History of Hastings Police 1836 - 1967

Brighton Railway Viaduct, c. 1850. Engraving of steam engine crossing Brighton Viaduct on the Hastings branch line.
Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council
William Montague Glenister
Mods and Rockers
The Prince of Wales (Prince Edward) Opening the White Rock Pavilion in 1927
Memoirs of a Mayor of Hastings. by T S Dymond.

(County Borough Force from 1888.) 

Hastings Police was the oldest constitute Force in Sussex on amalgamation. 

On Friday 6th May 1836 after a Watch Committee meeting it was decided to appoint one Inspector, three sergeants and nine constables at salaries ranging from £1.5s a week to the Inspector and 18 shillings a week for the constables. It was also decided that they would need some good training and Sergeant Sellwood of the Metropolitan Police was brought to Hastings for that purpose. He didn’t stay very long as he returned to his Force in June with a letter of thanks in his hand. However, he may have gone back a little too early as in July PC 6 James Brazier was dismissed from the Service for being drunk and asleep on his beat during his night patrol. It appears from the records that the Force suffered from the ‘demon drink’ as drunkenness appears to have got other officers into trouble as others were dismissed or reduced in rank.

The railway

The Force had serious problems between the years of 1846 – 1850 when the Brighton to Hastings railway was being built by Irish navvies. On pay day they came to town and got drunk. By this time the strength of the Force had dropped to just 9 officers. Railway constables and local citizens were sworn in as ‘Specials’ to cope with the drunken and brawling hordes who roamed the town.

The early force appears to have had a succession of inefficient Chief Officers but that was set to change when William Montague Glenister was appointed at the young age of 30. He was an inspector of the Great Western Railway. He was to become known as the ‘Father of Hastings Borough Police Force.’ He was appointed as the Inspector in charge of Hastings Police but his rank was later changed to Superintendent.

In 1872 the strength of the Force had risen to 29 and each officer was granted one day off a month as well as 5-days annual leave. Further changes around this time included a new police station in Bourne Street.

In 1885 Mr. Glenister’s rank was again changed, this time to Chief Constable. He died in 1894 having achieved 37 years police service. He left behind a wonderful, efficient and well run Force. By this time there was a fully equipped volunteer Fire Brigade staffed by the police.

Charles Frederick Baker

In 1895 Charles Frederick Baker was appointed as the new Chief Constable. He was a former Scotland Yard detective Inspector. During his time the first police promotion examinations were held and the enlarging of the Borough led to further increases in establishment.

In 1914 eight officers were called up to serve in WWI. Here it is interesting to note the bravery of one officer, Constable George Hatch. During one action he was recommended for the VC but was awarded the Distinguished Conduct.

The uniform at this time comprised a high collar tunic with nine buttons at the front and a patent belt. The helmet had a black wreath pattern plate.

The Prince of Wales visited  the Borough

On 6th April 1927 the Prince of Wales visited the Borough to open the White Rock Pavilion and four privately owned motor cycle combinations were pressed into service to escort the Royal cavalcade. The following year the Force purchased two BSA motor cycle combinations for traffic patrol and for carrying dispatches.

Discipline during the 1930’s was still pretty strict. Records reveal that one unfortunate constable was severely reprimanded for ‘Kissing a married woman at West Hill, St. Leonard’s at 10.50am on 29th September 1931, while on 15 beat. The majority of cautions by senior officers appear to be for ’remaining in the police box after the expiration of the refreshment time and for not replacing the police telephone receiver.’

During the WWII the Force was severely tested as the town was raided by enemy bombers on numerous occasions causing the deaths of some 154 people.

The last Chief Constable of the Borough Force was appointed in 1959 and was formally the commandant of the Police Training School at Sandgate.

In 1964 The Metropolitan Police once again came to the aid of the Borough force when the town was invaded during the August Bank Holiday by hordes of ‘Mods and Rockers.’ Other officers were sent from Eastbourne, Brighton, East Sussex and West Sussex. However, the Metropolitan Police arrived in style by flying down to Lydd Airport and then being bussed to Hastings.

The last style of uniform worn by the Force comprised of a coxcomb pattern helmet with a chrome circlet bearing the Hastings Arms within a circlet on an 8-point star and surmounted by a crown. A 4-button belted tunic was worn together with a whistle and chain. Like the other Forces Hastings became a constitute part of Sussex Constabulary on the 1st January 1968.


Written by David Rowland.

www.amazon.co.uk/ DavidRowland

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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