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Prior to the Victorian period law and order were largely the responsibility of the Constable and Bailiffs of what we now call the Town and Manor. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel's Metropolitan Police Act brought an organised police force to London, and "Peelers" and "Bobbies" came to patrol the streets. By 1839 many rural large towns also had police forces.
The Berkshire Constabulary formed 1856:
Berkshire Constabulary was formed in 1856. The First Chief Constable was Col Fraser, whose previous post had been Governor of the Middlesex House of Correction.
Hungerford was part of the South Western District under the control of Superintendent Dowde of Newbury. The first recorded officer-in-charge at Hungerford was Sergeant John Barnes. Constables were also stationed at Kintbury, Wichkam, Peasemore, Inkpen, Boxford, Shefford, Chaddleworth, Great Fawley and Lambourn.
The pay scales at the time were:
- Sergeants - 23 shillings per week
- Constables - 17-21 shillings per week
In 1856 the Chief Constable issued the following instructions to prisoners: "The expense of conveying prisoners by rail is to be avoided as much as possible. Where practicable they should be conveyed by cart the whole distances and when this cannot be effected they should be marched and passed on from post to post."
In 1859 the Faringdon and Hungerford Board f Guardians appointed certain police officers as Assistant Relieving Officers to deal with the ever increasing problems in the area of tramps and vagrants. Several years later records show that in one year the Hungerford area dealt with 1,328 tramps. See also: Workhouses and Vagrants.
It is interesting to note that police officers at this time were permitted, in addition to carrying a staff and handcuffs, to carry a small cutlass at certain times. "A small cutlass may be supplied to any Constable whose beat is so situated in the opinion of two Justices of the County, it is necessary for his personal protection in the performance of his duty. The cutlass is only to be worn at night or at times when rioting or serious public disturbance has actually taken place or is apprehended". The cutlass remained in being until 1902, when they all had to be handed in.
The new police station, 1864:
The police station in Park Street was built in 1864, and remained in use until 2017.
The architect was Joseph Morris of Friar Street, Reading, and the builder was Richard Nicholls Hoskins of Hungerford.
A copy of the contract and plans of the original design for "a Station house for the Constabulary" runs to 31 pages. It was dated 1st March 1864.
The contract stated that the works should commence on 2nd March, and be completed within 23 weeks. The agreed cost was £862.
Click to downlaod a rather faded copy of the original building contract from 1864.
The station originally consisted of a station office, two cells and living quarters for the officer-in-charge. Although the interior has been much altered over the years, the external appearance of the building itself is virtually unchanged.
The police murders of 1876:
On the night of 11th December 1876, a notorious incident occurred at Hungerford when two police officers were murdered whilst on duty. Follow this link for more on the Police Murders of 1876.
Life in the police force:
In 1879 one officer recorded a typical day's duty as working 7am to 1pm and 7pm to 11pm, and walked a distance of 14 miles. The following day's duty was recorded as 6.30am to 8am and 1pm until 10pm.
In 1889 the Chief Constable issued an order that he expected all officers to attend some place of worship once on each Sunday, duty permitting "as it should be remembered that amongst a rural population the Constabulary exerts a great influence by setting a good example".
In 1910 officers at Hungerford had to go to the assistance of their colleagues at Lambourn when on the night of an election poll for South Berkshire several local people set fire to a wagon loaded with wood and straw and covered with tar. There were about 1,000 people present in the market square at lambourn, when an effigy of a prominent Minister of State was placed in the burning inferno.
In 1919 the officers' hours of duty were reduced from 9 hours per day to 3 hours per day and 5 hours by night.
On the night of 17th March 1923 officers of the Hungerford Section were faced with a daring burglary when thieves broke into Benham Park and stole a number of Gainsborough "Old Masters" by cutting them from their frames. Subsequently the paintings were traced to London and four people were arrested. The ring leader, who was said to be "the world's most daring cracksman" was gaoled for eight years.
During Second World War:
During the Second World War it is recorded that officers from Hungerford dealt with a crashed German bomber when a Junkers plane crashed on 1st November at Combe Hill. Several officers from the area also assisted the Southampton Police during air raids on the city.
Berkshire Constabulary joins Thames Valley Police:
On 1st April 1968 the Berkshire Constabulary became part of the Thames Valley Constabulary - and later the Thames Valley Police.
The Hungerford Shooting Tragedy, 1987:
At lunchtime of 19th August 1987 PC Roger Brereton was murdered on duty at Hungerford. Although at the time he was working as a traffic patrol officer, he had recently been stationed at Hungerford, and knew the area well. He was answering a call to investigate a man seen walking up South View with a gun, and on turning into South View to investigate, he was shot dead in his car by Michael Ryan. Over the next few hours of the Hungerford Shooting Tragedy, Ryan was to murder 17 people, before he took his own life. This event shocked people around the world. Much further material is available both locally and on-line. A memorial plaque to Roger Brereton was placed in the foyer of the police station.
- The 1864 Police Station, Aug 2001
- "1864" in decorative brickwork, Aug 2001
- The Police Station, c.1910
- Inspector Tom Randall and his family, with the Tutti-men outside the Police Station, 1912. On his left is his daughter Annie Randall, who taught at the Council School
[with thanks to Tom's grand-daughter Victoria Hummell, Aug 2014]
- "The Police House", decorated for the visit of King George V Oct 1912. (By A Parsons)
- The police reserve, 1919. There are no fewer than 33 men in this photograph, nearly all of them with a moustache, and one of them, the Rev. Denning, with a 'dog-collar'. The formal group photograph was taken at the entrance to the police station. Note the roses and ivy on the walls, and the geraniums and clipped box hedges in the gardens. [Albert Parsons] Those identified include:
Back row, L-R: Robinson (Eddington Mill); ..?..; ..?..; Alexander; Macklin; ?Stevens (of Stradling's garage); Raine; ..?..; ..?..; Astley; ..?... .
Middle row L-R: Kimber (Undys Farm); ..?..; ..?..; ..?..; ..?..; J Alexander (Beacon Farm); MacDade (Customs & Excise); Bingham (Chemist); ..?.. (postman); John Beard; ..?..; Rev Denning; Ernest Clements (watchmaker); ..?..; Morley Slade (Anvills).
Front row L-R: Adnams; Louis Beard; Walter Alexander (grocer); Col Wills (Hungerford Park); Insp Godwin (head of police, lived at the police station); ..?..; ..?..;
- The "Berkshire Volunteers" on Hungerford station, undated, ?1890s. There is an arrow marking the man 3rd from left as "Alf - Alfred William Bushnell".
- Hungerford Police, undated. Inspector G W Godwin seated in centre [Albert Parsons]
- Inspector G W Godwin, undated. [Albert Parsons]
- The old Police Station after conversion to residential use, 11 Feb 2020.
The modern police force:
In 1987 the interior of the police station was completely redesigned. The old cell, which had not been used for many years was removed, and the public entrance area was completely altered.
The traditional "blue lamp" fixed over the entrance is the original Hungerford lamp, brought back into service after being on display in the Thames Valley Police Museum.
In the foyer is a matchstick model of the police station made by local man, Billy Cox, late of Church Way.
During the early 1990s, PC Ron Hoyes tended the gardens at the Police Station, and created a wonderful display of colourful flowers and hanging baskets. The display became a tourist attraction, and PC Hoyes won several awards for his excellent work. See "Policeman wins award for station's floral displays", NWN 6 Oct 1994.
In 2001 the station strength was 1 Inspector, 2 Sergeants, 8 Constables, as well as 1 Civilian Station Duty Officer and 1 Part-time Traffic Warden.
The Hungerford & Downlands Sector also included Beedon, Boxford, Brightwalton, Catmore, Chaddleworth, Chievely, Combe, East Garston, East Ilsley, Farnborough, Fawley, Great Shefford, Hamstead Marshall, Hermitage, Inkpen, Kintbury, Lambourn, Leckhamstead, Peasemore, Welford, West Ilsley, West Woodhay and Winterbourne. The area covered about 150 sq miles, and 26,000 people.
In 2021 the Hungerford and Downland District comprises a policing team made up of five PCSOs, two PCs and a Sergeant, working out of the Tri-Station in Hungerford. This has been its home since March 2020 and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
- "History of Hungerford Police", by Brian Tagg, Station Duty Officer, May 1995 (Thanks to Stewart Hofgartner)
- Thames Valley Police Museum, Sulhamstead
- Police Station [HHA Archives A3]
- "A Murder of two local policemen, 11 Dec 1876" [HHA Archives A3]