OLD POLICE CELLS MUSEUM
Brighton Borough Police Force
Brighton Borough Police Force was unique in several ways. It was and still is, the only force where an incumbent Chief Constable was murdered. (Henry Solomon, murdered whilst interviewing a suspected thief John Lawrence, in 1844). There is a blue plaque on the wall outside to the right of the west entrance used by visitors to the Town Hall. The Brighton Force was distinguished by officers wearing white helmets each summer from 1933 – 1939 and again between the years of 1952 – 1967. It was also the first Police Force in the world to operate with personal radios, one way only from the Central Police Station to the constable, from September 1933. In 1956 Brighton Chief Constable Charles Ridge stood in the dock at the Old Bailey together with John Hammersley and Trevor Heath from Brighton CID and tried for corrupt practices. The two junior officers received five years.
St Bartholomews Priory
The Town Hall was built in 1832 on ground which in the 13th. century, was the market garden, tended by monks, forming part of St Bartholomews Grange. A further blue plaque, this time on the north west corner of the building, commemorates this fact. There is still a fresh water, brick lined well, within the Town Hall. In 1514, French raiders attacked the Sussex coast and burnt St. Bartholomew’s Grange to the ground, killing and butchering all the inhabitants in the process. So, not only are there stories of the ghosts of Henry Solomon, the murdered monks, but also, in the eighteen hundreds, the son of the caretaker who apparently fell to his death in the foyer.
The growth of the town was inevitable; the increasing number of visitors had forced the Town Commissioners to undertake public works, the chief being the concrete sea-wall, the new Town Hall, the reclamation of the foreshore to enable the building of the Grand Junction Road joining the East and West Cliffs, and the making of the King’s Road along the West Cliff. The rail link to London had just arrived, Brunswick Town to the west and Kemp Town to the east were being built with the land in between being taken by builders’ and workers’ low class housing. The population explosion was also reflected in the size of the police force. In 1838 the force consisted of a chief constable, 2 superintendents, 3 inspectors, 24 constables and a night constable, for a population of 47,000. Although the rank existed then there were not any sergeants in the force. By 1854 the force was controlled by the Council’s Watch Committee and became Brighton Borough. The force had been increased at this time to 10 senior officers and 51 constables.The uniform changed from frock coats to tail coats. In 1868 helmets replaced the top hats and the force increased to 100 men. By 1901 there were 150 officers to police a population of just under 124,000. In 1918 the first police woman Miss Mary Hare was appointed. For more information about this fascinating woman visit Mary Adelaide Hare. ‘Bobby, the Woman Policeman’ on our website.
End of an era
1965 saw the opening of the new police station on John Street, some 36 years after the old police station here in the Town Hall had been condemned. Then, on the last day of 1967, with some 427 officers in the Brighton force policing a population of some 169,000, the force was no more, having been amalgamated into the new Sussex Constabulary.
The Town Hall
Sussex Square, at the heart of Kemp Town, is larger than Grosvenor Square in London and Lewes Crescent is the biggest in Britain with a diameter two hundred feet greater than Bath’s Royal Crescent. Thomas Reed Kemp, who rose from his sick bed for the occasion, laid the Town Hall’s foundation stone in April 1830. The building was completed two years later to a design by Thomas Cooper, a well known speculator in Regency Brighton. Cooper’s original intention was for the Town Hall to be built in the shape of a Greek cross but incredibly, the southern wing was never built because the necessary land could not be purchased. Italian craftsmen laid the floor which would have been very practical at the time. Each day the ground floor would have been teeming with people attending to business in the Town Hall, together with a busy police station and court room. Tarmac and pavements had not been invented and the streets outside would be chalky, muddy and with a fair covering of horse manure. The door to the court is visible behind the display case but we do not have access as the court has long since been converted to offices.
The Police Station
The original police station was situated in the southwest corner of the building. It was in an office here that Henry Solomon was murdered. In the early days of policing it was not uncommon for a force to combine with firefighting duties and Brighton was no exception. There is a photograph in male cell one showing a horse drawn fire fighting engine in the road outside the Town Hall. There are currently forty three police forces in the UK and almost as many variations in design of helmets etc. Generally however, the helmets bearing a ridge along the centre from front to back, called a cockcomb denote that the force was also used to fight fires. This can be seen on one of the helmets in the showcase, together with an early policewoman’s hat, a ceremonial helmet and a wartime tin hat. Interestingly, perpetuating the ‘Hove Actually’ theme, is a summer helmet made from cooling straw worn by Hove officers. Of course in the centre is the iconic white helmet introduced in 1933.
We rely on donated artefacts and as we don’t yet have a policewomen’s hat badge the one displayed is only to improve the appearance. The two decorated truncheons on display were bought at auction and were quite costly. Our unique collection can be viewed later in the tour. The very long baton would have been used by mounted officers.The small handcuffs were used on children who may well have been brought to the police station for a dose of corporal punishment. There is a pay slip in the bottom left hand corner and the plain buff coloured booklet in the bottom right hand corner of the showcase is the Book of Definitions, every one of which had to be learned by heart by officers.
The police station was condemned as unfit for use in 1929 but had continued in use up to and beyond the amalgamation of the five separate forces into Sussex Police in 1968. When the Town Hall Police station closed and moved to the new premises on John Street and before the new courts were built on Edward Street the cells were still used as holding cells for persons due to appear in the Court Room used as a Magistrates’ court where minor offences were dealt with in ‘petty sessions’ or Local county court where trials were held four times a year at the ‘quarter sessions’ or Assizes where the most serious criminal trials were heard twice a year by judges appointed by the monarch.
There are steep, worn steps down to the cells and a further steep staircase down to the sub-basement.
The Male Cells
Above the entrance to the male cells is a blue lamp, often seen outside police stations. There is one outside Shoreham and Worthing for example. Horsham however, had a red lamp as the Chief Constable of West Sussex decided that the standard blue lamp was not fit for his building so the red lamp was commissioned. The origin of the blue lamps is unclear. They first appeared in London in 1861. They spread in use not only throughout the country but across the empire. Police stations in the Bahamas still have blue lamps. There seems to be some uncertainty as to why the colour blue was chosen. Probably to match the colour of the uniform and distinct from the bright red of the military. Whilst the group is gathered beneath the blue lamp point out that in the event of fire the exits are back up the steps or through the door opposite the two cell blocks. This is the heart of the police station after the alterations to the building in 1897. Carried out at a cost of £40.000 this area was converted into a much larger police station with its own front door. There is a photograph in male cell one which shows the east side of the Town Hall prior to the alterations. There is a large flight of stone steps leading up to the floor where your tour started. These steps were completely removed, and the ground was restructured to create a significant dip to allow the new front door to the police station to be constructed. This dip in the ground can be clearly seen from the road on the east side of the building. With the exception of the Chief Constable and his deputy’s office still located on the ground floor, all other aspects of a busy police station are here. (see sketch plan kindly drawn by retired PC 77 ‘Sunset Strip’ Bill Dawkins who worked from the police station)
The Criminal Investigation Branch (the CID) was accommodated, together with the policewomen’s dept and canteen, in a separate building on the other side of the road which ran along the west side of the Town Hall. The motor transport section, looking after the cars and motor cycles were in yet another building on a road that ran along the south side of the Town Hall. You can see that the wall with the door you have just used is not there in the plan. Instead this was a large open area referred to as the drill room or the parade room. The Gaoler’s office, is located in this area. Prisoners due to appear in court would be escorted from their cell to the Gaoler’s office to be processed with paperwork etc before being taken up the steps directly into the dock of the court above. The female Gaoler was known as Matron. The Matron’s office was located at the far end of the row of female cells. First aid training took place in this area as well as the weekly pay parade when officers, even those enjoying a rest day or who had just completed a night duty, would have to present themselves in full uniform to collect their wages. At the present time however, the area is used by Town Hall staff as offices and the Post Room.
As you descend to the sub-basement beware. The steps are steep and worn. In fact the last step into the basement area is especially worn by decades of hob nail boots on the edge that leads to the latrines. The pipes in the washroom form part of the original lead plumbing and beware of salt excretions from the exposed brick work which could damage clothes. It is believed that sand from the beach, heavily contaminated with salt, was used as a cheap alternative to using purified sand for the mortar, hence the permanently damp sub-basement area.The toilets were the only facility for male and female officers. However, in 1959 the aforementioned PC Bill Dawkins, who had been a plumber prior to joining the police was instructed to install a wc in the room we now use as the locked cloakroom and storeroom. There is no sign of the toilet now.
The clothing store
The other part of the sub basement was devoted to the clothing store. Usually hallowed ground with entry only by invitation of the store man who gave the impression that he was giving away his personal belongings. The racking was boarded on the outside to form a corridor with the one doorway into the store. Point out the different labels for items of clothing such as capes, breeches, worn by motorcyclists as well as the mounted section and the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps (WAPC). There’s also a place for parking tickets as the police were responsible for the first Traffic Wardens.
The Prince’s Trust
Also in this area is a display of photos showing members of The Prince’s Trust carrying out the clearing, painting and repair of the cells prior to the opening of the museum. The Trust supports 13 to 30 year-olds who are unemployed and those struggling at school and at risk of exclusion. Many of the young people helped by The Trust’s programmes give vulnerable young people the practical and financial support needed to stabilise their lives, helping develop self-esteem and skills for work.
A lot of information about the murder of Chief Constable Solomon can be found around one of the two fireplaces in the sub basement. It is important to stress that the murder actually took place in an office on the ground floor but this fireplace is as good a place as any to recount the tale. In 1844 Henry Solomon had been Chief Constable for about eight years and was fifty years old. He had risen from being ‘Inspector of Nuisances’ to ‘Inspector of Public Baths, Roads and Boats’ even ‘Inspector of watering roads’ which took place twice a day!
In March 1844 John Lawrence was arrested after stealing a piece of carpet from a shop in nearby St James Street. He was brought to the police station and taken to Solomon’s office. In those days the chief constable interviewed all prisoners arrested for crime offences. Also in the office were three other commissioners (councillors). At the time of the murder there were only thirty one members of the force in Brighton. Taking into account absence through rest days, sickness and shift patterns, there were very few people on duty at one time, so everyone was involved.
After a short interview Solomon crossed the room to speak to the commissioners leaving Lawrence sitting by a fireplace. Returning to the prisoner Lawrence struck Solomon over the head with a poker from the fireplace. Solomon was taken home but died the following morning from a broken skull.
Lawrence was tried at Lewes Assizes and sentenced to death by public hanging. He was taken to the county gaol in Horsham and duly hanged. Lawrence was in fact the last person to Solomon’s widow was left with a family of nine children ( They had already lost two other children in early life ) The Council set up a fund for the widow and children starting it off with 500 guineas, a huge sum of money. Other people were encouraged to add to the fund and Queen Victoria sent 50 guineas while Charles Dickens added 10 guineas The final total was around 1000 guineas. From this Mrs Solomon was given a sum of 2 guineas a week, sufficient to feed, clothe and educate the children. Solomon was buried in the Jewish Cemetery, off Ditchling Road. In common with notable residents of Brighton there is a bus bearing his name in the town. ( Retired PC Dave Rowland, one of the founder members of the Museum, has written a number of books relating to the history of the police, the murder of Chief Constable Solomon etc. These are well worth reading, both the edited versions found on the OPCM web site or from Finsbury Publishing.)
‘Death by Chocolate’
There are a number of items to read on the walls of the sub basement and one of the most interesting is the story of the Christiana Edmunds ‘Death by Chocolate’ poisoning case .Edmunds was, by reports, a pretty woman, but suffered from a mental illness that went undetected until her poisoning spree came to light. It was while she was living with her widowed mother in Brighton, in the late 1860s, that Edmunds became involved in an affair with a married doctor named Charles Beard. When, in the summer of 1870, Beard had attempted to end their relationship, Edmunds had visited his home with a gift of chocolates for his wife. The following day, Mrs Beard became violently ill, but recovered. Dr. Beard would say later that he suspected Edmunds had poisoned his wife at that time, but he declined to act on it, possibly fearing his affair with Edmunds being discovered. In 1871, however, Edmunds began obtaining chocolate creams, taking them home and lacing them with strychnine, then returning them to the unknowing vendors, who then sold them to the public, not knowing, of course, that the chocolates were poisoned. Initially, Edmunds was obtaining the strychnine from a dentist, Dr Isaac Garrett, on the pretence that she needed it to poison stray cats. When Dr Garrett told her he believed this was cruel, she began using a milliner friend, Mrs Stone, to obtain the strychnine. Edmunds also began to draw attention with her constant purchases of chocolates, at which point she began paying young boys to buy them for her.
By this time several people in Brighton had become ill from eating the chocolates, but no one had connected the illnesses with the chocolates. However, in June 1871, 4-year-old Sidney Albert Barker, on holiday with his family, died as a result of eating chocolates from a shop called Maynard’s. The Brighton Coroner, David Black, ruled the death accidental, although it would later be confirmed that this was the only death due to the poisoning. Edmunds then increased her poisoning campaign, and began sending parcels of chocolates to prominent persons, including Mrs Beard, who then became violently ill. By this time, the police had connected the large numbers of ill people with the chocolates. Edmunds also sent parcels to herself, claiming that she, too, was a victim of the poisoner, in the hope that this would deflect suspicion from her and on to the shopkeeper, John Maynard, from whom the victims had purchased their chocolates. At this point Dr Beard informed the police of his suspicions, which resulted in Edmunds being arrested, and charged with the attempted murder of Mrs Beard, and the murder of Sidney Barker. After committal hearings, it was decided to move the case from Lewes to the Old Bailey, and Edmunds’s trial began in January 1872. Edmunds was sentenced to the death penalty, but she was reprieved because of her mental state. She spent the rest of her life in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, dying there in 1907.
Agatha Christie and her friends were all OBSESSED with Christiana Edmunds, and loads of Christie’s books (Partners in Crime, A Murder is Announced, Sad Cypress) make really obvious use of the crime. People are always being sent poisoned boxes of sweets in Christie novels. And then there’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Agatha’s BFF Anthony Berkeley, which features a character who’s clearly Christie talking about Christiana Edmunds and her poisoning campaign.
The female cells
Returning up the stairs guide visitors to the female cell area. There is a mannequin wearing a policewoman’s summer uniform designed by the Queen’s dressmaker Norman Hartnell. It proved popular as hitherto policewomen wore thick black skirts, shirts and ties.
It wasn’t until 1918 before the first women were appointed to the Force, due in all probability to the outbreak of the First World War when the men were recruited for the armed forces. Their work was more specialised than many of the male officers as the department dealt with domestic incidents as well as children and young persons. Quite often their work took them into dangerous areas of crime. They often worked closely with the CID as they did with other squads that were set up to deal with various crimes. In the late 1950’s and early 60’s drug use started to rear its ugly head, not the type of drugs that are popular today but nevertheless they were drugs that had a far reaching effect on the body. The popular drugs at this time were ‘purple hearts’ and they gave the taker extra strength for a short period while they were under the influence.The policewomen were used extensively in pubs and clubs where these drugs were known to be circulating resulting in a number of arrests. Senior officers pleased with the results believed that they had the drug problem firmly under control. Little did they know that in years to come the drug scene would explode to the vast problems that every police force now sadly encounters. However it took from 1916 to 1967 for women to be fully amalgamated into the county force and in the late 60’s and early 1970’s policewomen started to work on the beats.
Truncheons and batons
Along the corridor wall of the female cells is a unique collection of truncheons and batons. Generally the highly decorated batons were carried as a symbol of office, Those bearing a King or Queen’s crown on the top were important royally appointed offices. The collection, described as the best in the country, was assembled by Brigadier Sir Edward Caffyn CBE a distinguished soldier, later holding various positions in public service in Sussex, including Alderman and Chairman of the Sussex Police Authority. The family motor dealer business, now with branches throughout Kent, Sussex and Hampshire began in 1865. Edward and his brother Sydney were joint Managing Directors in the late thirties.
Edward Caffyn was made a Lieutenant-Colonel on the outbreak of war, and took the 10th Army Field Workshop RAOC, supplemented by 100 of his own mechanic employees, which he had raised, to France in 1940, where he was stationed on the Maginot Line with the 51st Highland Division, was in action on the Somme and evacuated from Brest. He commanded 3rd A.F.W. in Northern Ireland and in 1942 became a Colonel and received the OBE. He was then posted to Northern Command as Deputy Director Ordnance Services (Engineering). Later in 1942 he was promoted to Brigadier and posted to the War Office in connection with the formation of REME( Royal Mechanical and Electrical Engineers ). He became Deputy Director Mechanical Engineering (Org.) and went on a tour of inspection in North Africa after taking part in planning the landings. On formation of the 21st Army Group he was appointed Director Mechanical Engineering and controlled all REME units on the Continent, numbering over 43,000 men, until demobilisation in August 1945. During the early part of 1945 he was twice Mentioned in Dispatches and in March received the CBE.
A further display in one of the female cells shows a variety of tipstaffs. First mentioned in the 1540’s as a truncheon with a tip or cap carried as an emblem of office. Tipstaff can also be the name of an official who carries one. CID officers often carried the smaller tipstaff if they thought they might have difficulty in serving a warrant or similar. The crown of the metal tipstaffs could be unscrewed and the warrant placed inside the tube. If the intended recipient showed reluctance to accept the warrant it was deemed as having been served if the individual was merely touched, or tipped by the tipstaff.
Sussex police forces
The individual female cells also showcase the constituent police forces, amalgamated in 1968 to form Sussex Police. the last cell displays one of Brighton’s police horse saddles. The helmets of that era were made from cork. Lightweight and cool in summer, the cork helmet soon took on the shape of the wearer’s head and were comfortable to wear. The uniform of Maria Wallis, the only female Chief Constable of Sussex so far, is also on display. The photographs in the showcase emphasise what a significant county Sussex is with royal visits, papal visits and even the President of the United States staying in the county when he visited Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s home. Prime Minister Jim Callaghan also had a home in the county.
The floors in the female cells are wood and the windows offer natural light. Quite a change when entering the male cell block. Concrete floors throughout and only artificial light. It’s easy to imagine the smell from the many pairs of shoes outside cell doors from prisoners who in a considerable number of cases had not changed socks for weeks if not months. The shoes were removed together with other items such as ties and belts and anything else a prisoner could use to harm himself or another. When the cells were operational there was no furniture at all in the male cell corridor. The area would occasionally be used to enable prisoners to exercise who for one reason or another, have to spend longer than normal in custody. If on arrest the offence is serious enough, a prisoner would be placed in a cell until the next sitting of the Magistrates Court, generally the following morning. Those found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment by the Magistrates or remanded to a more senior court would be returned to a cell to await transport to prison. Others maybe in custody as a result of an arrest warrant from another police force and will be in custody awaiting an escort from the other force.
Despite being supervised whilst in the corridor and having been searched on arrest to remove any sharp articles prisoners always seemed able to leave a memento of their stay as witnessed by the amount of graffiti on the outside of the cell doors. One expects to find scrawlings on the inside of the cell, often made just with fingernails, which must have taken ages. A prisoner with the initials FM must have been busy as his initials are on the outside of almost every cell door.
Cell One has a low wooden bed. Providing the prisoner is not too drunk he would be given a mattress and blanket. At one time the cell, like the others, had a flushing WC. You can see where the fittings were. Prior to this, the cell would be equipped with a bucket to be ‘slopped out’ each morning in the sub basement latrines. The ornate sink stand in the cell would certainly not have been in use. The chains, leg irons and handcuffs on the wall were known as Assize Court Chains which were used to transport prisoners such as Chief Constable Solomon’s killer, Lawrence to Prison in a horse drawn cart. They were manufactured in Birmingham by Hiatts Ltd. who to this day, manufacture and supply handcuffs to police forces and other agencies all over the world. Like all the male cells there is a lot of graffiti scrawled over the walls and especially on the inside of doors. Prisoners, to relieve the boredom, would spend a great deal of time trying to get a glimpse of what was going on by looking through the spy hole in the door. Until these spy holes were fitted with reinforced glass it was dangerous for officers to look through without first ascertaining where in the cell the prisoner was. It was not unusual for a finger to be poked into the unsuspecting officer’s eye, sometimes covered in the prisoner’s excrement.
Cell 2 is arranged into a timeline to show and explain the changes to the uniform and the technological advances in equipment over time. The mannequin in the corner between two showcases is wearing a uniform with a high collar. The collar bore the warrant number of the officer, later moved to shoulder epaulettes. The high collar is a detail reminiscent of much earlier uniforms which were fitted with a thick leather collar to protect the wearer from a blow to the neck. Underneath this uniform jacket the officer would wear a shirt with detachable collars, unlike the other mannequin displaying the uniform of an officer, just prior to amalgamation. However, this model is displayed wearing a white collar- attached shirt and an ordinary tie. White shirts were only worn by senior officers, not by constables in Sussex until the late eighties and the tie would be clip-on to prevent injury in a struggle. An officer would always patrol with white gloves as he might at any time, receive a radio message directing him to his worst nightmare, directing traffic at one of the busy road junctions as the traffic lights had failed. Outside cell two is a showcase containing an original early uniform of a black tail coat and white trousers. Totally impractical as the roads and twittens (alleyways ) of Brighton were nothing more than sheep tracks with no pavements. Tarmacadam had not yet been invented so imagine the mess after heavy rain. One wonders why the bottom of the trousers have been turned up and hidden from view!
Trophies, awards and photos
The right hand side of cell three displays trophies, awards and photos depicting the various sporting achievements of officers. The police service like the military encourages competiveness. Also in this cell are memorials to those Brighton officers who lost their lives in the two World wars. More uplifting are the photographs of the Gaston twins, both officers serving in Brighton who fought in the First World War, survived and returned to duty. The remainder of the cell is dedicated to the Special Constabulary. Made up of volunteers who commit their time to carry out often the same duties as regular officers but on an unpaid basis.
Probably the most distinguished member of the Specials in Brighton was John Bartlett. He was a Surveyor with Brighton Council with an office on one of the floors above but he worked tirelessly in his own time as a Special Officer rising through the ranks. His uniform is closest to the showcase, next to the uniform of John’s son Graham whose career with Sussex Police culminated in the rank of Chief Superintendent of the regular police in Brighton, clearly a chip off the old block!
Cell four holds a collection of police memorabilia collected over the years by one of the founders of the museum. Assistant Chief Constable John Dibley was a great asset to the museum as he served almost his entire career in Sussex and was able to locate many of the exhibits that form the displays. The remainder of the cell depicts the bombing of the Grand Hotel.
Sussex has witnessed more terrorist explosions than any other force area outside the huge metropolitan areas of London and Manchester. MP Ian Gow murdered in his car outside his house in Hankham, Pipe bombs in Bognor, bicycle bombs outside the Brighton Pier. The attempt to murder the entire Government however, was the most audacious attack. The bomb itself was powerful but the most damage was caused to the building by the chimneys weighing five tons, crashing down through the building. These chimneys were replaced when the hotel was repaired but are now just for decoration as they are made of fibreglass.
The Brighton Bombing
As always, criminals make mistakes, often associated with arrogance. After signing the registration card as Roy Walsh when he and his female accomplice checked in to the hotel, Patrick McGee (the Brighton Bomber) wore gloves throughout his entire stay in the hotel. That registration card subsequently treated with a chemical that reacts to the sweat left by contact with human tissue revealed a partial mark left by the palm of McGee. Enough to match fingerprints taken from McGee years earlier in Ireland. A competent terrorist keeps information in his head and certainly doesn’t make a list of targets and plans such as those. Every major incident in the police is given an operational name and subsequent political conferences in Brighton were assigned the term Operation Otter. The otter mascot in the cell was donated by a member of the planning team and even had it’s own ID badge.
Visitors may wish to try on some of the items of uniform kept in this cell. Note the weight of the ‘stab proof’ vests. Cells five and six are in fact half cells with cell six providing access to the corridor running behind the male cells. During the Mods and Rockers era each Bank Holiday in the summer would see all the cells and this corridor packed with prisoners. 151 persons were arrested on one day alone! It was a major task to keep the rival factions apart.
Cell Seven features items of equipment used by detectives in the 1950s, before Scenes of Crime Officers were appointed. SOCOs or the more modern CSI officers now attend the scene and collect any forensic samples that might help identify those involved. The plate camera, used to take photographs of persons charged with an offence was in use in John Street Police Station until the late seventies when it was replaced with a fixed focus 35mm camera securely fitted to a table.
The final cell has been arranged as a crime scene. Invite your group to figure what might have taken place. The obvious clues of smooth surfaced items perhaps holding fingerprints are there. Although DNA had not yet been discovered the cans, bottles and cigarette ends would possibly have traces of saliva which would be useful to the forensic scientist. Blood splashing on the wall could give vital evidence as to the height of the criminal. Note the drawers, often seen at burglaries where to save time and to keep noise down, a criminal would open the bottom drawer first so that it The iron grille at the end of the row of cells afforded access to the only source of ventilation and ensured that prisoners were kept secure.
The very ordinary wooden table in the corridor has a story. It was, until very recently the Inspector’s briefing table at Uckfield Police Station. During the Second World War a German aircraft was shot down in the vicinity. The belongings of the crew including a firearm, were brought to the police station and laid out on the table. Somehow the weapon was discharged and the repaired bullet hole can still be seen! There are a variety of exhibits along the side of the corridor including variations of the ‘photofit’ system. Identification relying on a witness who may have had only a glimpse of an offender has always had its drawbacks but identification parade and the ‘photofit’ system were probably the most reliable. The Old Police Cells Museum is a charity and we rely on donations. There are items on sale as souvenirs of their visit. The wooden miniature truncheons have been hand turned by a retired police officer.
Welcome to a very rewarding and fascinating experience. Good luck