Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 7

The Minor was first launched in 1948, and used by a number of constabularies as a general purpose divisional vehicle. But it wasn't until 1965 that it established its iconic status. The thinking behind the Panda car was that it would enable officers to police suburban areas more effectively than a foot patrol.
Manufacturer Iso Autoveicoli BMW VELAM Romi Production Iso Isetta (1953-56) BMW Isetta (1955-62) VELAM Isetta (1955-58) Romi-Isetta (1956-61)
Ford Consul Mark II Saloon. (circa 1962) Sadly not black
Jim Durrant in the display garden. Photo by Leigh Clapp
Award-winning McBean's Orchids in Cooksbridge always has orchids for sale and February is a great time to visit. You can browse the shop or display show house. On special open weekends in February, March and April you can even take a tour of this working nursery and learn more from the experts about growing these exotic plants. Established in 1879 by James Ure McBean, and only one of three nurseries to have shown at every RHS Chelsea Show, you are in good hands.

In the late 1960’s PC Peter Steedman from T6 (Traffic zone 6 at Lewes,)  volunteered to infiltrate the ‘Right to Work’ march from the North Country down to Brighton. This was, of course a very confidential operation and not many at Lewes were aware of Pete’s assignment.

At the end of the march the procession was stationary at the approaches to the Brighton seafront when one of the West Street police contingent to Brighton spotted the infiltrator and not being aware of his purpose at that particular time of his life, was about to speak to him, when looking more than a little apprehensive, the traffic officer whispered ‘for F**** sake. Don’t say a bloody word or I’m dead.’

Luckily, Peter completed his assignment without detection. But sadly was involved in a traffic accident a few years later, and within a short time died from these injuries.

John Legg was a constable at Lewes until the early 1970’s when he resigned from Sussex Police and joined the Montreal Police in Canada. From there he has sent a couple of stories which occurred when he was stationed at the West Street police station at Lewes.

Letter from Canada

The first memory, which has not been substantiated – concerned a young policeman. This young PC was very well educated and certainly well spoken. However, which does happen, he was a little short of common sense, but he certainly was extremely conscientious chappie. He saw a large private motor car parked on double yellow lines in the High Street. As the street was very narrow the vehicle was causing considerable obstruction to other road users. He decided to ‘book’ the driver for this offence. However, but not all of the car was on the yellow lines, and so  PC ‘G,’ did no more but to return to the police station and collect a stick of yellow marking crayon. He then returned to the High Street and made sure that the vehicle was ‘all on the ‘yellow lines.’ Now the offending vehicle was all on the yellow lines, the young PC had seen to that.

When the driver was later  reported for the parking offence, it then became clear that the offending driver was the Mayor of Lewes!

It is not known what the final outcome of this story was?

A little short of common sense

The second story about this particular PC before his departure from the scene, was of his intention of taking an umbrella with him on patrol when the weather appeared to be inclement! He became quite indignant on being told that wasn’t what policemen did.

Here are two little stories about Rodney Ash, now he is one of the nicest guys you could meet, rather sensitive but with a heart of gold.

The Izetta Bubble car

The first story concerned very small motor cars. Constable Peter Allcorn. He was a rather tall and well- built officer. Now he used to do his courting in his ‘Izetta Bubble car’. If you think about the mind boggles when one is so big and getting into a Bubble car.

PC Grinrod who was the very proud owner of a Reliant 3-wheeler motor car that he left in the police station yard whilst he was on night shift. At the end of one such shift, whilst other members kept him occupied, the rest of the section tipped the Reliant on its side and man-handled it over a wall and into the yard of the flat which was on the corner of Sun Street. Poor PC Grinrod got a very unpleasant shock when he went to his vehicle at 6am to go home.

I shall never see my lovely car again

That was very similar to a little story about the night sergeant’s Consul motor car in the police station rear yard. He often gave other members of the shift a lift home in the morning at the conclusion of the night shift. On one particular occasion they all trooped out to the yard only to find the sergeant’s ‘pride and joy’ had disappeared. The officers made one or two helpful suggestion where perhaps the sergeant may have lift it. The poor sergeant was getting more and more frustrated. They all went out and searched the nearby streets including Sun Street, West Street and John Street, but with no avail. The car had gone, the sergeant saying I shall never see my lovely car again, etc. He was beside himself with grief. He then noticed there were various members of the team who were sniggering a bit, quietly, but he heard them. They eventually admitted that during the night they had pushed the consul all the way down to the ‘Little Theatre Car Park.’

The sergeant was ‘made up’ at getting his beloved Consul back again. He then saw it as quite a funny prank which had been played upon him.

PC Don Marsh

Yet another memory of the parking/removal of policemen’s vehicles when they were on night duty at West Street concerns an ‘anonymous person,’ (by the name of PC Don Marsh) who often walked across the police station rear yard, and across Sun Street, across the top of his car from the front and down the other side, in order to get into the driver’s seat – quite an impressive sight when it was seen for the first time.

Brian Belton

Brian Belton also has a tale to tell, about the threat of using ‘non-existent dogs’

It concerns one evening when the Morris 1,000 Panda car was parked up on the garage forecourt at prison Cross Roads. The car was manning the Prison Cross Roads ‘Encompass Point’ as the Point had been activated in response to a car having been stolen un Brighton and was thought to be travelling towards Lewes. The stolen car duly came up to the traffic lights at the Prison and then turned off left towards Offham. It was hotly pursued by the Panda car. On reaching McBean’s Garden Nurseries at Cooksbridge the two occupants in the stolen car left the vehicle and ran hotfoot into the nursery gardens. Other units were requested but the nearest ‘dog unit’ was at Bexhill, a long way away. Being a resourceful sort of officer, as one particular traffic officer walked down the track into the gardens, he started calling out, ’OK, let both dogs go! Those standing near the entrance somewhat duly obliged with a chorus of ‘Woof-Woof.’ They were all pretty relieved and somewhat surprised to find that the officers were joined very quickly by two very agitated car thieves. They were both scared of dogs, especially police dogs.

(I did this trick many years ago, when we knew a burglar was in a café in Saltdean, at a guess I would think that it works most times.)

Researched and written by David Rowland was superb assistance from the little book ‘The Police in Lewes.’

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