Joining the police: First Beat at Stourpaine, Dorset

As I would expect the further back I go the harder it is to find information. Nonetheless, it is surprising what can be found, a useful article from 1878 tells us something about Grandad Beck’s childhood.  We can only guess at why he became a policemen but we do know that this was a good move and that the job was to suit him.  Having written about him as a Superintendent, it is harder to imagine the raw 19-year-old starting his training as a Constable at Dorchester Police Station.

Childhood and education

Grandad Beck was born and spent his childhood in the village of Buckland Newton, Dorset.  He would have been educated with his siblings in the local village school.  The Elementary Education Act 1880 set compulsory attendance from 5 to 10 years. Children between 11 and 13 were allowed to be employed providing they had a certificate to show they had reached the educational standard.  Buckland Newton’s school was built in 1857 and had an average attendance of 107 pupils in 1881. The school mistress was Mrs Mary Ann Smith. (Kelly’s Directory 1889). In 1878 Grandad Beck’s father (Eli) won two prizes, awarded by the Labourers Improvement Society for regularly sending his children to school and Sunday school.   Eli and Frances Beck had three children in 1878 Charles aged 7 years, Olive aged 4 years and Grandad Beck (Arthur Percy) aged 3 years. Therefore this would have referred to Charles’ school attendance.

Newspaper article
Labourers Improvement Society: Western Gazette 6 Sept 1878

Continue reading “Joining the police: First Beat at Stourpaine, Dorset”

Lyme Regis – Attempted Suicide and Overcrowded Steamboats

Grandad Beck and his wife Rebecca lived in the police station at Lyme Regis from 1896 to 1903. The station was in Horse Street, renamed Coombe Street in about 1901. This is now a private house. Sergeant Henry Battrick with wife his Mary, Son William aged 9 and Daughter Elizabeth 8 also lived in the station in 1901.

In 1902 the Standing Committee approved repairs to several police stations around the county including Lyme Regis.  Grandad Beck and the family may have benefited from the £25 10 shillings spent on the repairs.  The contract was awarded to A.O.F. Wisecombe.

1902 was also notable for the coronation of  King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 9 August.  The coronation had to be postponed from 26 June as the King was ill and required surgery.  The Chief Constable authorised  £25 for decorating the 17 police stations in the county for the occasion.

As a Police Constable, there are fewer reports in the newspapers for me to follow Grandad Beck’s career.  The only one I found of him, giving evidence in court, was in 1900.

The Dorset Standing Joint Committee spent considerable time discussing the monitoring of passenger numbers on the steamboats.  Though I can find no mention of him, I am sure that Grandad Beck would have been one of the P.C.’s deployed to count the people, at the Cobb, Lyme Regis.  I thought you would enjoy a couple of photographs taken aboard the steamboat, though these are most likely from when the family lived at Beaminster in the 1920s.  There is a link at the bottom of the page to more photographs of the steamboat Victoria at Lyme Regis.

Women seated on a boat
Rebecca Beck aboard the steamboat c1920

Continue reading “Lyme Regis – Attempted Suicide and Overcrowded Steamboats”

P. C. Beck at Upwey 1903-1908

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.

People in a horse drawn trap
May and Lionel going on a picnic with Mum, Dad (taking the photo) Granny and Grandad (Eli, driving and Fanny or Francis Beck)

Continue reading “P. C. Beck at Upwey 1903-1908”

First Police Detective in Dorset

“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.

Picture of Bargate Southampton
Postcard to Lionel

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A Policeman’s Lot is Not a Happy One

“A Policeman’s Lot is Not a Happy One” was a popular song from The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert & Sullivan, since 1880.  I am sure Grandad Beck, heard this and chuckled, he loved his job and working in Dorset but others were not so happy.

Grandad Beck was promoted to Sergeant in 1908, while the family were living at Upwey.  As a police constable he would have been working long hours, 7 days a week, the family must have only seen him for short periods each day.  While his promotion would not have effected the hours he worked, it would have meant a modest increase in pay. Police Officers had 5 days annual holiday, for Lionel and May it must have been strange to see their father out of uniform.  The newspapers reports of the Joint Standing Committee meetings (1909-1914), shows how this was all to change.  The police Weekly Rest Day Act of 1910 was to give all policemen 1 day off per week, this was voluntary for the police forces until becoming mandatory on 26th July 1914, just before war was declared.

The request for policemen to assist the military in 1910 came as Dorset, along with other force, were having problems retaining and recruiting men. Young men, including Great Uncle Ernest, were joining the Metropolitan Police as they paid more.  First a report about mounted police, which gives me an excuse to show you this photograph of Grandad Beck again. This was taken in the 1920s when he was a Superintendent at Beaminster.

Supt. in uniform on a horse
Grandad Beck riding one of the horses at Beaminster Police Station

Mounted Policemen

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Preparing for the Dorset Police Sports Day

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.

Photograph of sports day
Photograph of the sports day, showing the stands built by the tug-of-war team

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The Wilfully and Malice Murder of Winifred Mitchell

As a detective, the murder of a young women in 1913 was Grandad Beck’s highest profile case.  This case was noted on his Obituary, September 1947, in the same year Mr. Beck was appointed to the Merit Class.  Grandad Beck, Mr Plummer, Deputy Chief Constable, Superintendent Ricketts, and Sergeant Stockley were commended for their presentation of the case in a letter from the Public Prosecutor, Charles W. Matthews.

Policeman with shot gun
P.C. Stockley: The policeman who discovered the body (Western Gazette 23 May 1913)

There are numerous accounts of this murder in contemporary newspapers from all over the UK and more recently in books and on the Internet.  The Western Gazette included photographs, which was unusual. The illustrations used in this post are taken from the on-line British Newspaper Archive.

The murder reads like an Agatha Christie without Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot! Continue reading “The Wilfully and Malice Murder of Winifred Mitchell”

3rd Dorset Regiment: Mutiny and fatal shooting at Upwey

On night of Sunday 28th November 1914 there was a mutiny at Upwey, near Weymouth. Private Wallace Williams of the 3rd Dorset Regiment was killed and Private Lane injured.  The papers report that Grandad Beck attended the Coroner’s court but gives us no information about his involvement.  The civil courts part in this was to ascertain how the death happened and if it was a criminal offence.  The war had started 4 months before.  I am sure that the investigating the incident had to be handled with care, as it involved both the military and civilian police.  It is likely that Grandad Beck, as Dorset’s only detective was involved in the investigation and liaising with the Dorset Regiment.  This may have helped to secure his promotion the following year, to Superintendent of Blandford Forum, a town with a military base nearby.

I know it is not really relevant but I couldn’t resist another picture of Lionel in uniform take in 1917.

Young man in uniform
Lionel, Grandad Beck’s son in the uniform of the Royal North Devon Hussars C. April 1917

Continue reading “3rd Dorset Regiment: Mutiny and fatal shooting at Upwey”

Problems for Dorset Police Force During WW1

Grandad Beck was promoted to Superintendent of the Blandford Division of the Dorset Constabulary in June 1915 nearly 11 months after the start of World War One.  This promotion came at a difficult time for the Dorset police force as reduced police numbers and rising costs caused major problems.  Reading the Dorset Standing Joint Committee reports in the Newspapers, the wages that the men received were constantly being reviewed, as the price of food and other essential commodities rose.  At the same time the Chief Constable, Captain Granville, was reporting on police strength, how many policemen had been released to the military, and the deaths of former policemen in the fighting.

War Bonus

Policemen were paid weekly, each week they would have walked or cycled to their Divisional headquarter, saluted their senior officer and received the cash due to them.  As the war progressed their wage was not enough for them and their families to buy the basic necessities of live.  To overcome this the Standing Committee, along with other police forces, issued a War Bonus, awarded until peace was signed.  The first bonus of 2s (shillings) per week for all ranks of Dorset policemen, was issued in April 1915, by the end of the war the bonus had risen to 10s.  In September 1917 The Food Controller stated that the cost of living had increased by 101.7% since the start of the war.

Many policemen, who had retired on pensions, rejoined to replace those joining the military.  These men were getting their police pension and their wages.  In July 1917, 4 Sergeants and 9 constables had reached retiring age since the start of the war. These men were unable to retire and claim their pensions, unless medically unfit. All policemen had to work extra hours. By 1916 constables were working 14 or 15 hours a day instead of 9, with one day off a fortnight instead of one day a week and since July 1915 all leave had been cancelled.

Allowances

It was not only pay that was an issue with increasing costs. Policemen’s boots had nearly doubled in cost (from 11s to 21s) by November 1917. Therefore the committee increased the boot allowance from 6d (pence) to 1s per week for all ranks.  Bicycles were being used more by the rural districts due to increased hours, larger beat areas and making lots of enquiries for the Army. In November 1917 this allowance was increased from £1 to £3 per annum, in specified areas, for Sergeants and constables.

Superintendent’s also had problems with their allowances for feeding their horses and prisoners.  In October 1916 the superintendents allowance for the subsistence of prisoners whilst in custody was discussed.  They were given half-pence per hour while a prisoner was in custody, which was not enough to cover the increased cost of the meals.  Each prisoner received 12 ounces of bread and 2 ounces of cheese three times a day, 8am, 1pm and 5pm.  A pint of tea or coffee at 8am and 5pm.  The committee agreed to double the allowance. I wrote about the forage for the horses last week in Locomotion for Dorset Superintendents.

Pay rises after the war

After the war, Police Sub-Committee had a hurried meeting, in June 1918. The Metropolitan Police were threatening to strike over pay and conditions.  The Met. police went on strikes in August 1918 and June 1919.  It is likely that Grandad Beck’s brother Ernest was involved in these strikes. This resulted, a year later, in a uniformed pay scale for the all police forces in the country.  New rates meant a constable on joining received 70s (at start of war 20s 9b) per week rising after 22 years’ service to 85s (pre-war 24s 9b) per week.  Sergeants, on promotion, 100s (pre-war 26s 10b) per week rising after five years’ service to 112s 6d (pre-war 29s 8b) per week. Superintendents would get £400 (pre-war £138 7s 11d) per year rising to £460 (pre-war £173 7s 9b) after 4 years.  At the Standing Committee meeting in Dorchester, the new compulsory pay scale was implemented. Mr. W. Carter commented, that the Dorset policemen are getting more wages than they actually asked us for, free houses, free clothes and pensions! Policemen are doing well. I have previously written about other changes introduced at this time in Public-Spirited County Policemen – A Difficulty Solved.

Police strength

The Chief Constable had 218 policemen at the start of the war and by the end 57 officers had joined the military, 9 of these lost their lives.  Finding replacements was not easy, the force was only able to employ those over 40 years and some of these men didn’t stay long.  While the pensioners helped, the chief constable told the committee in January 1916,  the pensioners didn’t have the vigour of the younger men and some of them had to resign because they couldn’t stand the work.  By the end of the war the force was 50 men under strength, this included the 11 officers who were employed on duties of a military character. There were 25 men who were entitled to retire, but not allowed to because of the war.

The force had returned to full strength by May 1919 though some of the pensioners were still employed.  In March 1919 the one rest day per week was restored. The Chief Constable told the committee that he would require 60 new recruits. All those men who had serviced in the military were entitled to return to the police force, including those who had been injured, if possible.  Police Constable Sam Coombs had been severely wounded in the war and had a artificial foot, was to be re-employed. The Chief Constable said he was a very deserving young fellow and he proposed to reinstate him as a constable and find work for him as a station constable and telephone attendant.  The committee applauded the Chief Constable to mark their approval.

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Ref: Quotes in italics
Western Gazette:
1919: 21 March p8; 16 May p10; 25 July p8; 17 October p9
1918: 1 February p6; 17 May p3; 19 July p3; 18 October p6; 8 November p5
1917: 2 February p5; 25 May p7; 20 July p6; 19 October p6; 30 November p8
1916: 4 February p5; 20 October p8
1915 22 October p9
Western Daily Press: 1915 26 April p3

Locomotion for Dorset Superintendents

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.

Line of Motor Bikes and early cars under trees
This photograph was in the family collection, I have no idea where or why this was taken and kept but perhaps someone will recognise it

Replace Worn-out Horses with Motor-Cycles

Continue reading “Locomotion for Dorset Superintendents”