Thursday, 14 June 2012

Policing in 1885

Mr. John Barton, of 3, Fydell Street was a policeman in the constabulary of the Borough of Boston in 1885. In 1935 he looked back at policing in Boston during the 1880's.

Then it was all patrol, footslogging around the town for as much as 63 hours a week. "But we had our own special traffic problem in those days," said Mr. Barton. "We had to keep our eyes open, and if we saw any cyclist riding through the town at ten miles an hour he was summoned for 'furious riding'."
The policeman of 1885 was dressed in a blue frock coat and wore a stove pipe helmet made of solid felt and reputed to be able to stand a steam-roller running over it ! He worked nine hours in every 24 for seven days a week, with extra time on special days - but no extra pay ! At that time there were 15 men on the Boston force, Mr. Henry Bellamy the Chief Constable, three sergeants and 11 constables. There were more public houses then and they were open all day from 6 a.m. and the beer was stronger so it can well be appreciated what was one of a constable's most important duties.
But what of the appearence of the town in 1885. He tells us that many of the streets were cobbled then and were lit by fish-tail burners and a man used to come round at night with a box of matches to light them. Plate glass was unknown to Boston then and even if a shop had a big window it consisted of small panes.
1880's Boston.

There were few means of enjoyment for the townspeople, there was only the beer-house, no cinemas, no wireless, perhaps an occasional play at Shodfriars Hall or the Corn Exchange. The only park was that in South End and motor cars were unknown. There were at that time a considerable number of navvies left in the town, dredging the river from the Sluice to the New Cut so as to improve the outfall and Dock entrance and these navvies drank quite a lot of beer. However, there were a good number of the townspeople who could run them close, and on Saturday nights there would be practically a procession to the police station from 10 'o' clock to midnight. Sometimes the station was filled up with drunks. It was not an easy job, often they would be spoiling for a fight and two or three constables would have to frog-march them, others would lie down in the street and the constables would pick them up and wheel them to the police station on a truck.

"Policemen in those days didn't get pensioned off until they were worn out." concluded Mr. Barton. " There was no age limit. When they were thought to be done and unable to do any more, it was hoped they would die quick to save the ratepayers money."

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