since 1912.

Farm house with part of the roof destroyed by fire
Photograph taken by Robert Potts of Bridport. The policeman with a peaked hat is likely to be Grandad Beck

Fires at the Village of Loders

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Bridport Carnival “A Red Letter Day”

Bridport Carnivals in the 1920’s were major events in the town year. In June 1921 the day started early and ended late.  Celebration and fun for all the family, while raising funds for the local hospital.  Times were tough especially for the sick and needy, medial treatment had to be paid for or you needed to rely on charity. The country was going through a time of depression and unemployment following the first world war, so a day of fun was welcomed by the people of Bridport and the surrounding area.

Crowds seated and standing in front of a big house
Bridport News “For the mere man the boxing naturally drew a large number of spectators.” Grandad Beck top left of photo

Bridport carnival was celebrated in 1921 on Alexandra Day  Saturday 11 June.  Over £300 was raised for Bridport hospital from the varied activities on the day.  The day started with the traditional flower sellers, selling flowers door-to-door and to the people waiting to watch  the carnival processions at 2pm.

Blue skies and warm sunshine played an important part in the success of Alexandra Day… Flags fluttered in the breeze of an ideal June day- the shrill laughter of the youngsters echoes and re-echoed in the streets, while the enthusiasm of grown-ups was non the less remarkable.

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Tramp Chased by Police Constable on Bicycle

Below is one of the cases bought before Bridport Magistrates court in January 1924 in which PC Grey rode his bicycle for 10 miles, on a winters evening, to catch a thief.  This post shows how attitudes to tramps was to change over the next few years.  It is also interesting to note that the magistrates were to continue to warn the shopkeepers against leaving unattended goods outside their shops.

First a photograph from Grandad Beck’s collection, I think this was taken at Beaminster Police Station in the early 1920s.  I am unsure if the Police are issuing new or second hand uniforms to their men.  During this time police budgets were being cut so it is likely that these are second hand uniforms.  Thanks to Ian (who is researching policemen in Dorset) we think the man in the bowler hat, with his back to the camera, is Chief Constable Dennis Granville. Standing next to him on the right is Grandad Beck.

Policemen chosing new uniform
Issuing ‘new’ uniform c1920 Beaminster, Dorset

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Dorset Standing Joint Committee Decisions

I have posted about the meetings of the Dorset Standing Joint Committees as reported in the local Newspapers before, 1930-35 here.  The reports of the committee meetings enables us to get a insight into the Dorset police force, as they are responsibilities for the police budgets.  Using newspaper reports gives us an impression but can be incorrect or give the view of the reporter and therefore need to be read with care.

I have chosen items that help to build a picture of the life of the policemen in Bridport Division between 1925 and 1929. I think Grandad Beck would have been typical of his generation and agree that Dorset did not require policewomen but welcomed an extra police constable and better equipment for his men. He would have “run a very tight ship” and any officer found socialising in the local pubs would have had, at the very least, a stiff talking too.

Supt. Beck in uniform
Supt. Beck was known for giving “a right earful” if an officer or family member didn’t live up to expectations

More Policemen but no Policewomen

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Superintendent moves from Beaminster to Bridport

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.
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Licensing and Larceny in Bridport Borough

On Tuesday 7th February 1928 Bridport town hall was crowded, the Bridport News reported the largest attendance at a police court know in the town for many  years.  This was largely due to the fact that a case of larceny … was to be heard.

Superintendent’s Annual Report on Licensing

First the annual Licensing Session for Bridport Borough was heard by the magistrates, Mayor A. R. Travers, Aldermen E. S. Reynolds, W. G. F. Cornick, and G. A. Mabb.  According to Supt. Beck’s annual report there were 32 fully-licenses houses, 11 beer houses (including 2 off license premises), one wine and spirit licence. This was a reduction of one licenses house as the Dolphin Inn had closed at the end of the previous year. Continue reading “Licensing and Larceny in Bridport Borough”

RIP Mrs Percy

Rebecca Beck holding a small posy of flowers wearing a large brimmed hat with flowers
Rebecca Beck Date unknown but thought to be pre WW1

Bridport News March 2nd 1928
Deaths
Beck –  March 1, at Peel House, St Andrew’s Road, Bridport, Rebecca Beck, wife of Supt. A. P. Beck, aged 66

The Bridport News also wrote a piece entitled SUPT. BECK’S BEREAVEMENT  The deceased lady, … possessed a gentle and kindly disposition what endeared her to all with whom she came in contact.  Throughout a long illness, borne with patience and fortitude, she was devotedly attended by her husband, while Dr. J.H. Armistead, her medical attendant, was unsparing in his efforts. The interment will take place at Blandford to-morrow (Saturday). The deepest sympathy is extended to Supt. Beck in the heavy bereavement that has befallen him.

 Rebecca Beck (nee Illes)

My great grandparents had married 35 years before at Buckland Newton Church in Dorset. Grandad Beck was a 21 year old police constable and his bride a 35 year old former dairymaid.  Throughout their marriage Rebecca had supported her husband’s career and, if family legend is correct, encouraged  her husband to climb the promotional ladder.

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The sentenced is prison with hard labour!

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.

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