Policemen are often called as witnesses in court cases, this is useful for me, to trace Grandad Beck’s movements around the county. While researching today’s post I found Grandad Beck was a witness for a case involving Upwey in July 1903. Which means that the family moved from Lyme Regis sometime previously or possibly at the end of 1902. I had thought they moved the following year in 1904 and this post mention the later date. The further back I go the less information I can find, the newspaper reports are shorter and a Constable appears less often then Superintendents.
From 1903 to 1908 I have written about four cases, the first three Granddad Beck as P.C. Beck is mentioned and the last one because it was unusual. Upwey was an interesting posting, in 1903 this was under the Portland Division which, until the New Portland Police station was built, held the divisional courts in Weymouth. Weymouth had its own Borough Police force, this must have been a challenge for Grandad Beck. Traffic and people moved between the two which required the two forces to work together on some cases. In addition the railway went though Upwey, this would have been the first time Grandad Beck had a beat on a railway line. These cases give us a good idea of the range of incidents that had to be dealt with by the police. Portland had a large naval base and visiting sailors caused the problems in the first case.
I have chosen 2 photographs from the albums that are likely to have been taken around this time. Unfortunately we have no clue as to where they were taken.
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.
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.
“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.