Thoughts on the police in Chester between 1948 –
By PC Ron Leigh.
My name is Ronald Leigh born in Manchester in 1919 but have lived all my life, except for the period of World War II in Cheshire, firstly in Stockport and later in Marple, Wilmslow, Crewe and Chester, where I have spent 29 Years of that time.
So not a Cestrian by birth I have become one by adoption, I have always felt at home here and have grown to love and enjoy Chester in all its many facets. I have acted (press-ganged at first) as a guide to visiting Americans and have spent quite a lot of time delving into its history. Although a member of the Cheshire Constabulary I have known this city all through my service, which was inevitable as Force Headquarters has been in Chester for over 125 years.
Joining the Police Force.
My next visit was on l0th. May 1948 when I came to be interviewed with a view to joining the Cheshire Constabulary. This took place at the Force Headquarters at 142 Foregate Street Chester on 2nd June 1948 I was sworn into the Force giving my oath of allegiance to the King in the Magistrates Court before the Bench of Broxton Magistrates in Chester Castle. I was posted to the then Broxton Division of the County Force and stationed at Hoole in the sub-division station at Stone Place on Hoole Road, Hoole. The building was comprised of two houses as in a semi-detached, and access from one to the other was gained by an additional communicating door at the rear where there was the addition of a cell-block in the house of the east side which was used exclusively for police duties. The parade room was downstairs, storeroom and tailors workroom upstairs. The house on the east side was the home of the resident of the police Sgt and his family, this accounted for the need of the communicating door at the rear. There was one slight drawback to this facility, there was no bathroom in the Sgt's quarters and the end cell of the police station was not used for prisoners but as a bathroom for the Sgt and his family. Being built as a cell there was no handle on the inside of the door, inevitably one officer not being too well acquainted with the cell layout took a prisoner's evening meal into the end cell and nearly dropped in onto the sergeants wife who was enjoying the questionably comforts of a zinc bath at the time. Needless to say it only happened once.
Before we leave these extra points of interest it may be enlightening to explain the peculiar arrangements of Chester Castle in relation to the City in whose territorial area it is. Though completely within the city walls the castle including the Law Courts and the County Hall, it owes no responsibility to the City and likewise its security and law and order are the responsibility of the County Police and not the City Force. This apparently evolves from the fact that the Castle always was and still is an Arm of the Crown, years ago the county jail was situated in the castle precincts also until the whole area was re-designed and built by G. Harrison. Therefore, even before the amalgamation in 1949 brought about by the Police Act of 1946 whereby small Forces for economical reasons mainly could not afford the increasing expense of technology and advancing police policies, were advised by the Home Office to merge with their Larger neighbours.
The Chester City Force.
Having regard to the information shown in the later part of my introduction you will appreciate that the original Chester City Force was administered by a body of commissioners under the Act of 1792 which empowered them to pay and employ watchmen as well as a few constables as then existed as parish constables in their respected wards and parishes being formally appointed by the City Courts of Quarter Sessions.
In the early 1800's the change to fully professional police forces came into being and the municipal corporation Act of 1835 laid down the first outline for the formation of regular police in the boroughs followed by the Acts of 1839 and 40,
The County and Borough Police Act, 1856 put the polish on the system and it is about this time that all boroughs and county areas had formed their own Forces, some quite Small and others quite large. Even at this stage it is or well to note that the policing of London required special legislation and so the City of London Police, covering about one square mile of the city centre, and the Metropolitan Police covering a greater area around the city proper had come into being independently of the provincial forces. Another point is that the head of the Metropolitan Force is the Home secretary, although he is not the Chief constable, this is the Commissioner of Police. All Forces come into being by Act of Parliament; some like the Metropolitan require special acts e.g.. Railways, Docks, Ministry Police for various departments etc.
The Chester City Police came into being in about 1836, although the exact date is not clear However from that time the Force appears to have been run in the accepted manner, and it was one of eight Borough Forces in the County of Cheshire - Chester, Stockport, Hyde, Stalybridge, Macclesfield, Congleton, Birkenhead and Wallasey.
Amalgamation of the Chester City Force into Cheshire Constabulary
This was brought about through the Police Act of 1946 when five boroughs situated in the County of Cheshire had to merge within the County Force. These were Chester, Macclesfield, Congleton, Stalybridge and Hyde, leaving the boroughs of Stockport, Birkenhead and Wallasey still independent. As was to be expected there were many problems to be overcome, re-arranging of boundaries, beats, manpower, command structure and facilities from buildings to vehicles etc in everyday use, not to mention the day-to-day administration of it all. Another factor was the natural resentment of the members of the forces who were loosing their identity, even to changes in uniform and badges. Also the local political scene was not happy as from the Mayor downwards they felt that they had lost their "bobbies" of whom they were very proud. In spite of all this upheaval, within three years all five boroughs had been absorbed into the Cheshire Force and in spite of everything the work of the Police did not falter or suffer in any way which was a compliment in itself to all concerned. In order to allow the original Force members to be disturbed as little as possible, no man could be transferred to another station out of his or hers original police area unless he or she had opted to do so. This applied to the end of their service, though they could always change their mind at any time. Another interesting point is that if a man in his original borough force had the number P.C. 67 in Cheshire he was allowed to retain it by the prefix figure such as 8 - making him then P.C. 867.
The Last of the Three Boroughs.
The Boroughs of Stockport, Birkenhead and Wallasey remained autonomous until another Act brought them into the Cheshire County fold in 1965. As can be seen, the Chester area covered by the Chester City Division of the County absorbed the largest slice of this merger and administratively this put a lot of strain on the resources even thought by this time the Headquarters and Chester City Division had moved from their old and small buildings to the new Police H.Q. building in Nicholas street. The Chester City division, which was the working branch of this complex, was situated on the ground floor in the new building.
Formation of the new Metropolitan Areas.
Within ten years of this last merger, it was all change again, not by an instrument of a Police Act, but by the formation of the new Metropolitan Boroughs of Merseyside and Greater Manchester, and it affected the County of Cheshire. As far the Chester City Division was concerned, it meant that Birkenhead and Wallasey and the slice of the Wirral area, were lost into Merseyside. "Warrington Borough and Widnes left their home of Lancashire and came into Cheshire, and the Greater Manchester giant took a Large lump out of the north eastern end of Cheshire, including Altrincham, Cheadle, Stockport Stalybridge and Hyde. Again we had the problem of making the transition as acceptable as possible to all concerned, every person affected by this, even those staying within the County force, was asked whether they wish had to move in or out as the case may be. Once again all the myriad difficulties were overcome and relations between Forces remained excellent, highlighting once again the adaptability of the Police Forces.
Other Buildings connected with Law and Order in Chester.
Prisons unfortunately always seem to be necessary in any form of communal life and Chester seems to be no exception. No doubt the Romans had one but this is no longer apparent. However the site at the one at the Northgate is still on record. It forms part of the actual Northgate and the dungeons were in the sandstone rock of its foundations. The place of execution was also in the jail itself and prisoners before their execution were taken outside the walls to the church of Little St. John, which stood on or near the present site of the Blue Coat building. It was found that whilst taking this last walk, friends of such prisoners frequently staged attempts to free them. In order to foil such attempts by these footpads thieves and felons, the authorities in 1793 built the small bridge which can still be seen, less its protecting railway between the City walls in the west side of Northgate over the moat/canal to the Blue Coat school.
Queen’s School Site of Prison.
Later when the Northgate structure was falling into disrepair, a house of correction and city jail was built in the gardens of the rear of where the Queen's School is now, until that was taken down when the Queen's School itself was built in 1882. By this time the Town Hall had been built, having its own cells and police station complex. More about this later. There was also a jail in the Castle as mentioned previously, but this was far larger than required for the City’s main use and mainly used for persons awaiting trial by the itinerant judges who held their Assize Courts in the Castle also.
Courts within the City precincts.
Until recent years the Castle Courts accommodated
(1) The Assize Court (Highest Court in the Provinces)
(2) Quarter sessions (Lesser Court) held by a Recorder or Magistrates sitting with a jury but with lesser powers than the Assize Court.
(3) Magistrates or Petty sectional Courts for the hearing of minor offences or the preliminary hearing of more serious offences.
Nowadays the Assize and Quarter sessions are no longer in existence instead the higher Court is known as a Crown Court, which is a simplified method of the old system.
Chester City Courts.
These are held in the 'Town Hall in specially designed rooms and are now confined to Magistrate Courts whose role is outlined above. Until the formation of the Crown Courts the City had its own recorder who presided over the City Quarter sessions empowered to try offences committed within its jurisdiction, which was usually within the City limits, but there were exceptions.
The Police Station in the Town Hall.
To my knowledge of the old Chester Police station is confined to the period 1955 ~ 1966. I first came to it when I was transferred from Wilmslow to Chester to take charge of the Fingerprint and Photographic Department, scenes-of-crime officer in the Chester City Division of the County Force. The Chester City Division was known as a division where the workload was very high in all facets of police duty. There was no room for idle hands. It was said that Chester was a small city with a bit city's problems. It is a crossroads where a large number of the public and criminal fraternity pass through. To say that the whole set-up on the ground floor of the Police Station was out of date would be putting it mildly, which is not surprising as it was built in 1860’s and was about 90 years old when I first entered it. The main entrance for the public was by the first door on the left when entering Princess Street from the Town Hall Square. The frame of the old 'Blue Lamp' is over this doorway. In 1966 the local press photographed me, ceremoniously locking this heavy studded door for the last time as a Police station. When entering the police station, one was confronted with a long corridor to the front, with a bench to the right hand wall. This was used by all sorts of ‘customer’, people reporting lost property, dogs, children, husbands or cycles, people waiting to give statements about road accidents, crime, coroner's inquests or to visit friends or relatives whose liberty was temporarily suspended. The first door on the left led into the general / enquiry office, but the public only had access to the enquiry window to the left of this door. If it was your ‘usually’ misfortune to gain access to this room, it meant invariably that you would be about to “help the police with their enquiries". You would probably not notice much about the room and no great loss would be occasioned as it always reminded me of the railway station office in a Will Hay comedy film. Notices, lists and papers turned brown with age and curled at the edges adorned the walls. Old shabby furniture, high desks, Pintable type telephone switchboard with numerous reddish-brown tubes hanging out of it with a Victorian type handset for the operator, and if a police woman was operating it, she may be wearing headphones with a fixed mouthpiece attached the whole looking like a piece of medieval head torture. Bobbies would walk in and out getting or giving information to the Sergeant, Inspector or Constable on office duty. The office man would be fully occupied during his course of duty attending to the wants, queries, demands and or complaints or abuse from the miscellany of customers who rarely seem to decrease in number. Yet, in spite of all this, and with newspaper reporters under the feet, the day to day business was carried out without hitch, 999 calls were attended to with alacrity and it was unusual for a cry to help not to be attended to with at least one P.C. on the scene within a minute or two. These were the days before every constable had a radio.
The "Sweat Box "
Inside this office, immediately to the far left, was a small cubicle build onto the inside wall bordering Prince Street. It had a very heavy door on it and inside it measured about 2ft.6ins wide by 4ft.long with a bench seat against the outside wall. This was known as the sweatbox and in early days had been a handy place to lodge an unruly drunk or prisoner until he had quietened down so that he could be dealt with in something like an orderly fashion. If the door of this box shut, any right minded P.C. would enquire as to who or what was in there before he rashly opened the door, as the result could sometimes be very overpowering.
To the front of this cubicle and under the counter of the enquiry window was a case in which during the old city days, the Mayoral chain had been stored when not in use. The floor of the general office had taken a pounding from millions of police boots over the years and finally the floorboards began to break up. After impressing the urgency upon the City fathers I was able to get them to cover the whole of it with chipboard and it may still be under the present day covering for all I know.
The C.I.D. Office.
On the right inside the General office was a door that gave access to the C.I.D. office that contained four or five tables and chairs and a few film cabinets. Usually there were not many detective constables to be found here, probably one or two completing reports or interviewing someone, as good detectives are outside catching criminals. The door from the main corridor to this office was blocked up and covered by a film cabinet. Both the above offices now form the main office of the Archivists dept.
The Divisional Office (Administration)
Further down the main corridor, on the left, is a room now used by the bookbinders of the Archivist's Dept. This was used as the Chief Clerk's office where I worked from 1963; we vacated the building for the new, police H.Q. in Nicholas Street in 1966. Where my chair used to be there is now a sink and the leather topped old heavy type office desk has disappeared. When I took over the administration I was shown a hole in the leather in the top of this desk as a reminder to be careful when handling firearms which came, surprisingly frequently, into police possession and which I had to keep safe until they were disposed of as one of my predecessors had carelessly "snapped" the trigger and blown a hole in the desk. Fortunately the desk was an extremely thick and sturdy one so the bullet lodged in the framework and did not ricochet off the stone flagged floor. Goodness knows what would have happened if the desk had been like the modern ones in laminated imitation wood or light metal.
The Typist's room.
The next door, on the left led into a cubbyhole about 15 ft. long by 6ft. high in the centre of its arched roof and about six foot wide. The far end of this was under the centre part of the Town Hall outside steps and had been used as a stationery store but for a time was used as an office for a blind lady typist - Joan Nickerson - where she used to carry out her duties with the aid of a Braille machine Her black Labrador guide dog was in a dog basket by the side of her desk.
The Boiler room.
Nearly opposite the door was the door leading into the boiler room that served the whole of the then Town hall building. On occasions, life in its immediate vicinity made intolerable by the escaping coke fumes from here, and Joan, especially, had to vacate her little office for long periods of time until the fumes had cleared.
Further along the corridor again were two rooms used by the Prosecutions Dept., who prepared all the courts work for the division and liased with the various magistrates court's clerical staff to compile the court list and make other arrangements necessary for the smooth process of the law.
Senior Officers of the Division.
Further long the corridor again was the Chief Inspector, second in command of the Division, the Detective Inspectors Office and a small corridor, lending to an outside door to the Square. The last office, which was adjacent to this small corridor, was the Superintendent in charge of the Division. These last few offices seem to have been swallowed up in the Tourist Information area.
The Parade Room.
Turning about and retracing out tracks through the dogs-leg of the corridor of the previous part of our journey, we come to corridor on our present left hands side (this is now closed by a door which was never shut in my day which I can recall). This leads into a wider area that leads towards the back of the police station. The part was used as parade room for officers coming on and going off duty where the Sergeant usually or an Inspector occasionally gave out the orders of the day at the start of a tour of duty, or debriefed the men before they went off duty at the end of their tour. On the right hand wall there was a row of box pigeon holes showing the police number of every officer who worked from that police station and in which crime information, reports books and other paraphernalia of police work could be left providing it was small enough. There was a very big table 10 or 12 ft. long below this, with wooden forms on either side for seating at which reports could be completed. This area continues for as long again about 20ft. which was an area not normally used for any specific purpose, but useful for sorting out the uniforms etc. Uniform were issued usually of one jacket and one pair of trousers per year each officer having three suits along with one greatcoat, mackintosh and cape, two caps one helmet one pair of black woollen, (later leather) gloves, one pair of white gloves (for ceremonial events), one staff, one pair of handcuffs, one whistle and chain, pocket book cover and a 2ft. rule. The jacket and trousers, one suit only, was dry-cleaned locally annually and paid for by the police authority. Boots were not supplied but an allowed of out 2/6d per week was made to each man and should he use a pedal cycle for his duties, another allowance of 5/- pet week was made uniform damaged in the course of duty, or work by fair wear and tear, but replaced free of charge, but damage by neglect, was charged to the constable, pro-rata to the current value of the article. Hand lamps battery type, were bought by the individual officer, and an allowance of 6d. per week was made for their upkeep.
The cell area.
At a point dividing the parade area from the spare area, was the cell area, to the left, an iron grill gate leading to it. The cells themselves lay in an east to west line forming the southern edge of the police station, with their outside walls forming an exercise yard about 10ft. wide and about 30 ft. long, being bordered at the east end by the Town hall and on its south and west sides by the old market Hall. There were about six cells with a washbasin at the west end of the block near to the door to the exercise yard. The cells had the usual heavy wood and metal door with a hatch in it at eye level, which opened outwards. The metal cladding was bolted to the wood of the cell door had its bolt heads on the inside end the nuts on the outside. There was no and Princes St.
handle on the inside of the door. The lock was of the box double action type the first position; the door was locked by the handle only. In the second position the key being turned locked it. The beds were 6ft wooden benches each cell had a window high up on the outside wall of unbreakable glass and small frames. Hot water pipes ran through each cell, being coupled to the normal heating system throughout the building. Opposite to the gate leading to the cell area, and across the parade room going towards Princes street, is a corridor leading to the main court
Traffic and Rural section offices.
Continuing from the cell area down into the spare area there were two cell like rooms on the left hand side. Entry was gained by door like the cell door and had a small window high up on the right of each door which looked out onto the spare area, It is apparent that they had been at sometime as cells and were probably designed as such. One was used by the Divisional motor Patrol, speed cops, and the other by the rural section, this comprised of one inspector and one sergeant and a number of Beat Constables who worked from their home station in the country beats. These beats covered the area immediately round the City boundaries - Saughall, Backford, Caughall, Ashton, Mouldsworth, Kelsall, Tattenhall, Hampton, Malpas, Tilston, Farndon, Aldford, Ecclestone, Doddleston, and Saltney. They did most of their reports at their homes, the office in the Town hall was mainly used by the Inspector and the sergeant. These offices were so small that only two or three people could be in them at one time.
Beyond these two offices there was a wooden partition across the spare area, with a door at the left-hand side that lead into the photographic dept. This was the last part of the Police station on the ground floor as the wall beyond this bordered with the part of the Market hall which branched off from the main part towards the access road from Princes street, again in this dept. we had two more cell like rooms on left. The first was identical to the first two in shape and size, doors and the little window. This was used as a studio, having a shelving unit on the right of the door, below the little window, a table in the middle of the room, the walls painted in a matt black paint to reduce possible reflection and the roof was arched. It was here that fingerprints on objects such as glass, bottles, etc., photographed by infrared and ultra-violet were carried out. It was cramped but used very successfully. The next cubby-hole, for that is all it was had no door and was only about 2ft. wide and was used to store objects awaiting for production for evidence at court, or return to their rightful owners. The room into which these two small rooms looked was in the general area of the department. The floor like all the rooms and cells, and area from and including the parade room, was of sandstone flags, which in dry weather partially caused problems in processing the photographs as the dust got everywhere. At such times one had to spray water from a watering can and sweep it up. Hanging from the ceiling 2 by 1000 watt flood lamps facing towards the "market wall” on which between the two black painted windows was fixed a white board about 8ft. high by 4 ft. wide, with graduations in black on the left hand edge from 0 to 6 ft. 6 ins. This was the board against which the prisoner stood for their upright full-length photograph. There was a wooden chair for them to sit on for their head and shoulder shots. I had painted in white on the floor the various positions of the chair legs and the various camera tripod positions for all the shots. On the right hand side of this wall a table up to the back of the wooden partition. This was the office for reports, keeping records, preparing photograph albums etc. This table was a trestle type with a deal top, which had been covered with some hard linoleum. There was a filing cabinet on the extreme left of this wall and in the wall a door between the filing cabinet and the table that gave access to the dark room.
The Dark Room.
Again a very rough sand stone floor with one window on the market wall boarded over and painted black. No ventilation whatsoever when I first came in charge of the department late in 1955. If there was a large amount of work to be done in the dark -room as frequently happened, then the fumes from the developing and fixing chemicals the latter particularly, as well as the decreasing oxygen supply (ventilation on the door would hardly have sufficed as a pantry for which it was designed) made the room become very unpleasant even to a, point of being untenable. After quite a, battle I managed to get the police administration to fit an expel air electrical ventilator into the window I could with on and off as required Below this window were two washing up sinks in porcelain and over each drain hole was fitted a metal tube about eight inches high so that the water level was always higher than the frames in which the film was suspended whilst being washed after developing and fixing. Along the far wall which one faced from the entrance door, a long sturdily build cupboard the top of which about three feet high and covered with a heavy rubber compound sheeting resistant to hypo and developer. The lower of this cupboard housed photographic equipment, developers in powder acid liquid form, boxes, of film, printing paper fingerprint powder and brushes filters electric light and flash bulb printing frames clamps, special cameras and lenses searching lamps and anything that was likely to come in useful, such spare overalls Wellington boots blackout cloths, reels of cable, plugs and adaptors etc to the right hand of this cupboard the table had a printing frame let into its surface on the horizontal, and below it fixed to the underside of the top and hanging inside the cupboard was a tea chest, its interior completely lined with silver paper and it was wired with two electric light circuits with switches on top of the table next to the inbuilt printing frame to operate the four 60 watt bulbs each fitted in the top corner of the tea chest so they gave an even reflected light for printing exposures and one 25 watt bulb in the middle of the base of the tea chest for several exposure and for making transparencies. This sounds very Heath Robinson but it worked extremely well and having only low wattage bulbs they did not fail very often. Between the printing frame and the sinks could usually be seen the developing and fixing trays with thermometer and finger for testing the temperature and timing the developing process. In cold weather a large dish of hot water would be used to keep the temperature of the developer constant. Above the working area was a safe lamp, into which various safelights could be fitted depending on the type of file or paper being used. Under the sink was a Jersey potato type plywood barrel in which the 'hypo' crystals were stored, with a lid on top to reduce the effect of the fumes from this chloride like substance. Immediately to the right of the door when entering the room was a drying cabinet for film or plates then a rotary electric drying machine for gloss prints. Then came a ramshackle table about two foot wide and three foot six inches high made out of old timber and orange box laths. On the top of this were two brass rails nailed down like tram lines along its length, the end nearest the cupboard had on the brass rails was a home made enlarger made out of an old magic lantern, complete with chimney the original oil lamp illumination and a bulbous bottle glass lens at the front. The oil lamp had been replaced by an electric light bulb holder and the whole was moved forwards or backwards manually to and from a printing frame in a clamp which held the printing paper vertically, lodged against the wall vertically, was behind it. The negative held in a film holder, was slotted in the projector in the aperture provided between the light and the lens, and it did work. I never used it in the normal course of my work as enlarging was not at that time permitted in the Force. Though I did occasionally have to examine negatives in closer detail. Once I came back from a road accident involving a new three wheel invalid carriage that had, at a corner on a steep hill gone into the front wall of a house, and finished up at 45 degrees to the level on its nose. The Police vehicle examiner later looked at my photographs and commented that I had not taken a picture of the car on its three wheels. Luckily having the make shift enlarger I was able to blow up the picture with the car on its nose, correct the angle on the print, and no one the wiser that I was actually showing the same photograph twice, not that it mattered from an evidential point of view. Later this set up was superseded by a modern vertical enlarger with a proper base plate for the printing paper to be held on.
Access to the Magistrates court: from the Cell area.
Leaving the photographic department and retracing our steps to the corridor leading to the doorway to the stairs leading to the dock in the magistrates court on the floor above. The distance from the gate leading to the cells to the door to the dock stairs is about 20 yards and on one occasion as a disgruntled prisoner was being escorted from the dock after sentence to the cell area as he reached the cell gate he suddenly shook off, the constable, about turned and ran full tilt for the outside door in Princes street, which was further along the corridor than the dock doorway with four right angle bends, left, right, left and right again, Fortunately Det. Sgt . 704 Hough was in the parade room near the cell entrance and when he saw this take place he gave chase and with a flying tackle floored the would be escapee by the door to the dock, against the door jamb of which the prisoner fell, winded and shaken, not so much worse for wear he was returned from whence he came without more ado.
The Found property store.
Turning into the corridor leading to the dock stairs doorway on the right will be found a door to a room which in my day housed the Found Property, the room is about 2O ft. square, has no windows or access to the outside. It had a metal duct ventilating system, but it always seemed very stuffy in there to me. There were racks fitted with shelves all round the walls and the whole place was full of property, which had been handed in by the public in the main. Every item had been entered in the found property book and each article was stored as near as possible in the sequence of the F.P. number, except for large items such as bicycles, ladders and so forth. Anything that can be lost seems to turn up here at some time or other. As far as possible this property was turned over every three months, although there is nothing in to demand this it is a purely common sense action. If it were left indefinitely a four-storey warehouse would be full in no time at all. In law the true owner of property, even though he has temporarily lost possession of it, never loses his ownership of it until he actually gives it away. If the finder does not wish to have the property which he found the police will dispose of it by public auction. In either case should the true owner of any article come forward at a later date he must be reimbursed by the finder if he has by then disposed of the property, or by the police if they have put it through auction, of the value of the property at the time it was found or of the value that it realised at the auction. There are some items, which would not be allowed to be retained by the finder firearms, guns and pistols would be handed over to the army for their use or destruction. keys, letters, documents of a confidential nature where the true owner could not be traced, or dangerous substances, would be destroyed or anything dangerous what required expert handling would be turned over to a competent and responsible firm or organisation.
Leaving the Found Property store and walking up to the doorway to the dock stairs and then turning left, right and right again one comes to a corridor which leads to about half a dozen steps which in turn lead down to the canteen door. Through the door and one comes into an odd shaped room the had about ten small four seater table and chairs on the right with the kitchen and serving counter on the left against the outside wall of the building adjacent to Princes Street. Though very cramped one could obtain very acceptable breakfast, lunch or tea here for a reasonable price. The method of paying was by means of 1d and 6d (old money) tickets, which could be obtained from two ticket machines in the recreation room. The only snag to this system from my point of view between 1963 and 1966 when I was in charge of the Divisional administration was the unacceptable high rate of stoppages and malfunction of these machines as they were my responsibility to see that they were operational at all times and to empty the money from them each day.
The C. I. D. Property Store
Upon retracing ones steps to the door to the to the dock again, then carrying on along the corridor one would come to another door on the right-hand side. This was the C.I.D. Property store. A room very like the found property store, again with rows of shelving, but the items on these were the subject of crime and would be held as long as it took for the case in which it figured to be heard. Every so often I had to go into this store and remove the property which had no known owner or which the courts had decreed that the Police dispose of it and transfer it onto the found property list for auction. This room is now used as the strong room by the archivist’s dept., where all the historic and irreplaceable documents are kept in controlled atmospheric conditions.
The Recreation Room.
Leaving the C.I.D. Property store behind and continuing towards the front of the building one comes to a door at the end of the corridor, behind which is the recreation room, now used as a Magistrates court room. This is the room where the officers on duty had their refreshments if they did not want to use the canteen. At the Princes street end there was a full size billiard table, with upholstered benches round three of the walls around it. On one wall were the billiard score frame and the cue rack. At the other end of the room was a table tennis table and a dartboard on the wall. This room was used for social occasions also when police teams would meet teams from other police stations and local clubs. Many a presentation to a retiring officer has been made in this room over the years. A picture of Thomas C. Griffith the last Chief Constable of Chester hung on a wall in this room.
Patrol Inspectors Office.
Leaving the recreation room by the door on the far side of the room one entered a short corridor on the left of which just before one reached the main entrance door from Princes street by which we had entered the building. This room was very small with a long table the length of the room against the right hand wall. It was with great difficulty that two people could pass each other in here. About the only thing in its favour was the fact that it was so close to the action that very little could happen in the reception area of the Police station without the Inspector being aware of it. Its main drawback apart from its size was that the noise outside it was hardly conducive to clear thinking when compiling a complicated report. The main work of the duty Inspector was to supervise the hour-by-hour work of the constables and sergeants on duty and to take over difficult situations, and smooth out the day-to-day problems.
As we have how come full circle we have finished our tour of the Chester City Police station as it was from the mid 1950's to the mid 1960s as I saw it.
The first police station in Chester was the Exchange, which was where the commissioners met empowered by an act of 1872, amongst other things to employ and pay watchmen. This building was in the vicinity of the site of the present Town Hall. They also had some constables elected by parishes and wards having been formally appointed by the City Court of Quarter Sessions. In 1839 there was a Mr. Haswell as the superintendent in charge of the watch and a Mr. Hill as the Superintendent in charge of the police. The force at that time consisting of, as far as can be ascertained from none to clear reports, three Row Constables, probably part time, and fifty ward constables, probably, annual vestry or parish constables. Mr. John Hill from being head constable of Chester in 1836 when he appeared to give evidence to a government commission enquiring into the police rose to the chief constable of Chester by 1864, so he became the first to hold the position, which he did until 1864.
By 1844 the strength of the force had become, as seen in a watch committee report one superintendent, two sergeants and sixteen constables. So judging by the numbers it is evident that the force had moved to a fully paid footing by this time.
The second Chief Constable was a George Lee Fenwick from 1864 to 1898; he was an educated man, believed to have been a schoolmaster before hand and was a very socially conscious man.
The third Chief constable was a Mr. John H. Laybourne, from Liverpool where he had been a Chief Inspector of Police. At this time the Force had a strength of a chief constable, five Inspectors, three sergeants and forty-one constables, he retired in 1920 and in 1934 as a member of the City Council he became mayor in 1934-5. He later went to live in Canada
The fourth and last Chief constable was Thomas C. Griffiths who came via the Police at St. Helens and later the South end-on sea Police force to Chester. He retired on the amalgamation of the Force into the Cheshire Constabulary in 1949. By this time the establishment of the Force had grown to seventy.
All four chief constables had served the City well for over 100 year: between them and had seen it evolve from a part time unprofessional state to a large and efficient modern Police Force, the only reason for it coming to and end was through circumstance; beyond its control.
Chief Constables of Cheshire at the time of and following amalgamation.
Upon the amalgamation with Cheshire, the City lost its autonomy as far as the Police were concerned and so lost their Chief Constable. The man who took over had been the Chief Constable of Cheshire for three years, since 1946. Captain Godwin E. Banwell, C.B.E, M.C, Q.P.M. He gained his M.C. in the 1914 -18 war. From 1919 to 1938, he served with the Indian Police service, where in 1933 he received the Kings. Medal for Gallantry. From 1939 to 1940 he served with the Ministry of Home Security and from 1941 to 1942 he was Acting Inspector of Constabulary, from 1942 to 1946 he was Acting Chief Constable of East Yorkshire until he came to Cheshire in 1946, and from there he retired 1963.
From 1963 to 1974 a Mr. Henry Watson of Preston was the Chief Constable of Cheshire. He was a qualified accountant when he joined Ashton under Lyne, Borough Police in 1934. In 1942 he transferred to Kings Lynn Borough Police Force as an Inspector and in 1946 was appointed Deputy Commandant of No. 5 district police training centre, Eysham Hall. In 1950 he returned the Norfolk Constabulary (which had now taken over the old Kings Lynn Force). In 1955 he was appointed Assistant Chief Constable of the old Cumberland and Westmoreland Force, where he became its Chief Constable in 1959. He became Chief Constable of Cheshire in 1963 and retired in 1974.
Mr William KelsalI, came as Assistant Chief Constable to Cheshire in 1964, having served in the Lancaster City force from 1934 through the ranks to that of Chief Superintendent, and becoming the director of professional studies at the Police College, Bramshill. He was made Deputy Chief Constable of Cheshire in 1965 and became the chief in 1963, and retired in December 1977.
In January 1978, George Edward Fenn, C.B.E. Q.P.M. became the next Chief Constable of Cheshire having served in the Northumberland and Durham Constabulary from 1945, and rose to the rank of Chief Superintendent, gaining his Batchelor of Law Degree at London University in 1966. He became a Member of the Institute of Management and later a companion of the same Institute, before being appointed Assistant Chief Constable of Cheshire in 1971, Deputy Chief Constable in 1975 and Chief Constable in 1978 until he retired in January 1984.
The position of Chief Constable who is now the incumbent is a Mr. George Graham who was appointed in February 1984.
Police recruiting and Training.
In conclusion I would like to say a few words about the evolution of Police recruiting and training that I have observed between my joining the Force in 1948, my retirement in 1974, and up to date 1984.
Prior to my service, way back in the early 1830s watchmen and the first constables were sometimes press ganged in to their job. Or were more or less elected by the community and just before Police Forces became subject to the law of Parliament, they were formally appointed by the Court of Quarter Sessions. In the early 1900s and up to and including the 1930s, a main area of recruitment was from the ranks of 'old soldiers'. In fact a colleague of mine upon finishing his time in the Grenadier guards during the mid 1930s as he had no particular job to go to was given a letter from his Commanding Officer to take to Major Sir John Beck who interviewed him and took him on as constable in the Cheshire Constabulary. About two weeks later he was in the training school classroom when in came the Chief Constable waving a paper in his hand and said to the recruit “fill this form in, we haven't got an application from YOU to join the force yet”. Not all Police recruits came from the armed forces, as I knew men who had been miners, joiners, and others with, a trade or trained skill behind them. About that time there was also an economic recession in progress. Training in those days was also a little limited, being done for the main locally within each Force by experienced officers. Specialist fields were filled by sending chosen officers of smaller force to larger forces who had more facilities and the trained personnel to do it. Gradually forces like the Metropolitan Police, Lancashire County, West Riding of Yorkshire and Birmingham City, ran courses for Motor Driving, C.I.D. work, photography, fingerprinting, dog handling, Forensic Science, and Underwater search Units, to mention some of the better known facets of Police work. As time moved on smaller Forces such Cheshire County Constabulary, expanded their internal training programme, and like larger Forces took in trainees from other forces and services (e.g. Ambulance for Driving Courses) and eventually students from foreign (e.g. Saudi Arabia.) and Commonwealth countries those had or were about to set up their own Forces. After world war two the Home Office brought into being Regional Forensic Science Laboratories, which are still used today by all Forces, together with Pathologists on a regional basis. Training Centres for recruits and higher training for Senior Police Officers at Bramshill Police College. When I joined in 1948, I had few weeks working in company with other officers at Hoole Police station, Stone Place, Hoole Road, Chester until the next intake at No.1 Police District Training Centre, Bruche, Warrington, a Home Office establishment with a Board of Chief constables from the area that it served forming a board to see to the day to day running of the Centre and to make recommendations for its future and better conduct. The Commandant and all its instructors were also from the Forces in the No 1 Police District. The course was of thirteen weeks duration and at the end you could have attained a standard comparable to that of a barrister except for ethics and advocacy. Upon completion of this course I returned to my station at Hoole for a few weeks until I was posted to my first permanent station. Upon completion of one year’s service I went to our Force Training School at Crewe for a Refresher Course in Law and Police Duties. During my service I was continually reported upon by my superior officers, and at the end of my probationary period after completing two years service I was assessed as to my likelihood to become an efficient Police Officer, and was confirmed in my then rank as Constable. Up to two years is the period laid down by law in Police regulations in which the Chief constable can at anytime dismiss a recruit being "Unlikely to become an efficient Police officer", and that is all he is obliged to state as his reason for so doing no matter what the failings of the recruit are. By doing it this way the Chief constable does not blight the man's future in anyway as it is well known that not everybody is cut out for a police man's life.
After World War II a lot of serving police officers were by then long past their normal point of retirement having served during the period of acute manpower shortage due to the hostilities and so they were ready to leave the Force. Their going caused a gap in the ranks which had to be filled, therefore about this time there came about an increase in recruitment of women police officers and a new venture came into being to provide a source of suitable recruitment for the years to come. This was the Cadet Scheme where men and women of 16 to 18 years of age could join the Force in a minor roll and be trained as potential Police Recruits. This training, in law, police duties, educational, commerce, and physical and character building by courses at outward bound schools in sailing or mountaineering under local force training schemes. These cadet schemes continued for over thirty years, until the economic climate in 1982 reduced recruitment to nil and the cadet scheme was abandoned. In its day it was very successful, to my knowledge some cadets rose to Chief Superintendent and Assistant Chief Constable.
As well as the cessation of the cadet scheme another aspect of police, recruitment was highlighted by the economic straights of the present day was the wastage of recruits (both men and women) in the first 2 to 5 years of service amounting up to 30% of intake. This wastage either by the recruits (not completely from the Cadet system) not being of a sufficiently high standard or who left of their own accord having then realised that the police was not the life for them. This wastage was far too costly to be borne any longer and so the new system, very similar to the old cadet system of training was devised which is how the Cheshire Constabulary now conduct their limited recruitment. There is now no advertising for recruits in the local and nation press as one used to see. Individuals who think that they would like to become Police Officers send in applications. These applications are very well vetted, as was always the case, but the standards have been increased as since the last ten years police pay has been comparable with industry, Those who are accepted are called to the Force Training Centre for a preliminary introduction, and these who are still in the running are then sent of on Outward Bound Course, upon return from which they are again assessed resulting in more voluntary and some official departures occurring. The remainder are given further training in Police Duties and Law whilst awaiting the initial training course at Bruche which is now of ten weeks duration and not thirteen weeks as used to be the case before this new, system was introduced in 1982, By now they have, with a short acclimatisation course been about three months in the Force, and at three points in the next twenty-one months will see their return to the Force Training Centre at Crewe for further training and assessment, before they have completed their two years probation. The scheme in this form has proved to be exceptionally successful by reducing recruitment wastage to single figures, sometimes as low as 4%, and a better end product has been achieved in to the bargain.