Reorganisation of the Force

Following the Chartist Riots a special investigation was carried out by the Watch Committee and their report was discussed by the Council at their meeting on 4th February, 1840, when they referred back to the committee the question of reorganisation of the police and instructed them to take effective steps to secure an efficient Force. They reaffirmed their previous decision as to strength, but increased the constables’ pay to twenty shillings per week. (Wages at this time were not static and varied from month to month).

The Commissioners of Police in London were approached and as a result Sergeant William Edmund Fairbrass was sent to Newport to assist in the reorganisation. He was told that the strength was not to be increased and that no appointments were to be made without the approval of the committee. 

Fairbrass soon took control. On 1st March, rooms at Commercial Buildings, opposite St Paul’s Church, Commercial Street, were rented from Mr Aaron Crossfield for use as a police office, and no constable was allowed while on duty to visit the Superintendent’s house. Fairbrass issued a book of rules, orders and regulations, a copy of which was handed to every member of the Force and to every member of the Council.

Within a week, rooms at the Town Prison in Mill Street had been converted into a police office and a padlock was fitted to the door. 

The police at this time wore blue coats and capes, top hats, arm- lets and great coats, and carried truncheons and rattles by day. No constable was allowed to spring his rattle unless in case of necessity and on no account to “call the hour.” Cutlasses were issued for night duty. 

Reorganisation presented many problems. On 2nd April, it was reported to the committee that page 44 of the Superintendent’s book had been torn and investigation revealed that Constable O’Brien had torn out a page to give a receipt for a deserter handed in to his custody O’Brien, incidentally, was once described in the “Monmouthshire Merlin’, as tall and muscular.

Several constables objected to going to church in uniform and complained of the lighting in the police office soon after, six candlesticks and snuffers with stands were provided.

Constable Hersh was called before the committee and reprimanded for being out late on a Saturday night. While off duty, he had been involved in a row and had refused to disclose the persons with him at the time. Then Constable North was given notice terminating his services, and failed to report for duty for the remaining period. The committee recorded the fact in case they received an enquiry later concerning his character. 

The strength of the Force remained the same, but one of the constables was appointed an additional sergeant. Superintendent Hopkins was paid £3.15.6d rent for the use of his house on Stow Hill near the Red Lion Inn, as a Police Station, from 7th December, 1839, to 7th March, 1840. 

On completing his work, Fairbrass returned to London, and on 2nd April, 1840, a letter was sent by the Chairman of the Watch Committee, Richard Mullock, to the Commissioners of Police at Whitehall, expressing the committee’s high sense of duty of his services and the efficient manner in which his duties had been performed. It was resolved that the sum of £8 should be paid for his expenses as a mark of approbation of his services. 

The main features of the regulations made by Sergeant Fairbrass were –

Superintendent’s Duties

1. The Superintendent to be in sole charge. 

2. He should reside as near as possible to the station house. 

3. He should attend the station house each morning to attend to the reports. 

4. Deal with any disciplinary matter which in the Superintendent’s opinion did not merit more punishment than the loss of a day’s pay. 

5. Minor offences to be punished by admonition or reprimand. More serious offences to be reported to the Mayor or the Watch Committee. 

6. The Superintendent to prepare all returns and reports to the Watch Committee. 

7. Report crime and other offences for the information of the Watch Committee and all complaints against the police.

 8. Prepare a weekly estimate of wages after all stoppages and fines for the Watch Committee. 

9. A return to be made of all “Refused Charges,” giving reasons for refusal. 

10. The Superintendent to be allowed to give 24 hours’ leave, with the Mayor’s approval, any addition to be subject to the approval of the Watch Committee.

Sergeants’ Duties

1. To assume charge in the absence of the Superintendent.

 2. Attend the station house punctually and inspect the men in the absence of the Superintendent.

3. Give instruction on all points relating to duty. 

4. During a riot to urge men under their command to do their duty in restoring and preserving the peace. 

5. Read all crime information received since last on duty. 

6. To be accompanied by a constable when visiting a prisoner in the cells during the night. 

7. Ensure that all females were searched by a female.

Miscellaneous Provisions

Full particulars to be taken of prisoners’ property. Property taken from drunken prisoners to be restored to them when sober. 

Crime information to be recorded. Pawnbrokers to be notified of stolen goods. 

Men to parade for night duty fifteen minutes before the appointed time, dressed in their second-best coats, trousers, and hats. Great coats to be buttoned up. 

No one to be allowed on duty who was in any way irregular or worse for liquor, dirty or did not conform to orders. 

Must be civil to all respectable strangers. 

Pay particular attention to all unoccupied houses. 

Any constable drinking with parties who were concerned in any case to be reported. 

They all had to devote their whole time to the Police Service and live where appointed. 

All reliefs to march off to their duty and give the public the wall (i.e. step to the outside of the path when passing). 

Constables to salute the magistrates and other gentlemen in the streets. 

Uniform not to be altered out of its original shape. 

No policeman to belong to any sick club or fund without the consent of the Watch Committee.

Perhaps the reason for the last rule lay in the formation in September, 1814, of an interesting benefit society which was established at the Westgate Hotel. It had very stringent rules – no brother was allowed to attend lodge under the influence of liquor, indulge in violent arguments on politics or speak disrespectfully of religion and not allowed to miss his monthly lodge without incurring a penalty. 

It was called the Tredegar Arms Society although it met at the Westgate Hotel, and most elaborate provisions were laid down as to the procedure to be adopted before the place of meeting could be changed and concerning the precautions to be adopted for securing the fidelity of the landlords (who had, as usual, charge of the triply-locked cashbox).

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