b'Policing Bishop Wilton: From Parish Constable to Police ConstableKate PrattF rom our vantage point it is hard to imagine a timeOne of the most intriguing questions asked was when every parish was an independent unit whichDo you belong to any Orange Lodge or Secret had to organise and manage most things for itself,Society? From the 271 constables listed in the first from poor relief and road repairs to the maintenancerecord book, 199 said No in answer to this question, of law and order. From about 1330 a Parish Constable4 were Freemasons, 1 actually belonged to an Orange was appointed by the Vestry committee, theLodge, and the rest all named their Friendly Societies, equivalent of the Parish Council today, to keep thesuch as the Foresters, the Oddfellows or the Druids.Kings Peace. It was a short-term and totally unpaidAfter medical inspection, the drilling of the new position of great responsibility.force started; in some areas many of the new Police Constables were selected from suitable men ofConstables were ex-soldiers, but in the East Riding the Parishor even occasionally women, in whichthey were mainly farm labourersthe pay offered was case they were allowed to appoint a deputy. Theynot much more than they would get working on the were appointed for a year at a time, and their dutiesland (18 shillings a week for Constables), but the job were many and varied, mostly sounding very familiar.offered permanence, clothing, a pension and a certain They were expected to suppress and present [=stability. report] affrays; arrest armed men; present bloodshedBelts, staff, lantern and handcuffs were issued to and drunkenness; apprehend felons; present gamingthe Constables at the end of January, when they were houses and gamesters; make hue and cry; punishgiven a weeks leave to move to their new locations. idle persons, night walkers etc; present rescues;They were not issued with their uniformstunic with apprehend rioters; punish vagabonds; executesilver buttons, trousers, heavy lined cape, stock, tall warrants; keep watch etc. Constables were expectedpill-box cap, boots and shoesuntil the middle of to do all these responsible things themselves, withMarch.the help of anybody they could prevail uponeveryOne of the major changes that had thus taken one of the kings people within their limits are boundplace was that Police Constables were part of to assist them. Parish Constables were armeda national Force, not respected members of the with a staff of office, and were totally relied on tovillage community, and although they were carefully keep the kings peace, and ought to be cherishedinterviewed for selection, mistakes were made! Of and respected if they faithfully discharge that trustthe first 10 Constables assigned to Bishop Wilton, committed to them.(These quotes are all from Thecovering a period of 11 years, 5 resigned and 5 were Complete Parish Officer published in 1772). dismissed. The major problem seems to have been Eventually the decision was taken to set up anwith drunkenness; although in some cases other organised national Police Force, the relevant Bill beingreasons were given it is still possible that drink was linked to the familiar name of Sir Robert Peel. In 1839,the problem. Reasons for dismissal were not always the Rural Police Act allowed counties to appoint agiven, but in the case of our first 10 the following Chief Constable to set up an organised police force,were citedneglect of duty, disrespect to the Chief chargeable to the rates. This was a Permissive ActConstable, fighting, losing his hat (!), not writing up which had been adopted by 22 counties by 1853,his journal for 3 days, neglect of duty in not clearing whereas the other 22 still operated the parochialaway a travelling theatre from the streets of Hessle system. In 1856 came the Obligatory Act in whichwhen called upon to do so by Mr Emerson and magistrates were immediately ordered to appoint aallowing a prisoner Joseph Hemmingway to go and Police Force where one did not exist, and so finally asleep at his own home [in Melbourne], and saying that Police Committee was elected in the East Riding, withhe had kept him in custody.Charles Darley representing the Wilton Beacon area. It can be seen that there was a problem with On 21st January 1857 the first entries in anrecruiting men suitable to this peculiarly lonely job, enormous record book were made, with a doublewhich involved living closely with the very community page for each constable: details of his postingsthat they had to control, and yet keeping themselves and subsequent record on the left-hand page, andapart from it. Police Constables were supposed to personal details at the time of appointment on theset an example to their village in all ways; there were right-hand page. 300 applicants were interviewed,many directions as to their behaviourthey must and 48 successful officers were sworn in at Beverleyattend church, they must wear their uniform at all and had their warrants duly signed, to form the Easttimes, so effectively they were never off-duty. They Riding Constabulary. were also moved very regularly from place to place, 62 BULLETIN 5'