Items of Special Interest

The Harbour Police

In 1835, the trade of the town increased very considerably, the export duty on coal having been repealed in this year. Parliamentary sanction was sought and obtained for improving the dock. This actually took seven years to complete.

In 1833, following the report of an official enquiry, it was revealed that the principal emolument of the Mayor was derived from mastage, or dues on vessels entering the port. The Parliamentary Commissioners thought that the mastage might be more usefully employed for the purpose of conservancy and the policing of the river. In 1836, on the passing of the Harbour Act, mastage was abolished. The Harbour Commissioners appointed under the Act mostly comprised business men, with the Mayor and three councillors. as town representatives. Their duties were to control the moorings, river navigation, and to prevent any nuisance caused by the unloading of ballast in the river, etc.

In this year, the Pillgwenlly and Commercial wharves were added to the borough. 

The enlargement of the harbour brought a large body of labourers to the town and this was followed by an increase in crime. The Watch Committee were very concerned at the situation and in 1836 appointed a paid constable and four petty constables to supervise Pillgwenlly, with its many harbours or wharves. 

The year 1842 saw the first effort to develop Newport from a tidal river port to one in which deep water was available at all states of the tide. This was through the opening of the Town Dock by the Newport Dock Company. Incidentally, the company went into liquidation in I882 as the result of an accident through which the company sustained heavy damages. The Town Dock was then taken over by the Alexandra Dock Company, but was closed in 1932. 

Little is known of the early activities of the harbour police, apart from the fact that they were better paid than the borough police only patrolled the river banks and wharves. 

Smuggling must have been prevalent, for in 1846 a cask containins 25 gallons of foreign brandy was found concealed in a house in Newport. The occupier, who disappeared with his household effects. later arrested at Bristol.

At 3.30 a.m. on the 9th October, 1849, two police officers on in Canal Side observed two seamen walking towards the town. Each was carrying a bag and these were found to contain a total of 112 lbs of tobacco.

In 1849, the Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company appointed as superintendent of police Sergeant J. G. Huxtable, of the borough police. He remained with the company until 30th April, 1852, resigning on returning to the Newport police as superintendent.

In October, 1852, Constable Long joined the dock company, to be followed on 15th October, 1855, by Sergeant Lloyd, of the borough police, who was appointed Chief Officer. He had formerly been in the Gloucestershire Constabulary and for nine years had served in the Newport dock area. Incidentally, in August, 1855, the harbour police were under the control of the superintendent of the borough police. 

On 31st December, 1869, the Harbour Police dispensed with the services of six of their constables as their term of office had expired but five of them, William S. May, John Fry, Richard Crowther, Lewis May and Samuel Longville, joined the borough police.

On 2nd January, 1872, the Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company complained that juveniles and others were stealing coal from their property. It is hardly surprising that the company were requested by the Watch Committee to use their own police to check this practice. 

The changeover must have been too much for Constable Crowther for it was reported to the Watch Committee in May, 1872, that he had died and that the sum of £10 had been paid from the superannuation fund to his widow. Twenty years later, the Harbour Police ceased to exist and the sergeant and six constables which then comprised the force were taken over by the Watch Committee. From then on the borough police supervised the wharves. 

Incidentally, Newport Police have never policed the Alexandra Dock area: this was done from 1875 to 1923 by the Alexandra (Newport and South Wales) Dock and Railway Police from 1923 to 1947 by the Great Western Railway Police, and from 1947 by the British Transport Commission Police.

The Police Ambulance Service

Newport did not have an ambulance until January, 1889, when the Watch Committee ordered a two-wheeled hand ambulance. They also obtained the services of an ambulance instructor. 

Policemen were often seen pushing this old ambulance up Stow Hill and by experience they learnt of a simple method of obtaining help. They kept a rope concealed on the ambulance and invariably asked a passer-by to “pull”  them up the hill. This work became a little easier in 1902, when the ambulance was fitted with rubber tyres.

In 1915, a motor ambulance was provided from public funds. It was first kept at the Maindee police station and later transferred to the Newport (Mon.) Motor Supply Company’s garage in Clarence Place. 

In 1916, the ambulance was kept at the fire station and it remained under the control of the police, although it was manned by firemen. This arrangement proved satisfactory until 19th August, 1941, when, on the national reorganisation of the Fire Service, the police handed over all control to the Medical Officer of Health. 

The first motor ambulance, built by Messrs Giles and Williams, of Shaftesbury Street, Newport, was used continually until 1939. Through- out that time, although the coachwork remained good, three new chassis had to be provided.

The Criminal Investigation Department

In 1842, it was reported that detectives were recruited exclusively from the uniform branch. 

On 3rd March, 1857, Constable Pepperel, of the Bristol Police, applied for the post of detective officer but was unable to attend for interview owing to his duties at Bristol. As his testimonials were satisfactory, and the Mayor having seen him and being pleased with his appearance, he was appointed, but on 7th April he wrote declining the post. 

The following June, Constable Edward Curtis, of the Bristol Police, was appointed a detective constable at a wage of 24/6d. per week. Shoes and uniform were to be provided ; the uniform only to be worn occasionally. By 13th June, 1865, Curtis had been promoted detective sergeant. 

In 1891, applications were invited for appointment as detective constables from members of the force. On 16th October, 1919, Special Constable E. K. Bruce was promoted to the rank of honorary detective sergeant for his services during the war years.

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