Powers of Magistrates pre 1856
Before the 1856 County and Borough Police Act responsibility for the administration , as well as the enforcing of law and order lay in the hands of magistrates selected for the responsibility in the Hundreds Divisions of the Shire Counties. Hoole and Newton were in the Broxton Hundred, whose magistrates' meetings and hearings were usually held at the Egerton Arms in Broxton, where matters of a mainly rural nature were dealt with. The magistrates were responsible for the police service and a County Police Court at Chester Castle dealt with local offences.
During this time many cases were brought as a result of the work of Associations for the Prosecution of Felons, formed by landowners concerned about the rising level of crime, the local one being the Trafford Association. Its public notices issued annually from 1795 to 1820 listed the local landowners and spelt out very clearly the nature of the crimes about which they were concerned.
Some examples of cases:
- 1827 Phillip Bickerton of Newton charged with stealing timber, the property of Robert Brittain Esq. of Hoole Bank - for this and other offences ordered to be transported for seven years.
- 1831 William Coombs two months imprisonment for stealing two top coats from Mr John Williamson's house in Flookersbrook.
- 1838 John Jones, 17, a butcher, for stealing a heifer from Mr Joseph Mossford of Hoole, seven years transportation
- 1827 The Greenhouse of Mr Roberts of Flookersbrook stripped of its lead.
Response to the Urbanisation of Hoole and Newton
As the residential area of Hoole and Newton grew following the arrival of the railways a more serious face of crime and its frequency developed, so much so that in 1856 a petition was sent to the Broxton magistrates asking that a police officer be based in the area. The magistrates ordered the constable based at Trafford, (then in Cheshire), Manchester, to transfer to Bishopsfield, but representations from gentlemen at the Trafford end saw the order countermanded, "the future deployment of officers being a task for the Chief Constable for the County who was about to be appointed".
In February 1857 a meeting of the inhabitants of Bishopsfield and Flookersbrook was held at the Faulkner Arms in Faulkner Street with once again a view to obtaining a resident police constable in the vicinity.
- "Many attempts at robbery have been made of late... we have nothing like the police protection we have a right to expect... if something is not done to remedy this evil all the respectable inhabitants will leave...".
Another petition praying for two resident constables for the locality was prepared to be presented to the magistrates at Chester Castle.
The timing could not have been better. The new Chief Constable, Captain Johnes Smith had powers under the 1856 County and Borough Police Act to reorganise the force and increase its numbers, and to incur expenditure in erecting station-houses.
By 1858 Police Sgt John Clark was resident in the area, and a police station complete with cells was being built on the corner of Stone Place and Hoole Road. Cpt Smith's official residence was to be Hoole Lodge which may have had a bearing on provision in Hoole; the County Constabulary headquarters was then in Seller Street, later moving to Egerton Street.
The uniform was stipulated as being blue frock coats, those of superintendents being braided. The Prince of Wales's Feathers were adopted as the badge, which caused a problem later because permission had not been sought to use it.
A description of the station made in 1948 sounds as if it was unchanged for 90 years.
- "The building was comprised of two houses as in a semi-detached, and access from one to the other was gained by a communicating door at the rear where there was the addition of a cell-block in the house on the east side which was used exclusively for police duties. The parade room was downstairs, store room and tailors workroom upstairs. The house on the other side was the home of the resident police sergeant and his family, accounting for the communicating door." Excerpt from Ronald Leigh Thoughts on the Police in Chester 1948
Police on the Ground
Sgt Clarke was to remain in post for nearly 21 years. He lived at the Police Station with his wife and stepson, and invariably police constables were lodged there. His successors were changed frequently perhaps questioning the phrase "Getting to know one's patch".
Their duties as with all policemen were to enforce the law, uphold the peace, investigate criminal activity and to respond to emergencies. Newspaper reports give details of many incidents, some interesting ones appearing below.
In addition, in the early years the local incumbent took responsibility for the Local Board's fire hose reel cart, and was also appointed to be its Inspector of Nuisances. This post dealt with complaints like the proper emptying of night-soil, the ill treatment of animals and causation of flooding. The police in Hoole also became responsible for implementing the Common Lodging Houses Act which in the interests of Public Health limited the number of lodgers to sleep in each house, inspected for cleanliness and ventilation and the segregation of sexes. Contagious and infectious diseases needed to be controlled. A notice shows the measures to be taken to combat cholera, Sgt Clarke being the person who would supply medicine to people infected.
Incidents and events
The six public houses in the area regularly presented two problems - drunkenness and drinking outside licensed hours. Over the years incidents occurred at every one, resulting in challenges to the renewal of landlords' licences.
- 1857: The stone gate pillars to Moor Park damaged by stone throwing : culprits imprisoned for two months hard labour at Knutsford House of Correction.
- !858: Joseph Roberts and Thomas Hughes were charged with leaving their carts on the Hoole Turnpike road while they went to partake of liquor. They pleaded guilty and were fined 2s 6p each and costs.
- 1866: Fifteen people occupying two small rooms in New Peploe Street. Walls and floors in a filthy condition. Owner ordered to remove tenant who had sub-let.
- 1867: As a part of a search for arms thought to have been secreted there by the Fenians, Flookersbrook Pits were dredged and 150 rounds of ammunition found. 1200 'strangers' believed to be Fenians came to Chester from Ireland and the North-west of England and were expected to attack the Castle to obtain arms (see: Fenian Plots).
- September 1868: Samuel Weaver, beerhouse keeper at The Beehive, let a field he owned to a group of gypsies so that they could hold a gypsy ball. He was charged with selling beer off the premises without a licence for which he was fined £5 plus costs. Having previously been fined £2 plus costs for keeping his house open after legal hours the renewal of his licence was refused.
- July 1870: Protests at a local elopement resulted in a house in Hamilton Terrace and then the Police Station being stoned; riots involving 6-700 people who were intent on burning effigies of the couple lasted over three nights; every pane of glass in the six windows of the Station was broken; policemen had to charge the mob with drawn cutlasses; nine rioters were convicted to a fortnight's imprisonment with hard labour.
- 1871: Census shows two prostitutes detained in the cells
- 1873: and next few years. Reportedly thousands of people in the area for the National Primitive Methodists' Rally on the Folly Field.
- 1878: Chester Union Workhouse on Hoole Lane opened. Increase in number of vagrants heading for "The Spike" and a night's lodging.
- 1893: Royal Agricultural Show in Hoole required crowd and traffic management
- 1896-8: Chester Football Club's grounds in Hoole. Large numbers attended matches (see: Hoole and Chester Football Club).
- 1898: Hoole sub-postmaster for nine years, Richard Balshaw, indicted for embezzling £37, "a sum entrusted to him by virtue of his employment". He had not forwarded a deposit of Mrs Carter to London although he had initialled her Post Office Savings Bank Book. He was the son of Thomas Balshaw who opened a grocery shop in Peploe Street 40 years earlier, now Lewis's office, where the Post Office was subsequently located. Richard Balshaw was sentenced to 12 months' hard labour.
- 1899: Four boys aged between 9 and 12 summonsed for stealing pigeons from a loft in Tomkinson Street. Sentenced to receive six strokes each of the birchrod.
Personnel known to have been stationed at Bishopsfield/Hoole
- 1858 - 1878: Sgt John Clarke
- 1880: John Wood Inspector of County Police
- 1886: Detective Inspector Downes succeeded by Inspector Brittain
- 1892: John Pennington Sergeant of District, George Ennion, Sergeant in charge
- 1902: James Bottoms, Sergeant of District, George E Farnsworth, Sergeant in charge
- 1906: Robert Jackson, Sergeant in charge
- 1914: Charles Hayward, Sergeant in charge
- 1923: Tom B Cotterell, Sergeant of District, G Kingsman, Sergeant in charge
- 1933: C Worrall, Sergeant in charge
Local policing in the Twentieth Century
The advent of motorised vehicles added a significant dimension. Vehicles had to be registered and drivers licensed. The Motor Car Act 1903 made it an offence to drive on a public highway in such a way as to be dangerous to the public. The highest speed was to be 20 miles an hour. Hoole Road and Hoole Bridge were the scene of numerous incidents.
In both World Wars The Defence of the Realm Acts imposed many restrictions and it was the responsibility of the police to monitor and enforce the regulations. The Aliens Act required persons not of British nationality to register with the police - a Russian watchmaker from Manchester turned up at Hoole Police Station. All persons keeping homing pigeons had to register them, and movement could only take place with a movement licence issued by the police. Pigeon fancying was a very popular hobby in the area.
Local police officers were involved in cases of absenteeism from military service, Herbert Richardson from Lightfoot Street was charged with failing to join the Colours, and James Jones of Clare Avenue was charged with absenteeism from the Army Reserve Class B. There were many cases of the black-out not being observed, and under the Lighting Control Board Regulations orders as to lights on vehicles had to be enforced.
All of this meant working closely with Civil Defence Workers, Air Raid Precautions (ARP) wardens and the Home Guard. In addition normal peacetime duties were made more difficult due to the blackout and rationing, criminal activity increasing. Black market trading was another issue, a case in Hoole involving the purchase of cloth without coupons by Jimmy O'Reilly and Peter Coyle Marl ensured much gossip and a petition for leniency for the much liked chip shop owner. Another premises on Faulkner Street run as betting shop by Freddy Ankers was raided, gambling in such a way being illegal.
Policing in the City was seperate from the County Police Force until 1974 although they did work together. In 1948 the City Police had to "borrow" two cells at Hoole after rounding up thirteen alleged operators of varied games of chance at Chester Races. After the forces amalgamated in 1974 the police station in Hoole was closed.
Hoole Lodge - The Chief Constable's Official Residence
Hoole Lodge was owned by the Earl of Shrewsbury and was reputedly Hoole's manor house. For over 50 years the Hamilton family lived there, at the same time renting their newly built Hoole House to Lady Eliza Broughton. When she died in January 1857 the family moved into Hoole House; as a result Hoole Lodge was available when an official residence was being sought for Cheshire's first Chief Constable.
Cpt Johnes Smith was its first occupant, the 1861 Census recording his wife and four children, his mother-in-law and eight members of staff living there. A coachman was employed for the journey into Seller Street, the location of the County Police Headquarters.
Cpt Smith's family at leisure at Hoole Lodge.
Cpt Smith's family at the lakeside.
St Clair Smith school photograph.
Cpt Smith donated £25 to the building fund for All Saints Church which opened in 1867 and a brass plaque in the church commemorates his activities there. He, his wife and family played an active part in local life, being associated with many events at the Church and the Lecture Hall.
There was embarrassment in 1865 when his son, Ensign St Clair Smith, then of the 49th Regiment, Dublin was convicted for attending a cock-fight at Peel Hall,near Tarvin. He and twelve other gentlemen were fined £5 plus costs.
Cpt Smith died in 1877 and:
- "the mournful cortege left Hoole Lodge about 11 o'clock and was met at Hoole Police Station by Deputy Chief Constable Arrowsmith with the whole of the police superintendents of the county,who marched two abreast, in company with many other officers of the police force. The great esteem in which he had been held was shown in a marked manner by the partial closing of shutters in the various establishments on the route to the Chester Cemetery".
Cheshire's second Chief Constable was Capt Arrowsmith, but because Capt Smith's widow was allowed to remain at Hoole Lodge, he resided at The Elms, which following the death of George Meakin was available to rent. Capt Arrowsmith attended the presentation made to Sgt Clarke in 1878, albeit being responsible for his move after 21 years.
No records have been found of his playing any part in local life; he was a controversial character, nepotism being alleged in some of his appointments. Capt Arrowsmith died suddenly in 1881, his funeral procession being similar to Capt Johnes Smith's with information that after crossing Hoole Bridge it turned left along Seller Street, passing the Police Headquarters before proceeding along Foregate Street en route to Overleigh Cemetery.
In September 1881 Col J.H. Hamersley was appointed Chief Constable and he and his family moved into Hoole Lodge, where he soon advertised its 17 acres as being available for grazing. In 1884 he presided over entertainment for the newly formed Hoole branch of the Church of England Temperance Society. In 1899 he successfully objected to a drinks licence being granted for Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade's sports day which was held at Hoole House, which neighboured his property.
He was elected to the Hoole Local Board in 1885 at the same time as the Hon Claude Hamilton Vivian. The Board was at that time in some turmoil. Its Clerk, Joseph Bridgman, who had guided it since its formation in 1864 had died in 1881. His successor, W.M.Weaver, a solicitor, and his deputy W. Grice, who was also its surveyor had difficulty in handling some of the issues such as the taking over of the Hoole Turnpike Road in November 1883, the repercussions of Charles Brown's Flookersbrook Improvement Act 1876, and the pressure from Chester Town Council for the area to be absorbed into its jurisdiction.
By 1888 Hamersley and Hamilton Vivian had persuaded J.P. Cartwright, the Chairman of the Board and a solicitor, to become its Clerk, forcing the resignation of Weaver and Grice. Having brought about some stability Col Hamersley was Chairman in 1888, had signicant input into the movement of traffic, the metalling of roads, and was a member of the deputation seeking access to Chester General Station from Hoole - his signature can be seen on The "Memorial" (Petition) of 1889. He resigned from the Board in 1891.
When the Royal Agricultural Show came to Hoole in 1894 he would have been a very interested party, because in addition to policing considerations, Hoole Lodge was next door to the showground. He was a cricketer, recorded as scoring 23 not out for Hoole against Upton C.C., also encouraging All Saints Church Boys Cricket Club. In 1891 he was the founder of Hoole Literary Institute.
In 1907 a 14h.p. Siddeley motor car with acetylene lamps was purchased for his official use, with an allowance of £200 p.a. for running costs and driver's wages. This was an open sided vehicle which the Chief Constable soon had modified.
Following Col Hamersley's retirement in September 1910 Hoole Lodge was no longer used as the official residence and was returned to the Earl of Shrewsbury's estate. It was eventually sold for housing, being advertised as the Hoole Lodge Estate which was to become Park Drive.
Article by Ralph Earlam - 10/6/22