Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 16
These stories have been extracted from a very nice little book called ‘The Police in Lewes.’ It covers the period from the late 1940’s through to the 1970’s. It has been written well and makes for a very easy read, being able to pick it up for just a few minutes and not lose the gist of the dozen of very interesting stories. It has been compiled by Peter Stoner
Having a prison in the vicinity of Lewes Town centre there were invariably breakouts, luckily thought not too often. However, when it did happen it involved a large number of policemen to come to Lewes for the purpose of searching the area. Sometimes they were found in a relatively short time but if it was one that had been well planned, the time was obviously much longer. Everyone I Lewes knew when a breakout had occurred as a siren would be sounded to warn the residents. However, one breakout that occurred in 1960 involved the escape of four prisoners. They managed to get over the prison wall, on the side close to the long chalky pathway. An intensive search of the Lewes are found no trace. This was always a long and labour intense job, as every shed, barn and other small or large building needed to be searched. This was over several square miles of countryside.
Christmas presents stolen
In the mid 1960’s a burglar from the Brighton and Hove areas crated havoc in the Barcombe area where a number of residential properties were broken into during the night of the 23rd December and the Christmas presents were stolen. After the alarm was raised and the details were quickly circulated. As a result of this, P C Francis Page who was the beat officer in Plumpton stopped and checked a man on a pedal cycle. He was found to be in passion of stolen property. It was found that the man lived in Hove and had deliberately cycled up with a view of breaking into the people’s homes in Barcombe. He had meticulously planned in great detail breaking into the houses in Barcombe after having hired the pedal cycle from a place in Brighton. When the policeman searched the alleged burglar he was found to have an Ordinance Survey Map and around his neck hung a compass as well as a torch. In his possession was also a pair of gloves as well as a complete change of clothing.
It can be said that the effect on the Barcombe victims was devastating right on the point of the Christmas festivities. One of the reasons they were devastated was the fact that they had been in the premises during the break-ins. Pc Page arrested the man and he was taken to the Police Station in Sun Street, Lewes. He was remanded in the Lewes Police cells until Christmas Eve afternoon. A special Court was hastily convened in the County Hall in the High Street. At the court hearing, the man’s immediate family were in attendance, this included his recently married new wife. Each member of the family asked the magistrate to grant him bail, as it was Christmas. Mr Hereward Parrish, the chairman of the magistrates looked at the prisoner for a few minutes, not saying a word and then asked for the police evidence.
Anguish in the Public gallery
The Magistrates listened at length while the officer gave his evidence. Mr. Parrish then discussed the case with his colleagues and after hearing that the prisoner had a previous conviction of possessing explosives. The chairman decided that he would adjourn the case but in the meantime but the prisoner would stay in custody. There was anguish in the Public gallery as the family gasped. Pitiful crying could be heard from his new wife as the prisoner was ‘led down.’ The loud crying from his wife could be heard as she left the courtroom.
Outside the courtroom and standing on the steps was the Salvation Army band happily playing the Christmas music,’ God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.’
This is the first time it has been made ‘public.’
Written and researched by David Rowland. (October 2015.)
With grateful thanks to the officers at Lewes Police Station. The stories have been taken from the book, ‘The Police in Lewes’