Constable Norman Bolton and Faithful.
Brighton recruited their first police horse in June 1957. This was the first police horse that the Force had had since 1939.
The horse was called Faithful and was a 9-year-old dapple-grey gelding and standing just over 16 hands. Constable Norman Bolton, a very experienced horseman became his rider.
During his time in the Army doing National Service Norman also rode horses. He joined Brighton police in 1952 on completion of his National Service and very soon became a popular officer among the other constables.
Faithful was stabled at the rear of Wellington Road Police Station and many people used to visit him at the stables, either to just pat him or to bring him a few tit-bits. Access to the stables was easily gained from Lewes Road.
Faithful came to Brighton from the Metropolitan Police and Norman spent two weeks at the stables with him, getting acquainted, prior to him coming down to Brighton. When faithful came to Brighton, he came with his best friend, a 5-week old kitten, named ‘Boots,’ who was such a tiny animal. They lived together in Faithful’s stable but a few weeks after the pair came to Brighton Faithful stood on the kitten’s tail severing injuring it. The vet after examining the kitten decided that the tail would have to be amputated.
Faithful and Norman were very popular and were often stopped while patrolling the town centre. The children loved to pat Faithful and make a fuss of him and he loved it too.
On the days when their patrol included Upper Lewes Road, Faithful got very excited as he knew that was where Mrs. Jeannette Robinson lived and she would be waiting with his tit-bits. Mrs. Robinson was very fond of animals and simply loved Faithful. She had a 29-year-old Tortoise as well as three cats a parrot and a white rabbit.
Norman’s duties were not just for show, he patrolled his area as efficiency as any foot officer working his beat. He had many prisoners and dealt with a number of traffic accidents as well as crowd control.
One day Norman came across a traffic accident between a couple of vehicles, both being slightly damaged but details had to be taken. He was holding the horse’s reins while trying to obtain the necessary details of the accident. Shortly after Pc. Peter Gear came along and Norman asked him to hold the reins while he finished obtaining the details. At first Faithful stood perfectly still but after a while he started to get a little fidgety and while moving his feet about, he stood on Pc Gear’s foot. I understand from Pc Gear that the pain was ‘acute’ and as much as he tried he couldn’t move the horse’s hoof from his own foot.
It was suggested that this was Faithful’s way of being friendly and the story goes that as Norman rode away on Faithful, the horse looked back at Pc Gear and moved his lips as to make a huge grin.
In January 1960 it was found that Faithful was unwell and was forced to take some sickness leave. A vet found that he was suffering with ‘string-halt,’ a complaint which makes the horse stamp his hind hooves. The Brighton Police Watch Committee were advised that a report will be made available to them in February. Concern started to grow over the health of the horse. However Norman and Faithful returned to duty and patrol the streets of the town, the public totally unaware of the Faithful’s illness.
Norman was a very experienced horseman having been trained and worked at his brother’s racing stable at Lewes.
Then, after little more than two years as a member of Brighton Police he was quietly retired. His days being spent on the farm at Wivelsfield Green, the home of David James, the Kemp Town MP.
His illness worsened and in May 1960 this wonderful and very popular horse was put to sleep as he had been diagnosed with cancer, a very rare disease in horses.
Norman was devastated as was his family, it was often said that Faithful had made more friends on the streets of Brighton in his two years than most people make in a lifetime.
On the 13th July 1960 Brighton Police had a new recruit, a horse called. The horse officially joined Brighton Police three months prior to this date but the move was held up after Kim was required for duty at the wedding of Princess Margaret in London. This horse, like Faithful also came from the Metropolitan Police.
Kim very soon became a favourite with members of the public.
Norman was a very good swimmer and was the captain of the Brighton police Life Saving team. They won many awards including district championships.
A few years later. after taking over the riding of Kim, Norman was promoted to sergeant on ‘A’ Division and worked from the Town Hall.
During the terrible snow storms in December 1967 he was the Station Sergeant at the Town Hall Police Station. He made arrangements for a large group of the public to take shelter at the police station.
When John Street Police Station officially opened and the Town Hall Police Station closed, Norman was the night station sergeant and had the job of locking the front door of the Town Hall for the very last time and then moving across to John Street Police Station.
Not one officer at that time had a bad word for Norman; he was one of the nicest men I have ever met. Always ready to help anyone who needed it. Just the man you would love to know.
Sadly, in October 1974 Norman passed away aged just 42 years, leaving a widow and four children including twin 16-year old sons. The Force was shocked and very saddened by his death and became the much the poorer for its loss.
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