History of Hastings Police 1836-1967

A composit image of the Old Police Station in Bohemia Road, Hastings

Research and drafting undertaken by Mr Charles banks, a former Inspector of the Force 1967

The first professional Police Force in this country was in the Metropolis. It came into being in 1829. as the result of the Metropolitan Police Act of that year. In a few years, by sheer tenacity and integrity, this Force had won the esteem and confidence of the population. In 1835 the Whig Government secured the passage of the Municipal Corporations Act, which abolished the existing local government machinery in most of the principal Boroughs, created new Corporations with authority to levy rates and control municipal affairs and prescribed that each Corporation could set up a Watch Committee with responsibility to form a Police Force in any form desired.

In the field of the maintenance of law and order valuable reserves could be provided under the provisions of the Special Constables Act, of 83l, which empowered Justices to order citizens to serve as special constables in time of emergency, and this Act laid down the early English principle that it is the duty of every citizen to assist in preserving the peace.

The Watch Committee is convened and a Hastings Police Force is Established

The first meeting of the Watch Committee for the Borough was held at the Town Hall (now a Museum), High Street, Hastings. on Friday, 6th May, 1836. The original Minute Books of the Committee are still preserved. and following are some interesting extracts therefrom.

The Committee later made an inspection of the men they had appointed. and apparently found that some of them were not up to requirements. On 12th May, 1836. they made a further inspection of the candidates and revised some of their original selection. At this Meeting the Committee requested the Town Clerk to prepare a Draft of Bye-Laws for the regulation of the Police. the same to be presented at their next Meeting.

At the next Meeting of the Committee held on 17th May, 1836, it was ordered “That a Serjt. of the Metropolitan Police be engaged to come to this Town on the 30 inst. to instruct and set the Police Force in motion and that he be paid 5/6d. per day Coachtime and lodging and that his stay here continue until further orders from this Council”.

“And that the clothes and accoutrements required by the Police for 12 men be put out for public Tender by persons inhabiting within this Borough to be made from measure as found agreeable to the sample of articles now in the possession of the Town Clerk”.
“And that John Campbell and George Colbran the two Serjeants at Mace be and they are hereby appointed Constables of and for this Borough and liberties”.
“Also that the regulations of the New Police now drawn out presented by the Town Clerk be adopted and that the same together with the duties of a Constable be printed”. Copies of these duties are preserved, but are rather too lengthy for reproduction. The request for the Metropolitan Police Serjeant to act as Instructor was similar to the applications (numbering over 200) which were made at this period to the then Home Secretary. Lord John Russell, and the London Commissioner direct, for information and practical help in organising the new Borough Police Forces on the Metropolitan Police pattern. All such applications were promptly complied with.

At their Meeting held on 24th May, 1836, the Committee accepted the Tender submitted by Thomas Phillips for “clothes and accoutrements agreeable to Specification” for the sum of £7 75. 7d. each set and the undermentioned were duly appointed Constables of and for this Borough, and were duly sworn as such:- George Colbran, James Adams, William Wood, John Carnpbell, James Barnes, James Brazier, Crispin Jessop, John Colbran, Stephen Mann, William Sinden. Samuel Ginner, Thos. Muggridge. John Welsted. and William Harman. (George Colbran, the Serjeant at Mace. to be without pay).

The Committe very soon ran into difficulties, it being recorded in the Minutes of their Meeting held on 25th May, 1836, that the “Contract of Mr. Thos Phillips in consequence of its uncertainty and of the misunderstanding in which it was made is not to be received”, and that the Tender of Charles Lock for £8 8s. 2d. per suit be accepted, “and that extra fine clothes be allowed for the Inspector with such additional Badges for him and the Serjeants as may be used in the London Police to be paid extra”. The official uniform and equipment was a blue coat with an embroidered collar with the letter “H” and a number on it; a greatcoat similarly embroidered: dress trousers; an oiled cape; two pairs of stout wellington boots, nailed and felted; one patent leather stock and flaps; one leather girdle and buckle; one armlet and buckle: one hat with glazed leather top and side protectors; a painted and varnished truncheon; a rattle. and dark lanthorn.

Serjt. Sellwood of the Metropolitan Police met the Watch Committee on lst June, 1836, prior to beginning his course of instruction. The Committee ordered :- “That the day duty begin at 6 a.m. and terminate at 9 p.m. That the night duty begin at 9 p.m. and terminate at 6 a.m.: that the whole force be divided into 3 Sections and that one Section on the night duty be relieved every four weeks; that the Section on the day duty to consist of one Serjt and 3 men be divided into three watches: that the whole of the night duty be performed by the two Sections consisting of two Serjts, and six men in one watch – that for the night duty the Borough be divided into two Divisions – viz: the East and West Division – each to comprise 3 Beats”, and that the Watchhouse (on the ground floor of the Town Hall) which had been handed over to the Watch Committee by the Commissioners of the Hastings Act should be thoroughly cleaned and painted throughout, and finally “that John Carrier (extra Constable) be allowed to sleep in the Watch house and that he be found in firing and candles on condition that he act as Watchouse Keeper during the night and that he receive and keep safe all malefactors and disorderly persons that may be confined therein”.

In June the Committee agreed that arrangements be made with the Gas Company for lighting the room underneath the Town Hall with Gas from 6 to 9 p.m., and the words “POLICE STATION” should be painted on the doors under the Town Hall.

At their Meeting held on 18th June, 1836, Serjt  Sellwood of the London Police was “discharged from the Superintendence of the Force, and the Treasurer of the Borough Fund was ordered to pay him £7”. The Town Clerk was ordered to write to the Commissioner to express the Committee’s thanks for his assistance, and at the same time to express their satisfaction at the conduct of Serjt. Sellwood during his stay here.

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