Why write about Grandad Beck?

Why write about Supt. Beck, well it all started many years ago.  I was in my early twenties working in the Monmouth Bar at the Bull Hotel.  An elderly gentleman used to come in for half-a-pint, while waiting for his wife.  We got chatting and when he learnt about my family he came out with a surprising statement. “I remember your Grandmother, lovely lady”.  My Grandmother died when my father was a small boy.  Then he said something even more surprising, “I used to see your Great Grandfather Supt. Beck driving his horse and trap between Beaminster and Bridport”. What? Who? I told him that I had an Auntie Jo Beck but never heard of Supt. Beck.  He explained to me that Auntie Jo was in fact Supt. Beck’s second wife.  “She was the families servant, after the death of your Great Grandmother, Supt. Beck married her, she was the same age as his daughter – it was the talk of the town!”

The next time Supt. Beck came to my attention was when I saw the picture taken by Dorset Constabulary for his retirement, but the idea of researching his life only came after a recent Powerstock House family reunion.  My father showed us some family photos.  One showed Supt. Beck at Beaminster Police station with a early car. As my father is the last of the grandchildren I decided now was a good time to find out more.  This blog is a record of my journey.

Where to start
As I live in Bridport, this seemed a good place to start by researching Grandad Beck’s retirement from Bridport Division of the Dorset Constabulary.  Bridport was  Arthur Percy Beck’s last position in the police (or so I thought) and one that is written about in the Bridport News.  First though I needed to find out where he was born, what background he came from, so I looked at the censuses.

From the Censuses
1881 census shows Percy Beck Scholar 5 years old living at Buckland Newton, Dorset with his father, mother, brother and sister.  His father was a gardener – I wonder where, who he worked for?  Both his father and mother are listed as being born in Buckland Newton.

1891 census now listed as Arthur Percy Beck aged 15 living as a border in Garden Cottage, Winterborne Herringston, Dorset.  His occupation is listed as Gardener/Domestic Servant. I wonder when he left to become a Policeman and why?

1901 Beck is now in Lyme Regis, after a busy 10 years.  He is now a Police Constable living at the Horse Street, Lyme Regis with his wife, Rebecca and a son aged 2.  I noted their ages, Arthur was 25 years and Rebecca 39 years. It is unusual to see a wife 14 years older than her husband, Rebecca is listed as being born in Broadwell, Gloustershire – I wonder how they met?

1911 The family are now in Overton Villas, Dorchester.  Arthur is listed as a Policeman Det. Sergt.  They have been married 14 years (so married in approx. 1987) have 2 children Lionel Howard aged 12 at school and Laura May, my grandmother, aged 9 both born in Lyme Regis.  This is the first census where we see the hand writing of the occupants and this sheet is signed by Arthur P Beck. One other piece of information is that their house has 6 rooms, their house in Lyme Regis had 4 rooms (this includes the kitchen but not bathrooms).

Do you notice that Supt. Beck was called Percy as a child in the 1881 census but there after he is listed a Arthur.   We can also see a steady improvement in his living conditions, from boarder to at good size house.

Themes
It has become clear to me, there are themes in Grandad Beck’s working life. Possibly these are relevant to the police in any era.  I became aware of these from talking to my father, the only person I know that can remember Grandad Beck, my cousins who can tell me what their parents said about him and from my first look at the Bridport News.

Traffic is clearly an important part of the polices work, during Beck’s career there were great changes with the advent of cars.  We think our lives change quickly but if you look at photos of Bridport in 1900, mainly horses and carts and bikes to 30 years later when there is lots of cars and lorries and no horses.  As we will see traffic was a major part of his working life.

Strangers, from Gypsies to tramps to spies and saboteurs in the two world wars.  Knowing the people in a area and being aware of strangers was an important part of police work.  While a modern policeman doesn’t have the knowledge that the old village bobby had they are still concerned about strangers.

Intoxicated liquor Licences, pubs and the result of too much alcohol was something that Beck was involved in, on his retirement he was teased about becoming a landlord.  Some things do not change and dealing with drunks is one of them, I don’t think this will ever not be part of a policeman’s routine.

So I expect to see some great changes, over Beck’s career yet his job as a policeman is recognisable today.

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