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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Having Fun with the Grandchildren

1932 was the year that Grandad Beck’s third and final grandchild was born. My father was very fond of his grandfather and has happy memories of holidays at Poole. Grandad Beck outlived both his son and daughter. Lionel died in 1918 and my Grandmother, May in 1939.

We have many photographs that Grandad Beck took of his two children and three grandchildren. I have chosen two photos for this post, both taken at Grandad Beck’s home at Longfleet, Poole, Dorset.  The first one shows the three Grandchildren Osborne, Marion and Jackson with Aunty Jo (Grandad Beck’s second wife) and Fred House, the children’s father. This photograph has a date on the back, 7 September 1941, which (if correct) would have been during the World War Two. Osborne at 15 years would have left school and have been working on the farm with his father, Fred. Marion 12 years and Jackson 9 years old, both at School. From the balls on the lawn and mallet, Fred is holding, it looks like they had been playing croquet.

Osborne, Marion, Jackson, Aunty Jo and Fred House sitting on deckchairs in the garden
Osborne, Marion, Jackson, Aunty Jo and Fred House at Longfleet, Poole

The second photograph is my favourite. A race between Grandad, Granddaughter and Grandson, with what looks like 2 lawnmowers and a lawn roller. The two children look younger so I think this is an earlier picture.

Grandad Beck with Grandchildren lining up for a race. Marion has a lawnmower with a M on it. Jackson has a lawnmower with J on it and Grandad has a lawn roller with G.
Grandad Beck with Grandchildren Marion and Jackson Circa 1940 Taken at Longfleet Poole

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Bridport Gets Road Traffic Signal Lights at Dangerous Corner

“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.

The traffic lights at the Town Hall Bridport after 1935 exact date unknown
The traffic lights at the Town Hall Bridport after 1935 exact date unknown

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Parents and Siblings

Grandad Beck died on 11 September 1947 in Poole, Dorset. From his  will, dated December 1942 I encountered a few names that I hadn’t heard of, this was an opportunity to research Grandad Beck’s parents and siblings. Grandad Beck was brought up in Buckland Newton, a small village in rural West Dorset and was the middle child of five children,  One older brother (Charles) who didn’t survive childhood, an older sister (Olive), a younger sister (Beatrice) and a younger brother (Ernest).  Interesting to see that his sister Beatrice married a police constable and their son also joined the police, eventually becoming a Chief Constable.  Grandad Beck’s younger brother joined the Metropolitan Police and later immigrated to America, I would like to find out more about Ernest and his family. Grandad Beck was the only one to remain in Dorset, near their parents. Continue reading “Parents and Siblings”