The Museum of Policing in Cheshire
Feature Articles

Martin Nicholls KPM.

Chief Constable of Warrington1907 ~ 1937.

PortraitOne of the treasures of the museum collection is a book found in the back of an old cupboard during building work at Stockton Heath Police Station. It was rescued from the skip by PC Graham Roughsedge and turned out to be the personal scrapbook of Martin Nicholls, one of Warrington Borough's most important figures. The book, which contains many newspaper clippings, photographs and letters, pictures the life of this remarkable man who was one of the leading professional police officers of his day.

Born in 1871, at the age of twenty he joined Reading County Borough Police as a constable. In just ten years, in 1901, he was appointed Chief Constable of Windsor, an astonishing achievement, not only because of his age and in a time when most Chief Constables were former military officers, but also because the royal connections of Windsor made the post a keenly sought after one.

Whilst at Windsor he was responsible for many royal occasions and proved to be an energetic innovator. He earned praise from the press for his treatment of motorists, a new problem for the police which has not changed much today.

A courteous Chief Constable
We commend to the notice of chief constables throughout the country the method adopted by Mr M Nicholls, the Chief Constable of Windsor, in dealing with speedy motorists. Instead of summoning for the first offence he warns those who are reported as exceeding the legal limit when near the Royal Borough of Windsor. "I have to draw your attention," runs the courteous official warning, "to the fact that this is an offence for which a penalty might be inflicted by the justices and it is hoped that you will endeavour to prevent a recurrence of the same." If every police authority would take such a course it would do much to ease the present friction between motorists and the official world.

 

In 1907 he was promoted to Chief Constable of the Warrington Borough Police where he remained for 30 years.

Apart from being a superb organiser the Chief was recognised by all for his concern for the people for whose safety he was responsible.

On one occasion he wrote an appeal to the Justices for leniency on behalf of a man accused of street betting, regarded as a serious offence in those days. The letter was quoted in full  in the local papers. 

Corps

He started the Police Aided Clothing Fund to provide clothing for needy children, a charity which is still in existence today. Also a well know poultry breeder he organised shows to raise money for charity, which became a celebrated Warrington event. A proud clipping in the book shows his first-prize winning bird at the Royal Show in Leicester.

The Chief also started the Warrington Grappling Corps, a volunteer unit for rescues on the river Mersey. The photograph here with the corps shows a tall and imposing figure well known at all Warrington's major events.

Martin Nicholls was a keen sportsman and helped to found the Police Recreation Ground. His cricketing prowess is shown in newspaper clippings, from a duck against London City to 55 against Staines.

He was awarded the King's Police Medal in 1925.

   
Cartoon

His epitaph may be found in a speech to Warrington Borough Council. Nicholls had been criticised for using the police to raise money for charity. In his defence Alderman Pemberton said:

"The fact that they had a Chief Constable, and a force supporting him, who did all they possibly could for poor people who could not help themselves was one of the finest things the town could boast of."