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.
The local Newspapers regularly report on the meetings of the Dorset Standing Committees. Among other responsibilities this committee is responsible for the police budgets, including major purchases and expenditures. The reports of the committee meetings enables us to get a insight into the Dorset police force in the 1930s. 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.
We can not look at Grandad Beck’s life and work without considering the wider context. In 1930 Britain was hit by a world recession caused in part by the stock market crash in the USA. Britain was less effected than other countries and here in the South West the depression wasn’t has bad as in the North of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Nevertheless Grandad Beck and the people of West Dorset would have felt the effect. The Police were effected directly when their pay was cut, twice. Yet despite these cuts the pay of Dorset policemen had significantly increased since World War One due.
Bridport Division of Dorset Police Constabulary is a rural area. The selection of cases that came before the areas magistrates that I have chosen in this post reflect this. Controlling farm pests with poisons has always been dangerous, in the spring of 1932 Mr Hussey of Netherbury was charged with killing his neighbours sheep dog. Not far away at Marshwood, Tom Bishop’s dogs killed some of his neighbours sheep in September. In June the following year, a boy was sent to Industrial School for setting a hay rick alight. The last case happened in December of 1931 in the town, as it involved cattle and it amused me, I have included it here.
“Appalling dangerous driving on the roads” Grandad Beck was quoted as saying by the Bridport News in 1935. In 1930 over 7,300 people were killed on the roads, compared with 1,700 in 2013. After the invention of motor engine the variety of road users increased as never before. The pedestrians, horses and horse drawn vehicles, and from the late Ninetieth century bicycles where joined by many forms of motorised vehicles. By 1930 there were approximately one million private cars in Britain.
The cases I have chosen to write about include some of the variety of road users. The first involve a Pony and cart in Bridport where the passengers landed on the pavement when they had a collision with a charabanc, a lovely name for a bus or coach. Cyclists also had to share the road with motor vehicles and these amounted to nearly 50% of traffic (see Traffic Regulated by Automatic Signals) and I have written about one of the many accidents between cars and cyclists.
I wrote about the installation of traffic signals in May 1935, at the Town Hall Bridport in a previous post, Bridport Gets Road Traffic Signal Lights at Dangerous Corner. In 1934, Bridport Borough council discussed the need for these lights and also wanted a set at another dangerous corner, close by, at Barrack Street – this is the road going North from the town centre, which is no longer a through road. Traffic lights were eventually installed at Barrack Street and remain in use until the bypass was opened.
When researching this post I was surprised at the number of bicycles in the town. Perhaps I should have realised that in the early part of the 20th Century, bicycles were relatively cheap and faster than walking. There was no mention of horses or horse drawn vehicles, this is most likely because they were not included in the count or possibly because there were none in Bridport that day. Continue reading “Traffic regulated by automatic signals is “marvellous””
Licences for intoxicated liquor, then as now, was an emotive subject and was a subject for local courts. Every February the local businesses selling intoxicated liquor renewed their licences. Grandad Beck as Superintendent of the Bridport Division of Dorset Police Constabulary gave the annual report to the licencing committee for his area. Supt. Beck started each session by giving a report into the previous year, which was reported by the Bridport News.
In 1934 as in previous years Mr Roper on behalf of the Licenced Victuallers’ Association wanted Bridport Borough to grant an extension by half-hour during summer evening. Bridport Borough didn’t agree that they had to right to do this. Bridport Borough and Dorchester magistrates argued that they needed a change in the law but other areas including Beaminster, Lyme Regis and Weymouth granted the half hour extension. The hours are set by national government with local areas allowing extensions in their area for an individual or group of premises. There seems to be a confusion about what extensions to opening hours the local courts could allow. Continue reading “Intoxicated Liquor Licences 1934: Controversy over Summer Half-Hour”
King George V Silver Jubilee on Monday 6th May 1935 was celebrated with great joy by the people of Bridport. Each town and village held their own celebration and the Bridport News recorded the event. They decorated, marched, danced and gave thanks for the Kings 25 year reign, in many different ways. Reading the reports I can’t imagine anyone not being effected by the excitement of the day.
“All this appalling dangerous driving on the roads”, was Grandad Beck’s view of the standard of driving in 1935. One dangerous place was the junction of South, West and East street at the town hall Bridport. For those that don’t know the town, coming from South Street, there is very little visibility to see the traffic coming from the West. Also traffic turning into South Street from East Street had to take the sharp corner wide to get around, as you can see from the first photograph. I can remember the traffic lights not working, turning right into East Street from South Street was scary and difficult to know if there would be any other vehicles coming towards me. Bridport Borough Council had been asking for “road traffic signal lights”, at the junction for a while. Bridport’s automatic traffic signals were officially opened at 12 noon on Saturday, 4th May 1935, by the Mayor (Councillor W. S. B. Northover) who set the system in operation by turning a key in the “station” under the Town Hall colonade. The Mayor was accompanied by his Deputy (Councillor S. J. Gale) and Councillor F. S. Cornick (Chairman of the Town Council Highways Committee). After this there were numerous drivers coming up before the Borough Police court and in the first few months Grandad Beck was prosecuting.
At midnight on Saturday 20th July 1935 Supt. Beck retired, after 40 years in the Dorset Constabulary, 16 of those years in the Bridport Division. Supt. Beck, who was approaching his 60th Birthday, was the longest serving member of the Constabulary at that time.
During the last few weeks of July, thanks were give to Supt. Beck at both the Bridport Borough and Division Courts, a reception was held in the borough gardens Bridport hosted by the Mayor and a photo was taken with all the police officers in the Division. The Bridport News and Western Gazette both reported on the speeches of thanks at the Courts and the reception given by the Mayor.
In later years Auntie Jo (Grandad Beck’s second wife) remembered this time with affection and pride in her husband’s achievements. As a child I can remember Auntie Jo showing me the items he was presented with, laid out on a table. After Grandad Beck’s retirement, they moved to Longfleet, Poole, where they were to spend the rest of their days together.
All the policemen of the Bridport Division, (this includes Bridport, Beaminster, Lyme Regis and surrounding villages) gathered in the Borough garden to have the picture taken to mark Supt. Beck’s retirement. 19 PC’s, 3 Sergeants, Supt. Beck and Mrs Beck.
Why write about Supt. Beck, well it all started many years ago. I was in my early twenties working in the Monmouth Bar at the Bull Hotel. An elderly gentleman used to come in for half-a-pint, while waiting for his wife. We got chatting and when he learnt about my family he came out with a surprising statement. “I remember your Grandmother, lovely lady”. My Grandmother died when my father was a small boy. Then he said something even more surprising, “I used to see your Great Grandfather Supt. Beck driving his horse and trap between Beaminster and Bridport”. What? Who? I told him that I had an Auntie Jo Beck but never heard of Supt. Beck. He explained to me that Auntie Jo was in fact Supt. Beck’s second wife. “She was the families servant, after the death of your Great Grandmother, Supt. Beck married her, she was the same age as his daughter – it was the talk of the town!”
The next time Supt. Beck came to my attention was when I saw the picture taken by Dorset Constabulary for his retirement, but the idea of researching his life only came after a recent Powerstock House family reunion. My father showed us some family photos. One showed Supt. Beck at Beaminster Police station with a early car. As my father is the last of the grandchildren I decided now was a good time to find out more. This blog is a record of my journey. Continue reading “Why write about Grandad Beck?”