Floods, Chocolate and Intoxicating Liquor: Blandford Forum 1916/17

As I had previously written about annual reports on premises licenced to sell intoxicating liquor in Bridport Divisions. I thought I would look at Grandad Beck’s annual report to the Blandford County Licensing Sessions in February 1917. This gives a interesting look at life during World War One.

First I will briefly write about two other cases before the Courts in Blandford Forum. A tale of 5 lads and their quest for chocolate, and one relating to the severe winter weather.  Across the country, people suffered from a winter of  storms, heavy snow, gales and high tides which bought lots of flooding during the winter of 1916/17.

Photograph of a cattle market
Cattle Market possibly at Blandford

Worst floods for 35 years

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“Dad, Dad the war is over”

Grandad Beck told my father the story of how May overheard a conversation while she was working at the telephone exchange in Blandford Forum.  May promptly telephoned her father to tell him that the war was over.  The call is likely to have been between an Officer in London and the RAF station at Blandford.  Grandad Beck went on to tell my father that he gave her a good telling off.  May was in a position of trust and must not repeat anything she should overhear.

Girl with white cat in snow
Photo of May taken at Blandford Police Station most likely during WW1

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Moving Police Stations – from Blandford to Beaminster

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.

3 Ladies, 2 seated with tennis rackets
Rebecca and May with Grandad Beck’s sister Beat (Beatrice)

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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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Senior Policemen of Dorset at Conference Point

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.

8 uniformed police officers with the 2 most senior chiefs
Note the moustaches, when these men joined the force a moustache, was likely, to have been compulsory but beards forbidden

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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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Photographs of Beaminster Police station 1920 to 1925

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.

Supt. Beck in uniform with his wife in a pony and trap
Grandad Beck with his wife Rebecca

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A Posse of Police at Wedding

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.

Wedding Photo
Outside the sacred building a posse of police from the Bridport Division, formed a guard of honour, and underneath their batons the bride and bridegroom passed amid showers of confetti (Text from Bridport News)

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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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