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.
Constable’s cycle chase
On Friday 4 January 1924 a pair of boots was stolen from Messrs. Frisby’s premises at Bridport. When the police made enquiries the were told that a tramp had been seen at Messrs. Hill & Boll’s garage in East Street, going towards Dorchester, carrying what appeared to be boots under his coat. PC Grey chased the tramp from Bridport to Winterbourne Abbas, 10 miles from Bridport on his bicycle. P.C. Grey overtook the tramp at Winderborne Abbas at about a quarter to nine in the evening. No mean feat, when you consider the light on his bike is likely to have been oil and it would have been dark when he left. When P.C. Grey apprehended the tramp he was wearing the stolen boots. When confronted he said “I shall say nothing”. P.C. Grey took John William Clark to Dorchester Police station, where he said “My boots were worn out so I made a job of it”.
At the police court, Mr James Scanlon the manager of Frisby’s shop identified the tramps boots as the ones stolen from outside the shop. The boots were valued at 32/6, one pound, 12 shillings and 6 pence. John Clark, pleaded guilty saying that he was badly in want of boots as those he was wearing were in a dilapidated state.
Supt. Beck read a list of John’s previous convictions for similar thefts and the court sentenced him to 3 month’s imprisonment with hard labour. Both Grandad Beck and the Mayor Mr W. E. Bates condemned the local shop keepers practice of putting their wares outside their shops. We feel that it is putting a big temptation in the way of an unfortunate man like this, and it is a practice which ought certainly to be discontinued.
A warning to Shopkeepers
The Bridport News printed this warning to shopkeepers in the town. The Superintendent pointed out that for the quarter ending December 31st over a thousand casuals were relieved by the police at Bridport and Beaminster, … Many of these men were in sore straits, and it was a big temptation to them to steal. … It is quite a common occurrence on market days to see goods exposed for sale on the pavements in the town, and unless someone is left in charge pilfering cannot very well be avoided. No doubt trades men will heed the warning.
In 1924 there seems to have been some sympathy for these wandering, homeless men but by 1930 these men were considered undesirables and should not be allowed to stay in town, as I wrote here. Supt. Beck was trying to rid the town of this particular class of man … and had given instructions that such men were not to be allowed to stay in the town. (July 1930).
Supt. Beck afterwards made application for the restoration of the boots to the firm, but this was refused by the Bench on the ground that a previous warning had been given in regards to leaving goods exposed for sale without someone being in attendance. When Grandad Beck bought up the subject of these boots and what he was to do with them, at the next court session, the bench relented and they were returned to the shop.
The shop keepers didn’t stop the practice of putting articles outside there shops as I wrote here. Four years later in February 1928 The Mayor (Mr A. R. Travers) said the practice of certain tradesmen exhibiting goods in the streets and door ways was a temptation to some people and he hoped this practice might be discontinued.
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References Quotes in Italics:
Bridport News: 1924 January 11 page 5; 1924 January 25 p6; 1928, February 10 page 7
Western Gazette 1st August 1930 page 16