History of East Sussex Police Force 1840-1967
Research and preparation carried out by Chief Inspector K. Angel
The very first authorised uniform for the Constabulary was a top hat, frock coat and trousers of heavy melton type texture. A constable was permitted to carry a cutlass if he could induce two Justices of the Peace, living in his neighbourhood, to certify that his beat was especially dangerous. There is no record of cutlasses ever having been used. The top hat was discontinued in 1864 and replaced by a short lived ‘bowler’ type helmet. Earlier issues bore the numerals on the front, later they were transferred to the collar and worn in that position until early 1953. Boots were shapeless and could be worn on either foot Constables were recommended to wear them on different feet each day and never to wash their feet but to rub them each evening with sweet oil.
Records show that in 1885 a narrow type helmet was introduced on which the present day pattern is founded. Black leggings were worn and walking sticks were permitted to be carried, though it was necessary to remind constables that this concession did not include umbrellas.
Prior to the formation of The Standing Joint Committee in 1888, the Police Authority for the Force was the Quarter Sessions.The first Standing Joint Committee meeting was held on the 5th March, 1889. under the Chairmanship of the first Marquis of Abergavenny, K.G. J.P. However, by virtue of the Police Act of 1964. this Committee was superseded by The Police Committee, the Chairman being Brigadier Sir Edward Caffyn, K.B.E., C.B.E., D.L.
The year 1891 saw two significant changes in the police structure of East Sussex. Prior to this date, Eastbourne was policed by the County Constabulary but on the 5th April they formed their own Force. Also in 1891 the Rye Borough Police Force amalgamated with the County. The Police Station at Rye remained in use until the new station in Cinque Ports Street was occupied in 1965.
Bicycles were introduced in 1890 and instructions issued at that time stated that no man over eighteen stone would be permitted to ride them and even then, canvas shoes would be worn as opposed to boots.
1904 was a year of great importance and saw the introduction of the first mechanically propelled vehicle to the Force, purchased for the Chief Constable from the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Co, and cost 1350.
The earliest motor cycle patrol commenced in 1921 when two members of the Force on privately owned motor cycles patrolled the London-Eastbourne road from Bexhill to East Grinstead, and it was not until ten years later that a fleet of B.S.A. motor cycles was purchased for patrol work, soon to be followed by a fleet of 1 litre M.G. motor cars.