History of East Sussex Police 1840 - 1967.

Old Rye Police Station
Members of the Force Traffic Department collecting a fleet of BSA motor-cycles from Dinnages Garage, Haywards Heath, in 1930.
Sussex Police
Sergeant Mockford cycles through Lewes in 1924. East Sussex Constabulary were first issued with bicycles in the 1880s. Officers weighing over 14 stone were forbidden to ride them.
Sussex Police
A new fleet of BSA motor-cycles were delivered in 1956. The first motor-cycle was bought for the Chief Constable in 1904 for £350.
Sussex Police

The East Sussex Police force was formed in September 1840 when Captain Henry Fowler Mackay became the first Chief Constable.

In December of that year 3 superintendents were appointed, these superintendents appear to have had previous service with the Metropolitan Police, also at this time 18 constables were appointed by the county. A sergeant and 3 parish constables, – already serving in Lewes were merged with the County force.


The first recognised uniform was a frock coat and trousers made of a heavy ‘melton type texture’ and a top hat. A constable at this time was allowed to carry a cutlass providing he could prove to two J. P.’s that his beat was especially dangerous but there is no record of one ever being used. The top hat was discontinued in 1864 being replaced by a short-lived ‘bowler type’ helmet. The boots were shapeless and so could be worn on either foot; constables at this time were advised never to wash their feet but to rub them each evening with sweet oil. 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 although constables were

In 1891 two significant concessions took place, on the 5th April Eastbourne Police was founded where prior to this date they had been policed by the County Constabulary. In the same year Rye Borough police was amalgamated into the County Constabulary. However, the Rye police station remained in use until the new one was built in Cinque Ports Street in 1965.


In 1890 bicycles were introduced with strict instructions that policemen weighing 18 stones or more were not to ride them; even then policemen had to wear canvas shoes instead of the police boots.

In 1904 the force entered the mechanical age when a Wolsley motor car costing £350 was purchased for the Chief Constable. The earliest recorded motor cycle patrols commenced in 1921 when two members of the Constabulary were allowed to use their own motor cycles to patrol the London – Eastbourne  Road from Bexhill to East Grinstead. In 1931 a fleet of BSA motor cycles were purchased and they in turn were soon followed by a fleet of MG motor cars.

World war 2

During 1943 all the Police forces in Sussex were amalgamated to become Sussex Police Force under the command of Major John Ferguson, who came from the Metropolitan Police. Sussex Police was disbanded in 1947 and all Forces reverted back to their original status.

East Sussex Police were blessed with a number of fine officers who attained the rank of Assistant Chief Constables prior to becoming Chief Constables in other Forces. Among these were ACC J. E. Bailey, ACC R B Matthews and ACC S G Leader. They were also blessed with some fine Chief Constables including Reginald Breffit (1936-1965) and George Terry, – later Sir George (1965-1967)

Post war

With WWII behind them vast steps were made in policing in an effort to improve efficiency. Communications stand out with the introduction of 2-way radio’s  issued to Force members. The Police-women’s department was greatly increased, more civilians were employed and traffic wardens were introduced. The Police Federation came more to the fore and was of great assistance to the Chief Constables. This all helped to back up the ‘officer on the beat.’ More than 20 separate police departments were set up.

Towards the end of 1967 the strength of the Force numbered 785 Officers who were responsible for almost half a million acres and a population of some 400,000.

On the 1st January 1968 East Sussex Police was amalgamated into the new Sussex Constabulary after 127 years as a separate Force.

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