Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 11
The rear yard of the Lewes Police Station in West Street was entered via an archway from Sub Street. There were large heavy wooden gates that could be closed if necessary and was closed on Bonfire Night.
This was obviously to stop people getting into the yard. On either side of this archway were cottages – two on the north side and one on the south side. Prior to the Second World War these cottages were police owned and housed police officers. After the war, one of them was used as the CID office. In the 1950’s they were unused apart from for storage. There was, John Dibley reports, a wooden garage for the use of the CID vehicle. However, the Wolseley and the traffic car were kept in a garage in ‘Carter’s Yard.’ This was situated just off White Hill. The station petrol pump was also situated here too. This yard has now gone and in its place stands a large block of flats.
Sergeant Mick Rouse was the Divisional Traffic Sergeant and lived in one of the flats in West Street, with his family. He also had two large Doberman dogs and they were both treated with great respect by all of us.
In 1952/53 great improvements were made to the police station. The ground floors of the cottages were converted into three garages, each one had a sliding door. However, in later years these were all demolished and the Station Yard was then quite open and a lot bigger too. At the same time there was a major re-vamp of the police station itself. These changes were made by a firm of H J Paris and sons of Brighton. This then resulted in the layout as it was in 2012, although the house on the corner of Sun Street was occupied by a police |officer, as was the two flats that backed onto the station yard. This was a great improvement for all concerned, now there was a proper ‘Parade Room,’ as well as lockers and a drying room. We had been calling out for a drying room for many years and now at last we had one.
Superintendent Bill Britton took over the sub-division in September 1951, on the retirement of Austin Hopper. He took action under the Explosives Act to stop the Lewes Bonfire Boys making the very famous ‘Lewes Rouser’ fireworks. These rockets really went off with a huge bang. The first one went off at 6am to signal that it was ‘Bonfire Night.’
The Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II took place on the 2nd June 1953. A detachment of Police from East Sussex were sent up to London to join those from many other police forces who were called in to assist the Metropolitan Police with the thousands of people who were expected to be in London. Even then they could have done with even more police officers. Among those serving in Lewes at this time and went up to London was PC Reggie Simmons. Reggie was one of the rural officers who served at Falmer from 1953 to 1957.
The following year, on the 14th July 1954, HM The Queen reviewed the various Police Forces of the United Kingdom… This review was held in Hyde Park on a hot sunny day. There were 41 members from East Sussex Police, together with 3 members of the Special Constabulary, who attended the parade. We were led by ACC J E Bailey and Chief Inspector Fred Ward. It was extremely impressive. There were 4 members who attended the review from Lewes and they were; PC Wilf Collins, PC Stan Ridley, PC Tony Benson and PC John Dibley.
On the 15th September 1955 a major fire occurred in Lewes at the Printing Works of W E Baxter Ltd. (Established in 1802). The premises were completely destroyed. The actual building lay behind the shops at the top of School Hill and between St. Nicholas Lane and Walwers Lane. Constable John Dibley said that at this time he was living in South Way and from his garden he could see a huge plume of flame rising from the premises of the Printing Works. He donned his uniform quickly and went out to see if he could assist with this incident. A large number of fire engines had been summoned were already in attendance from many fire stations in East Sussex. Fire engines were also sent up from Brighton too. After the fire a new building was designed by the local architects HV and AR Fuller. A new building took the place of the old Printing Works and was opened in 1956.
There was another major fire in 1968, this time, in about the worst possible place; Lewes Prison. Mr. George Terry, the Chief Constable, who at that time was living at ‘Barnsdown’ on the Brighton Road. It was said at the time that he was helping to direct traffic before the arrival of the local police officers, but that was probably ‘media talk.’ A major evacuation of the prisoners was undertaken, which, made in itself was a very tricky situation. However with a combined effort with the prison warders and the Police the prisoners were eventually loaded onto buses with sufficient escorts and removed from the scene. This then allowed the Fire Brigade to do their work and soon the fire was brought under control. All the prisoners were safely escorted away and there were no injuries to anyone. The damage was quite severe but limited to one particular area.
Divisional Admin Office
Now, back to the 1950’s, and in 1955 PC John Dibley was posted into the Divisional Admin Office under the auspices of Inspector Bill Kilborn. His responsibilities included all the process work for the Lewes Court. Also, the arrangements for the policing of the Assize Court and the Quarter Sessions Courts., in Lewes. This was a very big responsibility but PC Dibley did it admirably and with minimum fuss. His responsibilities also included the racing at both Lewes and Plumpton, making sure there were enough policemen at these race meetings to ensure the people’s safety who were attending these events. He was also responsible for the general correspondence of all letters and general mail. The amount of work was Anyway; he was ably assisted by his predecessor, Andy Gray. He produced a very helpful manual of guidance on the many tasks that he was responsible for. PC Dibley was not only very good at his job but he really enjoyed all aspects of this work. There is no doubt that John was ably helped by Iris White, Gwen Funnell, Tim Healey and several others. It was shortly after he was posted to the Admin dept. that Bill Kilborn had to go into hospital. John then had to learn all about dealing with the Imprest Accounts.
A year after being posted into the Admin Office, in 1956 Mick Rouse retired and John Dibley was promoted to Sergeant on HQ Traffic. An interesting three months or so, and then he was posted to Uckfield as the Divisional Clerk under Superintendent Fred Ward. This ended his first spell at Lewes, which he had enjoyed very much, being like a second family.
These stories have been taken from the Book ‘The Police in Lewes.’ For which I am very grateful.