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Early Policing in the  Forest of Dean

 
 
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Early FOD Police


William Henry Lander the first Forest of Dean Superintendent

The first District police headquarters for the Forest of Dean was opened at Newnham in the Spring of 1840. Its Superintendent was William Henry Lander, who was born in Birmingham around 1811. He was the son of George & Alice Lander and joined the force on the 17th of February 1840.   

We do know a little about him as apparently  he was sued for debt in April 1838 at the Debtors Court, Lincolns Inn Fields, London and described in the London Gazette as "William Henry Lander, formerly of Gandy Street and the Hill's Court, both in Exeter, Devonshire, afterwards of No. 4 Grays Inn Square, Middlesex, and then of No.8 same place, Articled Clerk to an Attorney, afterwards of 1 The Spa, then Bell Lane, and of Southgate Street, all in Gloucester, Secretary to the Gloster and Hereford Railway Company, and then of the city of Worcester, also staying occasionally at the Bell Inn, Gloucester, and late of No.4 Southampton Buildings, Holborn, Middlesex, in no business or employment, but holding a Commission as an Ensign in the Royal South Gloucestershire Militia. (sued as William H. Lander.)"

William was an ensign with the South Gloucester Militia, a force led by the landed gentry. It was a part-time regiment, and unpaid during peace-time. Its militiamen had to attend an annual training camp, local drill parades and church parades. During the 18th and 19th centuries the South Gloucesters were commanded by members of the Berkeley family of Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire and during the first half of the 19th century its Colonel was William FitzHardinge Berkeley who between 1836 and 1857 was also Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire.

William Lander had described himself as a gentleman and residing in Gloucester at the time of his marriage to a widow with three children, Sarah Matilda Brice, in January 1840. Sarah (1815) was the daughter of a Westgate Street, Gloucester hairdresser and perfumer George Meadows and already had three children from her first marriage.

He does not appear to have any experience in police work so one can only guess that Lefroy chose him to be a Superintendent because of the army background and his time as Articled Clerk to an attorney. Another possibility is some pressure on the Chief Constable from Lander's Colonel, the Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire.

He moved to Newnham with his new family and two servants to take up the administration of the Forest of Dean District in 1840. His first child Alice Gilbert Lander was baptised at Newnham in November 1840. 

The first buildings rented to serve as police stations in the Forest of Dean were often procured in a rush and some would quickly prove unfit for purpose. The station at Passage Lane (now Severn Street) Newnham was rather small to be District HQ.

The small police station  seems to have been very crowded in 1841 if all those eight officers listed on the census form were barracked there. The normal policy from headquarters was that no officer would be stationed in his own home district. James Evans (1817-1907) who was a shoemaker from Newnham, and signed up at Cheltenham on the 4th of November 1840, was posted to Minchinhampton in the Stroud District with his wife Elizabeth and their infant daughter Sarah Jane, while John Evans (25) who was from Minchinhampton was posted to Newnham.

The other officers there in 1841 were 21 year old George Walters from Bristol, 30 year old William Onion from Cheltenham, Joseph Perkins from the Ledbury area,  John White (20) from Wotton-under-edge, Thomas Symons (30) from Axminster, Devon, Cornelius Lewis (23) Bisley near Stroud, and Nicholas Peters (36), and his wife and daughter, both called Elizabeth, were from Cornwall.  Elizabeth Peters would have been expected to clean and cook for the men.

Later, in 1857, the building was described by Lefroy the Chief Constable. 

This station is situated nearly opposite the Bear Inn in the lower part of the town and is 12 miles from Gloucester and 4 miles from Blakeney. The premises are very old, the Rooms very low, back of premises confined and deficient in Privacy and the whole accommodation unsuitable and inconvertible.  A small insecure Cell without sufficient air and no external light.  A strong room. Two rooms, small office, Wash House, Pantries, enclosed Yard & Privy and three good sized bedrooms. Rent  £8.8 shillings per annum.

 

 

It probably would not have survived as District HQ until around 1849 if Superintendent William Lander had not moved into a property which was either next door, or very close, and situated at the end of Passage Lane. His home was described when being auctioned at the Bear Hotel in 1847 as  

" A Very desirable and convenient dwelling house, in good substantial repair, with stable, out offices and small garden attached.

The above premises are situate at the bottom of the Passage Lane in the town of Newnham opposite to the Bear Hotel and command pleasing views of the River Severn and are now in the occupation of Mr William Lander."

1847 was an extremely bad year for Superintendent William Lander. His wife Sarah and 3 year old son Henry George died in June, followed a few months later by their infant daughter Mary. He was forced to send daughters Alice and Elizabeth to live with his Meadows in-laws at Westgate Street, Gloucester and move out of the family home in Passage Lane. He was to lose a third child in 1853 when eleven year old daughter Elizabeth Matilda died at Gloucester.PC John Dunell Wallbridge in 1851

The whole tragic experience appears to have seriously affected him. On the 14th of April 1848, after eight years service in the Forest of Dean District he received his first admonishment from the Chief Constable.

For being under the influence of liquor at Newnham as reported by himself.  "I regret very much this occurred and I am satisfied from the manner Superintendent Lander expresses himself that a reoccurrence of it will not take place."

Then on the 2nd of June that same year - "For gross neglect of duty in not having visited his Stations by night as frequently as he should have done."   Fined three pounds. 

On the 9th of March 1849 - For neglect of duty and disobedience of orders in not reporting several cases of sheep stealing and other serious offences to the Chief Constable. Allowed to resign with pay to the 1st of April 1849.

On the 30th June 1849 the Gloucester Journal reported that there would be an election of a Governor for Hereford County Gaol at the Hereford Quarter Sessions on Monday 2nd July and that Mr William Henry Lander would be supported by testimonials of the highest order from all the magistrates in the Forest division plus other gentlemen of distinction. "Mr Lander's success, while it would afford satisfaction to his numerous friends, we are sure, would be a subject of congratulation to the county of Hereford, that it had acquired the services of so active and valuable an officer."

Unfortunately it was not to be. 40 year old Captain Henry Geers Napleton was elected and awarded the £230 per annum position. An unsigned letter in the Hereford Times of July 7th, complaining about the ousting of the previous Governor, Mr Kettle, by only seven votes, went on to say that Captain Napleton had only been elected with the votes from his own immediate relatives.

After resigning from the Gloucester Constabulary William does not appear to have immediately found work. The 1851 census shows him living with his widowed mother near Bath and the occupation recorded was as an unpaid officer with the Royal South Gloucester Militia. Within a couple of years the South Glosters were mobilised in the lead-up to the Crimean War.

In 1852 he was being employed as a Superintendent of Police for the Midland Railway at Gloucester and living at Awre. It was not as prestigious a position as the one formerly held with the Gloucestershire Constabulary and he would probably have been in charge of less than a dozen officers.

In November 1852 a worker for the Midland Railway at Gloucester Docks had noticed that a piece of tarpaulin covering a horse from the Stroud firm of mustard makers, Lucas & Stephens, was marked with the railway's company name. The railwayman believing it to be the Midland Railway's property seized the item and informed the Railway police.

Their Superintendent, William Lander, then proceeded to Stroud where he attempted to obtain a search warrant for Mr Joseph Stephen's premises from Mr Edwards, the clerk to the magistrates. He was then told that the Stroud man was a gentleman of respectability and cautioned him against taking criminal proceedings. He advised Mr Lander to visit Mr Stephens and obtain his explanation of the matter.

The railway police officer ignored that advise and applied to the magistrates for a search warrant. They refused his request saying that from the evidence presented no crime had been committed.

Supt. Lander then decided to charge the man who had supplied the tarpaulin to Mr Stephens. That charge was thrown out by the grand jury at the Epiphany Sessions in 1853.

The police officer did not let the matter rest. He went before the grand jury at the Spring Sessions in 1853 and obtained an arrest warrant for the apprehension of Mr Stephens. The trial came up at the following Summer Assizes and after the witnesses for the prosecution had been examined the case was dropped. The jury expressed their opinion that neither the charge of stealing or receiving could be sustained.

After the verdict, Joseph Stephens then proceeded with an action against William Lander and the Midland Railway to recover damages which he had sustained to his reputation and credit and also to recover the £40 spent on his defence. It had been admitted earlier that Superintendent Lander had acted under the authority of the company.

The Jury agreed with Mr Stephens and awarded him £100 damages.

It is not clear at which point William Lander and the Midland Railway parted company but on 28th November 1854 he was unemployed and in the gaol at Gloucester as an insolvent debtor.

The 1861 census recorded him living alone in a modest dwelling at Millend, Blakeney. That was only a couple of miles from where he had opened the Forest's first police station. He was described as a 49 year old widower living on half pay as a lieutenant in the Army.

He died there on 6th January 1863. His daughter, Alice Gilbert Lander, was the sole executrix. William Henry Lander's assets were valued at less than £100.

 

The Bear Inn, also called the Passage House, has long been part of Newnham's history. It was one of the five inns recorded in 1637 and from 1759 the borough and manor court of Newnham was being held there. From 1856 it was also the home of the Petty Sessions. When up for sale in 1837 it came with a fishery plus the ferry, and was the town's only posting-house.

By the time of the 1851 census the District HQ was established at Coleford and Newnham was now a station in the care of Sergeant Hugh Brown (bn 1822) from Horsley in Gloucestershire. He had joined the force in 1845. His wife Ann and six year old daughter Selina were with him and there were now only two constables, William Godfrey from Hampton Court in Middlesex and Henry Glad from Swindon in Wiltshire.

Hugh Brown went on to have a distinguished career with the force, serving at Headquarters, Cheltenham and being promoted to Inspector in 1866 and  Superintendent in 1868. He died while serving at Dursley in 1869.

 

Hewelsfield Police Station

The Hewelsfield Station opened on the 3rd of December 1840 and appears to be the only Forest police station where the day to day diary for that period has been preserved. It records 22 year old Minchinhampton born Constable Samuel Kirby moving the furniture, probably by hand-cart, from the station at Newnham to 'Tumkiln Nails'. He started out at 11.30 am and finally arrived at 7 pm on that winter evening.

Account of Duty performed by the constables at this Station commencing 3rd day of December 1840.

Orderly Samuel Kirby. Constable Samuel Kirby in charge of the Barrack Furniture proceeded from Newnham at half past 11 am for Hewelsfield and arrived at 7 pm.

Sergeant John Baker and Constable Daniel Walker left Newnham at 10am and arrived at Hewelsfield (passing through Blakeney, Nibley Hill, Viney Hill, Deadmans Cross, Whitecroft, Bream, St. Briavels) at 3pm. Took possession of the house at Tumpkiln Nails provided as Barrack. Hewelsfield Station Diary

A note was added by Superintendent Lander who arrived at 3pm on horse-back and obviously took a different route to Samuel! Visited this station. Found Sergeant Baker and Constable Daniel Walker arrived, Constable Samuel Kirby not having arrived with the Barrack furniture at 3pm. William Lander Superintendent.

Engaged at this session putting up the beds & making the Barrack comfortable.

One of the reasons for choosing Hewelsfield for the site of a police station at this time was probably its proximity to both St. Briavels and the Wyeside village of Brockweir. It was there, one of the highest points on the tidal Wye, where sailing barges, known as trows, had their cargoes transferred to flat bottom barges which were then towed by teams of ten men as far up river as Monmouth and even Hereford.

Around this time, coal and wood was still being conveyed from Bristol, and Chepstow while Herefordshire cider and other articles such as cereals and wool were transported in the opposite direction.

Due to the transient lifestyle of the stevedores employed there, and the barge crews passing through, Brockweir had a reputation as a place of refuge for low-life characters. A Moravian minister, sent there by the Duke of Beaufort to build a church on the site of a former cock fighting pit in the 1830s, described the life of its watermen as being centred on beerhouses, skittle alleys, and cockfighting, and said that it had the reputation as a "city of refuge" for lawless elements.

The river trade was to decline after the completion of the Hereford to Gloucester Canal in 1845, and practically ceased following the opening of the Wye Valley Railway in 1876.

By the 1880s, Brockweir Bridge was effectively the upper limit of navigation on the Wye being the end of its tidal reach. In time heavy silting was to make even this site impractical and subsequently commercially uneconomic.

The site on the Coleford to Chepstow road of the since demolished Carpenter's Arms, sometimes known as the Tumpkinhales, and believed to be the area where the 1840 Hewelsfield police station was situated.

 

Larceny at Hewelsfield in 1842 from the Hewelsfield Police Station diary.

17th January 1842. At 9am being called on by Mr Samuel Edwards of Harts Hill Court, Parish of Hewelsfield whose house was broken into and a quantity of bacon, lard, cheese and wheat stolen there on Sunday night the 16th instant. Sgt Sheills and Constable Baisley proceeded with him to search the house of Edward Blunt of the Parish of Hewelsfield where he suspected his Property was concealed. We found the whole of the Property that was lost. We took Edward Blunt, Alexander Blunt and Phillip Blunt into custody on suspicion of having stole the property. After we took them into custody Phillip Blunt acknowledged to have taken the property. 

We also found in the house a gun the property of John Evans carpenter of Hewelsfield which was stolen some time in December last. Also part of the reins of a bridle the property of Mr Thomas Wade of Arkle Farm, Parish of Woolaston, and a smock frock that was stolen from the stable of Mr William Willett, the property of his servant Henry Reeks. We were the greater part of the day employed as above.

18th January. At 10am Constable William Onion proceeded to Mr Thomas Wade and Mr Thomas Willett to inform them of the Property we found. From whence proceeded with the property and witnesses to Lidney. At 10am Sgt John Sheills and Constable George Baisley proceeded with the prisoners to Lidney. and took them before the Magistrates assembled at the Petty Sessions. Phillip Blunt was committed to stand his trial and Edward and Alexander Blunt was admitted to Bail to stand their trials. About 7pm Constable George Baisley left Lidney on his way home in charge of the property. Arrived at this station 9pm. Sgt John Sheills and Constable William Onion remained at Lidney in order to make a night patrol home. Constable Baisley took up guard.

* Notes on the people mentioned. 

Philip Blunt,  who was baptised at Hewelsfield in 1822, was the third illegitimate child of Ann Blunt. She died in 1828. When this crime occurred he was staying with an uncle, Edward Blunt, and his family.

Nine months earlier the 1841 census records Philip employed as a farm servant to the above mentioned Samuel Edwards. 

Philip Blunt was sentenced to transportation for 7 years at Gloucester in March 1842 for this crime and records show him later that month imprisoned on the prison hulk 'Justitia' at Woolwich with other convicts who were destined for Van Diemen's Land. I have so far been unsuccessful in tracing his arrival in Australia or in finding any record of his stay there.

If he was transported to Oz he possibly returned to the UK after serving his sentence, as a researcher of the Blunt family tree believes he changed his name to Philip Powell around 1860 and settled near Cardiff.

Sgt John Sheills (born 1819), from Charlestown, Louth in Ireland, was one of the first Irish officers recruited from the Dublin Metropolitan Police by Anthony Lefroy, signing up on the 23rd of December 1839. Shortly after the above incident he resigned from the police force and accepted a position of gamekeeper with the owners of Hewelsfield Court. He settled at nearby Clanna with his Herefordshire born wife Elizabeth. Three of their children were baptised at Alvington

Bargemen and Sheep-stealing at St Briavels - Hewelsfield Police Station Diary.

Thursday April 12th 1842. George Rickard barrack guard. At 9am being called on by Mr James Page butcher of Saint Briavels from where there was a sheep stolen last night and having some suspicion of some Barge men that lay on the River Wye with their barge near the field which the sheep was stolen from. Sgt John Sheills and Constable William Onion proceeded with him to the Abbey Slip where we met the barge going down the river. We got on board and searched it but found nothing on it. We then went to Brockweir and received information of another barge that went up the Wye.

This morning in consequence of which we went to Monmouth and found the barge which we were told went up. We searched it and found one loin, two legs, and two shoulders of mutton on board.

We arrested Edward Ward the Captain, and the following workmen who belonged with the barge, Charles Witcombe, Thomas Fluke, John Davis, Benjamin Hunt, Stephen Jerrett, William Williams and John Hughes. All of which by the assistance of Sgt Fuller of the Monmouth Police we took to Coleford. Arrived at Coleford between 8 & 9 o'clock when we lodged them in the Coleford Station House. In the mean time part of the skin was found floating in the River Wye by Thomas Aston constable of St Briavels.

Friday 13th George Rickard barrack guard. Sgt John Sheills and Constable William Onion at 9am proceed to Coleford in order to attend the prosecution of the above named prisoners. We took them before P.J Ducarol and Alexander Gibbon magistrates.

All the prisoners were discharged except Charles Witcombe, Thomas Fluck, and William Williams who were committed to Gloucester to attend their trials. Edward Ward the Captain was admitted as an evidence on the part of the prosecution.

Sgt John Sheills and Constable William Onion returned to the Station at 12pm.

* Points of interest - Two nineteen year olds, Charles Witcombe and Thomas Fluck were sent to trial at Gloucester Sessions for sheep stealing, an offence that normally led to a sentence of 10 years imprisonment. On the 28th of June 1842 they were both acquitted.

Thirty year old James Page was a fairly wealthy St Briavels butcher and farmer. His family were recorded as butchers for much of the 19th century. It is also interesting to see a mention of Parish Constable 45 year old Thomas Aston who was a nailer (nail-maker?) by trade.

Hewelsfield 1830

1830s Hewelsfield area

 

Hewelsfield Police Station Diary Saturday 20th March 1841.

Day - Constable Daniel Walker Barrack guard. Constables John Sheills and George Baisley patrolled to Madget, the (Tidenham) Chase, Spicklemean (Spittlemesne Common), Bowl Spring (Boughspring), Strote, Bowlash (Park Hill), Woolaston Common, and Hewelsfield. Went at 12.30pm returned 4.30pm. Found all correct.

Night - Constables John Sheills and George Baisley patrolled to the Chase, Bowlash, Woolaston, Brocking (Brookend?), Netherend, Barnage Farm and Hewelsfield. Went at 9.30pm returned 1.30am. Found all correct.

 

Sunday 25 April 1841 Constables George Beasley and Daniel Walker were dispatched to Tidenham where they took into custody two men accused of the theft of three ducks. They brought them back to Hewelsfield to be detained. The following day the two men were taken before a local magistrate who committed them to Gloucester Gaol. The men then had to be escorted to Lydney where they were handed over for onward escort to Gloucester.

 

 Early 1900s Hewelsfield. Up at the pub, now the Carpenters Arms, there used to be a pool on the side of the road now filled in. It was a stopping place for the farmers on the way to Chepstow Market to water the horses and cattle – no lorries or cars.

All the farmers drove horses and float. It was a big day out for them, all used to have fast horses and try to pass on the way home, but Mr. G. Bond could always pass them with his gig and trotters. He was always pulling someone's leg on the way home. All pulled up at the Carps, no closing hours in those days.

In those days there was only the pub to go to and before the little club was opened, no restrictions, if you were about 14 and liked to go in no Police did not seem to interfere but the old boys that used to go saw that you behaved, no lads had beer, it was always pop with just a spot of beer.

Beer then the first time I remember, was 2 ½ d a pint and if they gave a shilling when they went in they got five pints for a bob. How I remember some of those woodcutters marking it up on the table, four strokes and put the last one across, I can remember Mr Scrivens remark “That’s the one over the bar”.

The old table was still in the Carpenters Arms 50 years after and still shows the marking where he used to put them down. It cost the lads one penny for their glass of shandy, so you can see that times are altered, you wont get much today for one penny. It was all Cinderella and Tabs cigarettes in those days, Woodbines were about. The price then was one penny for five, three half pennies for ten. Ansties Gold Flake in a paper packet was threepence for 10.   From Hewelsfield Our Village By P.A. Michael - 1964

 

 Superintendent  William Ellison

William Ellison (bn 1828) joined up in January 1846 and was a tailor's son from Minety in North Wiltshire who was promoted to Superintendent in 1866. 

He was moved around the Forest stations between 1848, serving at Blakeney till 1852, St Briavels till around 1857, and Coleford till 1860. Whilst at Coleford he was promoted to Sergeant in April 1856. In 1861 he was Sergeant at Gloucester's busy Bearland Station and May 1866 saw him promoted to Superintendent and posted to the Campden District.

In May 1847 he had been stationed as a constable at Stonehouse. It was there he received his first reprimand from the Chief Constable. 18th May 1847 - For absenting himself for 6 hours without leave from his station at Stonehouse. 'Reprimanded'

Shortly after that incident he was posted to Blakeney in the Forest of Dean. He received his second reprimand in May 1848. For allowing a prisoner to escape from the Blakeney Station. 'As Supt Lander had not forwarded the handcuffs to the station - not proceeded with.'

He was in trouble there again on the 14th of August 1848. For improperly interfering in a case where two men had been summoned for Drunkenness, by allowing them to settle the matter by paying the costs. ' Removed from charge of the Blakeney Station.

He had married Elizabeth Creed (bn 1830) at Tebury in 1847 and four of their children were born in the Forest of Dean area. Henry Edwin Ellison - baptised at Blakeney July 1851, William Stephen - baptised St Briavels April 1853, Mary - baptised St Briavels March 1854, Catherine and Martha - baptised at Coleford in May 1858.

On the 20th of April 1850 he was in trouble again, this time visiting Cheltenham. For neglecting to report his arrival at the Cheltenham Station when in pursuit of two men who had committed a murder in Newport (Mon.). 'Reduced to Constable 2nd Class for 3 months.'

 

 

His only reprimand as a Superintendent was in January 1874. 'Not sending in a report made by Dr Long against PC Vick of the Thornbury Station as soon as he should have done.' "I must express my disapprobation at the length of time taken by Supt Ellison in sending in this report. At the very latest it ought to have arrived at this office on Friday morning (Jan 3rd) . This is not the first time I have had to remark on the dilatory way the Superintendent has lately done his duty. If a change does not take place I will have to find someone who will do the work in a more satisfactory manner.

William Ellison received his of £80 per year pension on the 1st of July 1878. Unfortunately it was forfeited in April 1879 by order of the Quarter Sessions when he was imprisoned for forgery.

According to the Gloucester Prison Registers, in February 1879, William Ellison was incarcerated and awaiting trial, the charge being  "Forging several receipts and embezzling five sums of money." On 15th February 1879 he was found guilty at Gloucester Assizes of forgery and embezzlement committed while on active duty. The prisoner had appropriated sums of money forwarded to him by the Chief Constable to pay tradesmen's accounts, returning forged receipts for the same. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years penal servitude.  

Awaiting trial at Gloucester where in earlier years he had been the Police Sergeant must have been extremely difficult.

The 1881 census records him at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight and his wife and one of their children, staying with their daughter's family in Gloucester.

He appears to have had some good fortune after being released.  He was given work as a lodge keeper by the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton which was not far from the town of Campden where he had served 12 years as a Police Superintendent. Here he and Elizabeth stayed for at least a decade and, in later years were given accommodation in the almshouses on the Duke's estate. William Henry Ellison died there in June 1901.

 

Woolaston's First Resident Policeman

Woolaston's first resident policeman was PC Henry Thomas Eagles (1849-1920). Henry was born at Hardwicke in 1849 and was working as a farm labourer when he married Fanny Shearman in 1869. He joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary in 1876 and during the next few years was posted to Redwick, Chipping Sodbury, and Cheltenham, and then to the police station at Littledean prison where he served for about 8 years.

The family moved to Woolaston  around 1892. Their 10th child, Beatrice, was born there in 1894. He retired in 1900 and later became a publican when he moved to the Whitesmith's Arms in Southgate Street, Gloucester. Henry died at Woolaston in 1920. 

His successor was Dymock born PC Frederick Morgan. In the 1930s PC Beddis was resident and by the 1950s the village bobby was Jim Ludlow who locals recall keeping piglets in the station's cells. In spite of very strong local opposition,Woolaston police station was closed in 1974. Its last residing officer at that time was PC Radcliffe.

 

PC Henry Eagles and the police station at Luggs Cross on the A48 in the 1930s

 

 

Yorkley Police Station

The house called 'The Oaks', on Bailey Hill, Yorkley, and opposite the Institute, was a police station until the 1960s. Fitzroy 'Fred' Taylor, the village constable, lived there before being promoted in 1933 to Sergeant at Coleford.

He was born at Gloucester in 1901 and during the First World War had served as a Royal Marine gunner on board HMS Marlborough, a Dreadnought class battleship. In 1919 he took part in a mission to the Black Sea when the Marlborough, on the orders of King George V, rescued his aunt, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and other members of the Russian Imperial Family, including Grand Duke Nicholas and Prince Felix Yusupov, from the Crimea during the Russian Civil War.

After leaving the Royal Marines he joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary. Fred was posted to the Forest of Dean and married 25 year old Nancy Caldwell Bennett in 1926. She was the daughter of coal agent and road surveyor James Bennett from Blakeney and was born at Little Box Farm in Awre.

Fred was a keen and respected rugby player and a regular member of the Lydney RFC sides of that period. In 1928 he played for the Great Britain Police team at rugby and apparently was the only Englishman in that side, the others being Welsh. He was captain of Lydney RFC 1929-39.

Whilst stationed in the Forest of Dean, he was awarded a medal by the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, for his actions at the scene of a house fire in Coleford in October 1939. Fred was also awarded the 'Silver Braid' by the Chief Constable, a reward for Gallantry, a silver braid band which was worn on the sleeve of the recipient’s uniform. 

Inspector Fitzroy Fred Taylor was only 41 years old and serving at Dursley Police Station when he collapsed and died in May 1942. About 200 police from the Divisions of the Gloucestershire Constabulary attended the funeral at Blakeney.  It was a fair tribute to a brave, efficient, and popular officer.

A

Coleford's Superintendent Willam Taylor 

William Taylor, a farm labourer from Sulgrave in Northamptonshire was 26 years old and married to Hannah. He had been living in the Banbury area when he joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary at Cheltenham in April 1844. William was promoted to 1st Constable at Newent in December 1845 and to Sergeant while at Iron Acton in July 1850.

In September 1855 he was made up to Superintendent 2nd Class and moved to the Bearwood Station in charge of policing the City of Gloucester. A competent and efficient officer, he was promoted in 1859 to Superintendent 1st Class and he and Hannah together with their five children, moved to Coleford to take charge of the Forest of Dean force. He was replacing Superintendent Charles Griffin who had held that post since 1851 and was now moving to take over William's position at Gloucester. (Charles Griffin went on to be Deputy Chief Constable from 1867 -1877).

William Taylor and his family's circumstances had changed remarkably since those days in 1844 when he was a Banbury area farm labourer. His hard work now rewarded him with a comfortable salary and prominent lifestyle in the Forest of Dean.

His most famous investigation was that of the manslaughter of Police Sergeant Samuel Beard near the Speech House in 1861. (see the story below)

All that was to end in 1864. On Friday August 5th the Chief Constable Anthony Lefroy was visiting the Coleford police station in the company of the Government Inspector of Constabulary, Captain Willis, when they received a complaint from widower David Smith, a cabinet maker from Cinder Hill, Coleford. He informed the officers that Superintendent Taylor had seduced one of his teenage daughters.

Lefroy wrote to William Taylor the next day officially suspending him and enclosing a copy of a letter from David Smith.

On Monday 15th of August Lefroy met local JPs, J. Fortescue Brickdale and Major General Woosnam, by appointment, to inform them of the Superintendent's resignation.

On his notes on William Taylor's service he has written - "When the Superintendent tendered his resignation, which the Chief Constable accepted and entered the following minute thereon, - Accepted, in consequence, of his length of service and previous good character, to which J. Fortescue Brickdale Esq. J.P. and D.L. and Major General Woosnam J.P. who attended to investigate the charges against the Superintendent, coincided with me. Anthony Lefroy 15th August 1864.

Sergeant James White from Mangotsfield station was promoted to be Superintendent at Coleford on the 16th of August 1864. White himself was dismissed in August 1871 for neglect of duty and filing false reports to the Chief Constable.

The 1871 census reveals that William Taylor and his family had returned to Banbury in Oxfordshire. His lifestyle had dramatically changed. He is then recorded as being employed as a gardener and his wife, Hannah, having to work as a laundress.

 

  The Death of Sergeant William Morris at Viney Hill 

Sergeant William Morris was born at Whitchurch, Shropshire in 1863. Before being a policeman he was for 4 and half years  a footman for Mr W C Lucy at Brookthorpe, near Stroud.

He joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary in 1884. After first serving at Cheltenham he was posted to Parkend in the Forest of Dean. During the following years William served at several stations in the Forest, Lydney, Newnham, Cinderford and St. Briavels. In 1890 he married 31 year old Whitecroft born barmaid, Mary (Minnie) Aminda Morse, whose father was inn-keeper of the Nags Head at Yorkley Slade.

In 1892 he was promoted to Sergeant and posted to Stroud and before the end of 1894 was back in the Forest taking charge of Lydney police station and replacing the late Sgt. Clarke.

William and Minnie had three children, Ethel, born at the Nags Head Inn, Yorkley in 1891, Sidney Harry 1892 at St. Briavels, and Ernest Leonard at Stroud in 1894. At the time of his death William Morris had been Sergeant at Lydney for eighteen months.

On the evening of Saturday 9th November 1895, he was in charge of a number of police who had set a trap hoping to catch some poachers red-handed at Arams Farm, Newnham. It was on land owned by local magistrate and lord of the manors of Newnham and Ruddle, Russell James Kerr. Also in attendance were the landowner's gamekeepers.

When the three poachers entered the farm yard, the hidden police and gamekeepers rushed in and swiftly apprehended two of them. They were identified as colliers, Joseph James age 28, and Moses Virgo age 24. The trio were equipped with netting, pegs, sacks and had four rabbits in their possession. The third man, quarry worker James James, alias 'Sheepskin', escaped. The Gloucester Citizen on November 15 1895 reported "He can run like a hare and jumped like a steeplechaser. Whoever the man was he led keeper Button a fine dance. He cleared a hedge in good style, but the pursuer was "button holed" at this point, and the quarry got away."

The police then surrounded and searched a house at Old Furnace Bottom for Sheepskin James. Not finding him there, they split into two parties, one of which was Sergeant William Morris from Lydney station and PC Cornelius Harding from Blakeney who suspected that Sheepskin James would be heading for his home at Woodside,Viney Hill.

When Joseph James and Moses Virgo appeared in court on 16 November charged with trespass and taking four rabbits they were found guilty. Unfortunately one of the magistrates on the bench that day was landowner Russell James Kerr.

Moses Virgo, was sent to prison for three months and Joseph James for one month. On 20 November 1895, the Gloucester Citizen reported that "James James, quarryman of Viney Woodside, Blakeney, better known as 'Sheepskin', a notorious character, who was wanted for poaching, was apprehended at his home this morning by PC Jones. The prisoner was found hiding between the joists in the ceiling upstairs, and was secured without trouble."  On 22 November, Sheepskin James was sentenced to three months in prison.

 

On the same evening as the above incident, Saturday 9th of November 1895, three young football-playing colliers from Whitecroft were among members of their local team celebrating the defeat of the Blakeney side that afternoon. The young men often worked together and their families only lived 20 yards apart on Chapel Hill, Whitecroft. 24 year old James Morgan, his brother George, who was 19, were the sons of labourer George Morgan, and were employed at Pillowell Level Colliery.

18 year old George Hill who worked at Princess Royal, was the eldest son of widower Thomas Hill. The father, now a platelayer for the Severn & Wye Railway, was a former police officer who had himself served at Blakeney Police Station.

The trio had stayed at the Cock Inn in Blakeney until 'last orders'. Leaving the public house they appear to have been boisterous and noisy.

On the way home via Viney Hill they approached the east corner of the All Saints burial ground when their intoxicated singing and shouting attracted the attention of Sgt Morris and Constable Harding who were in plain clothes and still out searching for the poacher Sheepskin James. Sgt Morris appears to have known the three men. He is reported by PC Harding to have said "Now young men your houses are at Whitecroft. You had better make your way there as fast as you can!"

At that point in the moonlight there was a confrontation and a fight started. Later the constable admitted that he struck the first blow that seriously injured 19 year old collier George Morgan. According to Harding, George Morgan then threw a stone hitting Sgt Morris on the head. Harding was knocked to the ground and the men ran off.

Tragically, Sergeant William Morris's head wound had resulted in a brain hemorrhage and he was dead.

Mr James Turley who lived in one of a cluster of cottages opposite the churchyard was awakened by a man knocking on his door who informed him that he was a constable from Blakeney. Mr Turley dressed quickly and went downstairs. On going outside he saw a body lying on the ground. He then lifted him up and Mrs Turley brought out a chair so that he could sit and support the sergeant while Harding went for assistance. He later reported that the poor man's head had fallen forward as though his neck was broken.

After a short time, Constable Harding returned accompanied by PC Webb and gamekeeper Button. The body was then conveyed to the Albion Inn (now Old Albion House) at Viney Hill where it was examined by Doctor Lunn.

On the morning after the incident Mr Turley found a parcel containing a football suit close to where the fight had taken place and some spots of blood were discovered at the corner of the churchyard wall. A blood stained half brick was found near the location by Superintendent Ford. PC Harding's blackthorn (staff or truncheon?) was also recovered broken in two.

The three colliers were arrested at their homes in Chapel Hill, Whitecroft early the next morning and their injuries confirmed that they had been in a fight. They were first detained at Blakeney police station and later moved to Coleford.

On 27th November all three were charged with the murder of Sgt Morris and the attempted murder of Constable Harding. They were transported to Gloucester gaol by train. At Parkend a large crowd of colliers lined the station platform to show their support. The committal of the three colliers on the capital charge strengthened the feelings of the mining community in their favour and soon a large fund was raised to cover their defence costs.

Their trial took place at Gloucester Assizes on 18th February 1896. The evidence presented was often contradictory and Harding's evidence was open to question. The defence lawyers argued that because that night the police were in plain clothes, and as the three colliers were not committing any crime, it was apparent that the defendants felt they were being attacked by strangers. All three had not been in any trouble with the law previously. The apparently heavy handed Constable Harding's evidence was sometimes contradictory and 19 year old George Morgan's injuries quite serious and far worse than PC Harding's who had admitted that he had struck the first blow. Their defence also argued that the defendants were justified in repelling an unprovoked attack.

The jury found George Morgan guilty of manslaughter. A formal verdict of acquittal was returned in the case of the other two who had both plead guilty to common assault. George Morgan was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment, his brother James Morgan to six months, and 18 year old George Hill to one month.

The handing down of these obviously lenient sentences was probably because the judge viewed that there had been no concerted action on the part of these men.

There was a great deal of public sympathy for the family of Sergeant Morris and a subscription fund was set up to raise money for them.

The funeral of Sergeant Morris took place at Lydney on Wednesday afternoon, 13th November 1895. He was held in great esteem in the town and as a mark of respect local tradesmen closed their premises from 11 o'clock till two o'clock.

He was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary's, Lydney on Wednesday the 13th of November 1895. The spot selected for the grave was next to Sgt Clarke, who had preceded Sgt Morris at Lydney.

The Chief Constable, with inspectors, superintendents, sergeants and constables to the number of over 60 men attended and it was reported that the church was crowded. An inscribed headstone was erected on his grave. Today it reads -William MORRIS, h/o Mary Aminda, Late Sergeant of Police, Lydney Glos, 10 Nov 1895, 32. Mary Aminda, w, 1 March 1942, 82. In the midst of life we are in death. Of whom may we seek for succour but thee O Lord.

His widow Minnie (1859-1942) did not remarry. Following the death of her mother Selina in 1898 and her father William Morse in 1899, she took over the Nags Head at Yorkley Slade and the care of her disabled brother Howard Henry (Harry) Morse (1865-1908). She was listed as licensee there on the 1911 census. Mary Aminda Morris was 82 years old when she died at her home, Southville, Yorkley Slade, in 1942.

 

The Death of Sergeant Samuel Beard in 1861, and the Speech House poachers

Arlingham, Gloucestershire, is a village on the River Severn opposite Newnham. Samuel Beard was born there around 1822, the son of labourer Thomas Beard. His actual birth-date is unclear. On the 1841 census he  is recorded as 19, and when he joined the Gloucestershire police at Cheltenham in February 1843, he gave his age as 20. During the early 1840s he was employed at Coleford in the Forest of Dean as a servant for solicitor Benjamin Peach. At that time there was a fee-paying ferry from Arlingham to Newnham which carried passengers and livestock. It existed from 1802 until after the Second World War.

In February 1843 Samuel joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary at Cheltenham.

PC Samuel Beard married 18 year old Jane Morton, the daughter of draper William Morton from Tetbury, at Cheltenham in 1844 while he was serving there. The couple went on to have six children, five born in the Forest of Dean area.

After serving at Cheltenham, where his first child, Jane,was born, he was posted to Lydbrook. From there he served at a number of stations in the Forest before being posted as a sergeant to run the Littledean station around 1855.  In 1854 prison reform legislation made the former House of Correction at Littledean available for use as a police station and a short term remand prison. On 15 March of that year Sergeant Edward Birch and two Constables moved in and the police station in Church Street was closed. When the lease on the courtroom at Newnham Town Hall expired in 1874, Newnham Petty Sessional Court also moved in.

 It is not at present clear when Samuel Beard took over as sergeant. Two of his children were born there, Emily in 1856, and Frederick in 1858.

Littledean Prison had opened in 1791, only a few months after the new gaol at Gloucester. The first inmate admitted on 18th November 1791 was a 19-year old Westbury labourer by the name of Joseph Marshall. He was convicted for stealing a spade.

The gaol consisted of a two-storeyed building with a central block, containing an office, committee room, chapel, infirmaries, and accommodation for keeper and turnkey. The cells were then situated in the east and west wings. Around the building were four courtyards and the whole area was surrounded by a perimeter wall with a gatehouse on the south side. In 1844 the ground-floor cells were enlarged and a third storey was added to the central block, one room of which became a schoolroom.

From 1854 the building, no longer a House of Correction, was used as a police station and remand prison. Around the same time, the prison's crank mill, which was apparently originally designed not only as part of the punishing regime but also to lift water from the well for domestic use, was removed and the building converted for use as the Constabulary stables. During the restoration workmen taking up the flag stones and cobbles exposed a network of water channels and a well.

Further changes came in 1874 when the prison's east wing was remodelled as a petty sessional court.

 

After the gaol became Littledean police station its hand-crank mill room was turned into the Constabulary stables

 

 

Today it is the home of Littledean Jail Museum with its the Crime Through Time collection and Quadropehnia exhibition.

 

On Tuesday, August 27, 1861 the Birmingham Daily Post inaccurately reported -

MURDER OF A SERGEANT OF POLICE NEAR COLEFORD - On Saturday night a terrible affray took place upon an estate at Little Dean, near Coleford, between Sergeant Samuel Beard and four sheep-stealers. The four men had been drinking in a neighbouring public house and a farmer and Beard suspected something wrong. Beard secreted himself in one position and the farmer in another. It appears that the fellows had set their gins and laid their nets. They then drove some sheep into an angle of the ground for the evident purpose of killing some of the flock. Beard then rushed upon them and they commenced a savage and brutal attack on him. They beat him with bludgeons and kicked him most furiously when on the ground. The ruffians then fled . The poor fellow was found the next morning about four o'clock in a state of insensibility. He presented a most deplorable spectacle. The farmer states that when he was in his hiding place he heard some blows, but he thought it was someone beating a donkey. He says that when some considerable time had elapsed he left his hiding place and went to look for Beard but could not see him.He however found his coat hung up in a tree and thought he was gone home. The affair must have been a very sanguinary one for four of Beard's teeth were knocked out and the ground was covered with clots of coagulated blood. On Tuesday he became conscious and immediately mentioned the names of the four ruffians. The fellows were shortly after apprehended. Their names are Williams, Roberts and two brothers named Cooper. On Wednesday they were taken before the magistrates and afterwards to the bedside of Beard, who at once rwecognised the whole of them. They were then remanded and the dying deposition of the officer taken. Poor Beard lingered in great agony until Saturday evening when death put an end to his sufferings.

That night, the 17th of August 1861, following up on  a complaint of possible sheep-stealing, Police Sergeant Beard with farmer's son Thomas Guest had been keeping observation at the Speech House Inn. Already drinking there when they had arrived were four young men with their two dogs from the Berry Hill area. Though they were not the individuals suspected by the farmer they attracted the interest of the police sergeant. He decided to follow them when they left the inn.

Evidence was given by Thomas Guest, the son of a farmer from Maidenham Farm, Littledean, at the trial of the four men which took place at Gloucester Assizes on December 4th 1861 before Justice Willes.

On Saturday night, the 17th of August 1861, the four prisoners left the Speech House at around 10.30 with two dogs. Guest had already earlier told Beard, who was in plain clothers, that these were not the suspected sheep-stealers and he did not know these men. 

The two men followed the suspected poachers from about 100 yards behind towards Moseley Green. On the left hand side was a gate opening into a field behind the Speech House. He saw one of the men about 50 yards from the gate leaning against the rails. He and the Sergeant separated and he walked down the road and passed the man wishing him good night. About 200 yards further on was a second gate leading into the second field from the Speech House where he saw three men. He walked a further 200 yards and then doubled back through the Forest towards the Speech House.

When about half-way back and opposite the rails, he heard heavy blows of some kind. Before that he had heard someone shouting 'Tom' and another 'Dick', apparently coming from near the gate where he later found Sgt Beard. He then saw the four men walking back towards the Speech House. He went back to look for Beard. He had trouble finding him and it was several hours before he eventually located him near the gate where they had separated earlier. He was lying on his side apparently dead. There was blood on his face and his mouth was cut. On the ground nearby was a stick with blood on it. He also saw a gate net apparently used for hare-catching. There was blood on the ground in several places. His staff was in his pocket. He stayed with him for 15 minutes and then went to the Speech House for assistance.

The innkeeper John Coleman was roused by his charwoman, Mrs Elizabeth Rooke, and went to where Beard was laying. The policeman appeared to be dying. He tried to give him some brandy but was prevented by the injuries to his mouth. He then had the sergeant taken back to the Speech House and sent for medical assistance.

Mr Hatton, a surgeon from Coleford, gave evidence that at 7am on Sunday he found the sergeant badly beaten about the face, his lips were cut through, his face was blackened around the eyes. There were bruises about the body and four of his upper teeth were knocked out. There was also a severe head injury which he believed had been inflicted by a stone or boot.

Superintendent Taylor from Coleford deposed to having seen Sgt Beard on Sunday the 18th August. He was in the tap-room and opened his eyes saying "This is a bad job Sir!"

The Superintendent saw him again at 7 pm that evening and took a deposition from the dying man. He read it back to him and  asked him to sign but the officer was too ill to write. On Monday the 19th Sgt Beard was still alive and the accused four men were brought before him for identification. Taylor found spots of blood on Gwilliam's trousers. That day they were charged with assault.

PC 32  William Webber gave evidence that he stayed with Sgt Beard from Sunday until his death. On Monday he had complained of a pain in his head and said "I cannot stand this; I shall die". He said he had knocked one of them down with his staff and stated "he hoped they would be hung".    

Samuel Beard died on Saturday 24th August 1861. The dying man's statement to Superintendent Taylor reads -

"Speech House 19th August 1861. Thomas Cooper, George Cooper, Richard Roberts and Thomas Gwilliam, whom I have just seen, are the four men who assaulted and beat me last Saturday night. I watched them leave the Speech House about 11 oclock that night. They went along the road towards the Fancy Pit. I afterwards saw three of them near a gate leading into a small field near the Speech House. I went to them. I met George Cooper a short distance from the gate. I asked him what they wee doing there? He said it was no odds to me. I told him I should search him. He then struck me with a stick. I struck him on the head with my staff. One of them called for the fourth man who came. They all fell upon me. Roberts struck me a heavy blow on the head with a stick; I fell down. They then kicked me about the head and face when I was down. I became insensible and knew nothing after till I was at the Speech House on Sunday".    The mark of Samuel Beard  X;  William Taylor, Supt. witness.

PC Rodway who was in charge of the prisoners at Littledean gave evidence.

On the 27th August George Cooper sent for him and said he wanted to make a statement. He was warned that it would be taken down in writing and might be used against him. He then made a statement. "On Saturday night the 17th of August I went to the Speech House Inn and had seven or eight pints of beer. We had nets and dogs with us.  I am not certain what time we left the Speech House, and as soon as we had the nets teeled we put the dogs over and it then tongued a hare. Another man ran down the road before him; and then directly on this Beard came down; he stood opposite the turnpike road. Richard Roberts was at the upper gate, and I at the lower, and he passed Richard Roberts and I went round the corner of the Lodge. He had catched hold of Thomas Gwilliam  and I went and told him to loose. He did not say anything for a bit; he put his hand in his coat pocket and took hold of his stick and struck me on the arm: then I cut him two or three times with  the stick. Then after he hit me on the head and knocked me down; he stunned me for a minute or two. When I got up he was he was down. Thomas Gwilliam and my brother was together; Richard Roberts was behind. He came up then. Richard Roberts never touched him nor I don't think that Thomas Gwilliam did. I was behind the hedge. It was by where he was found. It was dark between the trees and the hedge."   Signed George Cooper.

Mr Cooke, defending, addressed the jury. That unfortunate affair, he said, would not have occurred if it had not been for the excessive zeal of the deceased man who had gone out that night to catch some men, not the prisoners, but who, as he could not find the men whom he wanted, thought he had better catch the prisoners than go home having done nothing.

He did not ask the jury to acquit them of anything but wilful murder. He urged upon them the absence of any premeditation or malice and drew their attention to the fact that the prisoners were doing nothing which justified the police sergeant interfering with them for it was not hinted that they were poaching. He characterised it as an unfortunate, unpremeditated, and unhappy affair and said that whilst the death of  Sergeant Beard was to be very much regretted, yet that it was, to a certain extent, of his own seeking.

After retiring, the jury found the prisoners guilty of manslaughter, and recommended Roberts to mercy. His Lordship sentenced them each to 15 years penal servitude at Gloucester prison but recommended Richard Roberts for a mitigation of punishment.

Richard Roberts, who had only kept watch, and not involved in the actual incident, was given a free pardon on 30th of March 1862.

On the 15th October 1861 the Cheltenham Chronicle reported that the subscription on behalf of Sgt Beard's widow and orphans had raised around £600. Among many others, Gloucestershire County police officers at Bristol had all subscribed one day's pay towards the fund.

It was proposed that the widow should be allowed £1 per week in the short term and  the balance would be invested to give her at least 12 shillings per week for the maintenance and education of her children.

The Chief Constable also announced on 21st October 1861 that he was granting a gratuity of one year's salary to be awarded to Sgt Beard's widow. The widow and three children of another police officer, PC Thomas Trinder, who was stationed at Littledean with Sgt Beard and who had died suddenly after the tragedy, 'his death having been caused by the shock acting on a debilitated constitution' were granted a quarter of a year's salary..

Over 500 people attended Sergeant Beard's funeral at Littledean Church. On his grave there is the inscription 'Overwhelmed with pain, sunk within this cell, and bid the anxious cares of life farewell. Farewell fond wife and young children dear, in whom was centred all my earthly care.'

 

The Western Daily Press on the 9th September 1861 reported the sad death of a police officer stationed at Littledean a week earlier. 33 year old PC Thomas Trinder who lived with his wife Hannah and four children at Church Street, Littledean, had taken the death of his friend and colleague Samuel Beard on the 24th August badly. It had preyed on his mind, he was not eating, and was frequently found crying. The constable had earlier complained of pains in the chest which seemed to worsen during the period after Sergeant Beard's death.

On a visit to Lydbrook with Sgt Arthur they were descending a steep hill when PC Trinder, who had been unsteady on his feet all day, stumbled to the ground causing the Sergeant to fall on top of him. They both got up and the sergeant asked him if he was OK. The constable reassured him that he was unhurt. PC Trinder was sent home to rest but expired at 5pm the next day, the 2nd of September. His post mortem revealed a ruptured a blood vessel and also that he was suffering from a long-standing lung disease.

The jury at his inquest returned a verdict of 'died from natural causes'. He was buried at Littledean on 6th September 1861.

 

The General Strike in 1926

 

After the nine day General Strike was over, the coal owners insisted on imposing cuts to wages, and an increase in hours worked. When the miners would not yield, the owners locked them out and on the 17th of May, Forest of Dean colliers asked Mr Purcell, their local Labour member of Parliament, to explain to them why the general strike was called off, and the miners betrayed.

The lock-out was to take the heart out of the Forest.The heroism and self-sacrifice of the colliers and their families during those grim months, brought miners and their families anguish and misery, creeping hunger and despair. They stood up to the employers for seven months, stubborn and persistent in their determination to win. Finally, when flesh and blood could stand no more, they were forced to capitulate.

They returned to work on the owners' terms. Bream's Princess Royal colliery held out till the last and the Cheltenham Chronicle reported on 25th September that men there had began to sign on with 200 already working. A wagon load of new shovels was seen at Whitecroft station and horses were being shoed. The Mine Owners' Association reported that in the group of larger pits, 2637 colliers, around 50 per cent of the workforce, had signed on.

At the end of October that number had increased to 4,416. Before the dispute 6,520 had been employed.

The biggest losers were those miners who held on till the end, including the Mining Federation's local Executive. The return to work agreement did not include them getting their jobs back. A later account by Albert Meek, who together with Jesse Hodges were joint secretaries of the union, related that they were both victimised and out of work for 17 months after the dispute.

On 20th October 1926, when a large percentage of the men had returned to work, there was a meeting of the Gloucestershire Standing Joint Committee, where the Chief Constable, Major Stanley Clarke, was criticised by Labour's County Councillor, C.W Luker from Lydney, for continuing to maintain a force of 140 men in the Forest of Dean.

 

Gloucestershire mounted police billeted at the Feathers Hotel, Lydney in 1926. The hotel was demolished in 1999 to make way for the Tesco store. At the beginning of the dispute 179 extra policemen were brought into the Forest. Mr Luker, the Labour County Councillor for Lydney, commented near the end of the dispute - "The real reason for mounted police being disliked was that they represented one more stage in brutality than did the men on foot."

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Generally relations between the police and the miners was amicable. There were no major incidents or violence reported. Most prosecutions were for minor offences by locals forming groups and crowds when blackleg miners were being escorted to and from work. On Saturday 17th July the Gloucester Journal reported that 'an indication of the spirit prevailing between the police and the men was when the Cinderford Town Club, composed mainly of miners, have played one cricket match with them, and another has been arranged.'



Police preparing to leave Chipping Sodbury in 1926 to maintain order in the Forest of Dean


Food parcels being distributed at Bream during the strike

 

 

Born in the Banbury area of Oxfordshire in 1873, and married to Emily Blundell at Stratford on Avon in 1894, John Francis Shelswell became a Police Officer, and after a short period at Cheltenham was posted to the Forest of Dean.

In 1901 he was a constable at Lydbrook, and in 1911, a sergeant at Blakeney. By 1923 he had risen to the rank of Superintendent, and in charge of the Forest Division from 1923-1937.

In charge of policing during the Miners strike in 1926, he was stationed at Tutshill House, Lydney when 175 extra police officers were drafted in. 

John Shelswell was later awarded an MBE for his lengthy public service.

He was also a keen supporter of Lydney Rugby Club, being Chairman from 1924 - 1935. When their ground came up for sale in 1928 he was the purchaser. He then rented it back to the club.

Retiring in 1937 John Francis Shelswell MBE died at Lydney in 1960.

 


Boy's Theft of Cycle at Lydney. An indication of local justice to children at that time is reported in the Gloucester Journal on Saturday 28th of April 1928.

At a Children's Court at Lydney on Wednesday, a twelve-year-old boy pleaded not guilty to having stolen a pedal cycle, value 15 shillings, (75p in decimal currency) between March 30th and April 5th.

James Price said he left his machine in a shed. Later it was missing.

Evidence was given by a lad of twelve to the effect that in April he purchased the cycle from the defendant for 3 shillings.

The father, a widower, said he had beaten the boy, but could do nothing with him.

Superintendent Shelswell regretted he was unable to say anything in favour of the boy, whom he described as crafty, and added that the police had received numerous complaints about him.

The magistrates ordered the lad to receive six strokes with a birch.

* A one pound note in 1928 would have had the purchasing power of around £40 today.

*The birch was normally administered privately by a policeman, usually immediately after the magistrate's court hearing, either in a room in the court building  or at the nearest police station. Its use was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1948.

 

 

Sources

Walter Virgo and the Blakeney Gang by Ian Wright

A Forest Beat: The Forest of Dean Police 1839-2000 by Geoff Sindrey & Ted Heath

The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post

The Gloucester Citizen

Gloucestershire Archives - Various Constabulary records.

1841, 1861,1891, 1901, 1911 census returns

www.british-history.ac.uk

GRO marriage certificate Samuel Beard and Jane Morton

The Cheltenham Chronicle

The Gloucester Journal

 

Continue to Gloucestershire Constabulary Early Days

 



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