At the beginning of a New Year, many of us think about booking our holidays, I am sure the Grandad Beck was no different. Up until 1909 the only time he had off was 5 days annual holiday. One year the family went to Bowleaze Cove near Weymouth. I know this because Lionel and May very kindly built a sandcastle. Little did they know how useful this would be over 100 years later. Thank you Granny!
“Grandad was the first plain-clothes policeman in Dorset” my father informed me. Grandad Beck obtained the rank of Sergeant in 1908, 6 months before being made Detective Sergeant.
A descended to the training sergeant at the time, gave me this account of Grandad Beck’s promotion. “Because my Great Grandfather was the Training Sergeant he was aware of what was required and with the increase in crime, he and the top Senior ranks decided they needed a senior PC to help deal with the serious crime of the day. They looked at all the senior PC’S and quickly worked out that “Percy” would be ideal. He was promoted to Sergeant straight away to make his job easier for all, even though it would have had a small financial impact on the Force, as now there was an extra Sergeant.” Ian Swatridge.
As Dorsetshire’s first and the only Detective between 1908 and June 1915, Grandad Beck was based at Headquarters in Dorchester. He travelled around the county at the request of divisional superintendents to assist in more complex or longer investigations.
Thank you to all my readers, this is my 52rd post, I find it hard to believe that my first post was a year ago. Through this blog I have ‘met’, family members I didn’t know existed, descendants of Grandad Beck’s colleagues and friends that have enjoyed my scribbles. I can’t thank you enough for all your kind comments. I hope you will all keep reading as I write the last few posts of Grandad Beck’s life as a policeman.
To celebrate the New Year I thought I would give you a challenge. Can you help me identify May and Lionel in these school photographs. The first two are taken at Broadwey School. From 1904-1908 the family lived at 6 Prospect Place, Upwey. At first I wondered why the children went to Broadwey school when there was a school in Upwey. Then I found that the police house was in a lane just off the main Dorchester to Weymouth road and between the two schools. Lionel was born in March 1899 and May is two years younger born in 1901.
I have included some photographs of the family to help identify the Children.
I thought I would let Lionel and May wish you a Happy Christmas, can you hear Lionel on the violin accompanied by May on the piano coming to you through the years? This photograph must have been taken over 100 years ago, around 1910. The room is the same one as in the photograph here and is at Overton Villas in Dorchester. Christmas Bells is a one of Ezra Read’s ‘Descriptive Fantasias’ which was popular with music teachers at the time. Continue reading “Christmas Bells to wish you a Happy Christmas”
I have written before about the Dorset Police Athletic Club, when in 1935 Grandad Beck, as vice-president, said he was the last serving member of the club. He had been an active member from the first meeting in 1896. Though he enjoyed the sports and supported them, the only reference to him taking part was when he mentioned the cycle races and loosing. During the years he was a Detective at Dorchester (1908-1915) it is likely that he took the photographs that the family still have. In this post I will share some of these photographs with you.
Weymouth had a separate Borough Police Force at the time and joined the Dorset Constabulary sports day. I understand that on occasion the event may have been held in Weymouth.
During the years that he lived in Dorchester (1908-1915) Grandad Beck took lots of photographs. From reports of court cases we know that as a detective he took photographs as part of his job. We don’t know if his interest in photography preceded his promotion. We do have lots of photographs taken by Grandad Beck of his family, many of them from the early 1900s. Today I thought I would share some of these family photographs, some of these may have been taken at Upwey before the family moved to Dorchester.
Between the family home and the police station in Dorchester, Dorset, is the earthworks Maumbury Rings. This was originally a Neolithic Henge, modified by the Romans into an amphitheatre and then used as an artillery fort in the English Civil War. The people of Dorchester use this area for recreation and picnics. While researching, I found that from 1908-1913 the archaeologist Harold St George Gray excavated the rings. He sank about 45 shafts, up to 36 feet deep, into the chalk. This probably explains the structure visible on the right of this photograph
Grandad Beck was promoted to Superintendent of Blandford Division on 16 June 1915. The local newspapers were listing the men killed or wounded in the fighting in the Great War. Prior to being promoted he was a Detective Sergeant based at Dorchester. It is a possibility that the promotion came very quickly, the day before Superintendent Ricketts had died. Rickett’s had been Superintendent of Wimborne Division. The Chief Constable, Captain Granville must have been very quick to move Superintendent Sims based at Blandford to Wimborne and promote Grandad Beck. This was a significant promotion and was to be his last. This not only entailed moving to Blandford but he would have had a significant pay rise. Something his wife would have appreciated, costs were rising fast, as I wrote about in last weeks post.
Move to Blandford Forum
Grandad Beck’s days would have been taken with up passing over his current duties and learning his new ones. For his wife, Rebecca this would have entailed packing up the house and, I assume, moving at very short notice. I am sure Rebecca was delighted with the promotion but must have had misgivings about the move to a new town. The house they lived in at Dorchester had 6 rooms including the kitchen. The neighbours were from different trades, (1911 census) none of them were Policemen, though they were not far from the Police station and other policemen lived nearby. Blandford was very different because they were moving into the police station. Police stations at this time, housed the men and their families, any visiting policemen, the offices and other rooms used by the police, prison cells and stables. At Blandford, the 1911 census lists a Sergeant and 2 Constables with their wives and families besides the Superintendent. Superintendent Sims lists 7 rooms occupied by himself and his family, suggesting the accommodation was slightly larger.
Lionel and May
Lionel would have been 16 years of age and I would assume working. We know he moved with the family, so he must have had to change job. When he enrolled in the Army 2 years later he was working in a shop, so it is possible this was his job in Dorchester. Given the circumstance of Grandad Beck’s promotion he must have had to hand his notice in very quickly, lets hope it was a job he was glad to leave.
May would have been 14 years old and may have still been at School. In 1911 census is seems usual for 13 year old daughters, including those of policemen, to be still at school. Girls 14 and older, living in the same area as the family, were usually listed without any occupation. As the war progressed girls and young women were taking jobs to help replace the men that were called up. We believe that May worked in Blandford telephone exchange at the end of the war. Whether May was at School, at home or working the move to Blandford would have been an upheaval and she would have had to leave her friends behind, but it could have been exciting as well. New places to explore and people to meet for both Lionel and May.
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Ref: Bridport News 19 July 1935
Two tales from the newspapers involving the residences of Blandford and the RAF. Even in a time of war it is inevitable that the number of soldiers, at the Royal Naval Division based at nearby Blandford Camp, would cause problems for the residents of Blandford. The first case takes place just before Christmas in 1915, 3 years later at the time of the second case, it was noted that the local and national crime rate had significantly decreased. Grandad Beck was present at both court cases and had the help of the military in the investigations. This is just the type of co-operation that Supt. Beck was commended for, as I wrote about here.
Alleged Wholesale Pilfering
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.
I wanted to share this photograph with you taken in 1923. Posing for this photograph is the most senior policeman in Dorset Constabulary at the time. Grandad Beck had a copy of this photograph in his collection but this is a scan of a framed photograph my cousin was given, that had been on the wall in one of the police offices for many years. Hence the fading at the sides.