History of Eastbourne Police 1891 - 1967

In 1893, Inspector Harry Plumb was promoted to Chief Constable of Eastbourne Borough Police. This photo shows him taking a spin in what is believed to be the first motor car seen in Eastbourne.
Sussex Police
John Bodkin Adams was born on January 21, 1899, in Randalstown, Ireland. Though Adams was not a particularly successful doctor, he was continually placed in the wills of his elderly patients. He also had a tendency to use extremely dangerous drugs, which raised the suspicion of the police, who found 163 of the deaths of his patients questionable. The trial failed to find him guilty of murder.
An early day Salvation Army band.
Lt. Col. Ray Steadman-Allen,
The introduction of pedestrian crossings and their Belisha beacons provided the inspiration for this 1936 police dinner poster.
Sussex Police

In 1891 Eastbourne Corporation were forced by public pressure to form their own Police Force. Eastbourne had been policed by East Sussex prior to this date.

The pressure brought to bear on the local council was a combination of the vast numbers of day trippers visiting the town brought about by the expansion of the railway network together with the general surge in population.

East Sussex police

The East Sussex police officers, 2 Inspectors, 6 sergeants and 29 constables were in fact the first officers to sign up in the new police force. The first Chief Constable of the new Force was John George Fraser who had been the senior officer of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

At this time the main problem for the police was the newly formed Salvation Army who insisted in marching through the town with bands playing and flags waving which was against the law at this time. The local residents were very annoyed about this and it resulted in widespread disturbances as the residents banded together and blocked their progress. On one occasion it was reported that around 7,000 people took to the streets. Despite the new Police force, they could not cope with these large numbers of people.

On each Sunday when the Salvation Army marched the police called for reinforcements and 40 East Sussex and some 100 Special Constables were drafted in to assist the local police. These disturbances carried on for a year before the government changed the law to allow the SalvatioThe first uniform comprised of a blue cloth helmet with silver ball top, an eight point star helmet plate and a silver chin strap. A tunic with a high collar bearing the Borough Arms and numerals; was fastened with 8 buttons and a black leather patent belt with an elaborate silver buckle. A vertically striped duty band was worn on the left arm.

In 1893 the new Chief Constable was Harry Plumb who was the Chief until 1900.

Following the end of the First World War William Smith was appointed as the new Chief Constable and he would serve in this position until 1943, a total of 25 years. During his time he introduced the 8-hour shifts which replaced the old system of split shifts; this was well appreciated by Force members.

In 1920 The Desborough report increased the pay for the police much to the delight of all Force members but this delight didn’t extend to the Watch Committee who saw the police wages bill rise from £8,000 by almost 3 times to £22,000.

During this year the town received some grisly and unwanted publicity by what became known as ‘The Crumbles Murders.’ The body of a young woman was found buried in the sea shore shingle. Four years later a woman was found dead in a cottage there.

In 1943, together with the other Police Forces in Sussex Eastbourne was amalgamated into Sussex Police for the duration of WWII, reverting back as a Borough Force in 1947.

In 1947 Norman Frost was appointed as the new Chief Constable who served until 1954. He was followed by the last Chief Constable, Richard Walker who served until the time of amalgamation at the end of 1967.

Beachy Head has always been a beacon for tourists and also suicides and between the 1920’s until 1967 Eastbourne police were responsible for all cliff rescues.

In 1957 once again Eastbourne Police were in the limelight when Dr. John Bodkin Adams was arrested and charged with the murders of two of his patients.

His trial was the longest in English history and he was acquitted on one charge and the second charge was not proceeded with. He did appear at Lewes Assizes and was fined £3,000 for various drug offences.

In October 1967 the Force held their final parade with his Grace the Duke of Norfolk being the Inspecting Officer. As the band of the Queens Regiment played emotions were high at losing their Force that had served the town well in its 76 year history.

Due to the early beginnings maybe the Salvation Army band might have been more appropriate? 

Written by David Rowland.

Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.

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