November 1876-1938. Part 3

Police Constable Vernon Smith stands on the Safety First Float outside the Town Hall 1931.
Sussex Police
Sketch of the Brighton Police Office 1843 by S.Watkins
Old Police Cells Museum
The above image is of Southover Street in Hanover, Brighton and the pub in the foreground is the Dover Castle.
Sir William Gentle
Ashwell Museum Catalogue
Brighton Clock Tower was built in 1888 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria
Photograph courtesy of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
Sussex Police People project
Pc Bill Riggs on point duty at the foot of West Street
Mrs Saunders

On the 10th November 1876, Mr George White, the first Chief Constable since the Watch Committee took over, died, and his place was taken by Superintendent Owen Crowhurst, who was one of the original members of the Force.

Superintendent Elm, Superintendent George White, Chief Constable Henry Solomon and Superintendent Thorburn.

Then, in July 1877, on the death of Mr. Crowhurst, Superintendent Isaiah Barnden was appointed to act as Chief Constable.

In 1892, Messrs. Wallis and hack, two well known Brighton citizens presented to the Police Authority, the building of 119, Southover Street to be used as a meeting place for recreational  purposes only. This was the very first social club for Brighton Police. This was a very welcome addition to the amenities of the Force, as in those days, most of the young policemen had very little education and there soon came into existence evening classes for educational study and weekly Bible classes. The Institute flourished until the latter end of The Great War

In 1902, Mr. William Gentle (Now Sir William Gentle.) inaugurated a fund to be used for the purpose of distributing wearing apparel to poor deserving cases. This charity was known as the ‘Police aided Clothing Scheme.’ It was mainly for providing clothing for the local children and those about to leave school and take up a situation.

In February 1910, His Majesty King Edward VII visited Brighton and inspected the distribution of clothing.

In the year 1900, it was deemed advisable to control the traffic at the Clock Tower by means of a constable stationed there. Then, the first move towards beat patrol, other than on foot came into existence in 1907, when a pedal cycle was purchased for use by patrol sergeants.

First mechanically propelled police vehicle

This was followed by the first mechanically propelled police vehicle to be purchased in connection with the Force. It was a one cylinder Humber Fire appliance which was used to carry hose, chemicals etc. to the scene of a fire. This was supposed to take over from the old horse drawn fire appliance. However, there appeared to be

little trust in this new mechanically propelled vehicle that when this vehicle left the police station on the way to a fire the horse drawn fire appliance also went too. The fire brigade was a police responsibility right up until 1922 when it passed under a separate control.

The 1st April 1914, saw the very welcome introduction of the weekly rest day system in place of one day per calendar month.

World War 1

On the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, the strength of the Force was considerably depleted and only a skeleton Force was maintained. This consisted chiefly of men over service age, and assisted by members of the Special Constabulary.

Sadly, eleven members of the Force were killed or died through their injuries received in action and a memorial was erected to honour them at Police Headquarters.

In all 101 members served in his Majesty’s Armed Forces during this period and several of whom were awarded distinctions to mark their meritorious or courageous conduct.

The period following the Great War was a critical one in the history of The Police Service following the Country’s unrest and discontentment but from this state of affairs a much healthier Service evolved with better conditions and an increase in pay and conditions plus the introduction of the Police Regulations.

Sir William Gentle’s association with the Force deserves a special mention at this point. He took over command in 1901 and served Brighton with great distinction until June 1920 His main activities were varied and vast and as a result, in 1916 his services were rewarded with a knighthood. He was the first serving Chief Constable to receive this honour. After his retirement he went to live in Thetford, Norfolk and became the Mayor. Later still, he was further honoured with the appointment of becoming the High Sheriff for the County of Norfolk.

To receive such honours is surely some sort of record in Police History.

Pocket radios

The next Chief Constable was Mr. Charles Griffin who became a worthy successor and was mainly responsible for introducing ‘pocket radios’ to the Police Service. Brighton Borough Police Force being the first Police force in the world to be so issued with pocket radios. It was during his term of Office that the Borough of Brighton was extended by almost 10,000 acres on the outskirts of the town, including the Rottingdean, Moulescombe and Patcham districts.

Police Box System

It was around this time that a whole new way of policing the town came into force. The introduction of the ‘Police Box System’ and the consequent closing of a number of small police stations came into being.

The old complaint of ‘never seeing a policeman when you want one’ disappeared because anyone could get speedy help by ringing from one of these new Police boxes and speaking to a policeman. The system provided a much improved service and help for the public was readily available. Further assistance was occasioned by fitting the radio system in police cars who could respond much quicker than in the old days. Brighton Police became one of the most efficient police forces in this country.

Detective’s Department

Emphasis was placed on the ‘Detective’s Department’ which had grown from one officer in 1854 to a Superintendent and sixteen ‘other ranks.’

Then there was the increased volume of traffic on the roads which then made ‘Road Safety’ a subject of great concern as road accidents were increasing. To help combat this problem the Police attached great importance to the training of ‘first aid’ within the Force. For many years Brighton police had been deeply interested in this subject. The new recruits were required to obtain the ‘First Aid Certificate’ before being passed out of their 2-year probation period. Brighton Police were one of the few Forces to maintain a division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, which was formed in 1915. They had a very good ‘First Aid ‘ Team and won many competitions and won the coveted ‘Pim’s’ Trophy on more than one occasion. It can safely be said that the standard of First Aid within the Force was well above average.

It is noteworthy at this stage to mention that as long ago as November 1831 the High Constable wrote to the Town Commissioners about the appointments of ‘Special Constables’ but nothing happened at that time.

The Special Constabulary

The Special Constabulary rendered wonderful service in Brighton during the Great War and it was then that the foundation stone of the service was laid. At the time of the great strike in 1926 no fewer than 800 were sworn in, in just a few days and did wonderful service at that time.

More than 400 people currently spend a minimum of four hours a week as volunteer police officers serving the local community. Special constables have the same powers and much of the same training as full-time officers, playing a vital role in neighbourhood policing teams. These officers can also be trained to undertake specialist roles, such as responding to 999 calls or working in the Roads Policing Unit. Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith said: “Our volunteers are a vital part of our policing family. Special constables have worked in Sussex for over 100 years.

In the past 100 years when the feeble system of ‘night watching’ was in being to now the Special Constabulary under the Chief Special Constable, Alderman F. Cushman J. P. is now 202 regular people. They make up a very efficient back –up Force.

Traffic lights

On the roads in Brighton there have been installed traffic lights which relieves the Constable from traffic duties. At that time there were two traffic points controlled by Constables and another fifteen points now manned by Traffic Lights. This allowed the policeman to switch duties from traffic to pedestrians and allowed him to spend more time with the people. The next step would appear to relieve the Constable of this duty too by providing underground passages or bridges for foot passengers to cross the now busy roads.

It is interesting to note that five Brighton Constables finished their careers by becoming Chief Constables of other Police Forces.

The Police Committee.


(The first Police Committee under the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835.)

Daniel Manthorp Folkard. (Chairman.)

William Hallett.     George Chittenden.     Thomas Palmer.     Hyam Lewis.

Henry Martin.        Isaac Cooper.     Thomas Henry Wright.    William Blaber.

and John Good.

The Watch Committee


His Worship The Mayor (Alderman H. Hone, J. P.)

Alderman E. Marsh. (Chairman.)

Alderman F. Beal J. P.     Alderman H. Milner Black, J. P.     Alderman H. Galliers,

Alderman S. Gibson,     Alderman r. Major,     Councillor A. Beckett,     Councillor

B. Dutton Briant,      Councillor Sir C. Grey, Bart,     Councillor W. Humphreys,

Councillor J. Talbot Nanson,     Councillor W. Radford,  and  Councillor A. Rostance.

The Annual Report of 1938 stated: –

The Brighton Borough Police is an efficient, well disciplined and contented body of men, and the Watch Committee and the general public can look forward to the future with complete confidence.


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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