Newport’s Prisons

In the middle of the 14th century the Westgate tollbooth, with its residence for the bailiff over the arch and prison underground for delinquents, stood at the foot of Stow Hill, at the top of Skinner Street and adjacent to the Town Pill, where the river Usk washed the shores of present-day High Street. The tollbooth remained a place of confinement for prisoners from 1348 until its demolition in 1799. It was built in Gothic style in red gritstone, and bore the arms of Ralph Stafford, who was lord of Newport, a shield charged with a chevron on each facade.

There is reference to this prison in the report of a parish meeting held on 14th February, 1798, at the dwelling house at the Old Sloop, to consider the need for repairs to the prison. Notice had previously been published in church, it was resolved and agreed by the inhabitants present that there was need for repairing certain parts of the gateway or entrance and that any rubble or material left over should be sold to the best bidder. One, William Foster, who was present at the meeting, was requested to prepare an estimate after he had taken down certain … Read the rest

The Fire Brigade

“About seven o’clock on Saturday, 11th April, 1840, Superintendent Hopkins received intelligence that a fire had broken out in the pottery of Mr Clarke, near Pill, owing to the drying kilns being overheated. He immediately went down and having fixed a ladder for the purpose of carrying water to the roof, that it might be poured down upon the flames, the warehouse door was broken open and a quantity of pitchers taken out, which were given to several active men who set diligently to work; and before the shattered town engine, with one poor jaded horse in ragged harness feebly dragging it along, had arrived, the fire was almost extinguished. We believe that the damage was not extensive and the premises were insured. If the engine was under the control of the police, we apprehend that more promptness would have been exhibited, and perhaps more property saved.

“The engine house is converted into a ‘Tinker’s Shop’ and the engine itself is decorated with divers kettles, saucepans, tools, etc., and indeed the whole machinery affords but a sorry specimen of what the inhabitants have to rely on for security against such a destruction as fire.”

That, according to the “Monmouthshire Merlin” … Read the rest

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 … Read the rest

The Police in Time of War


On 29th December, 1899, Constable Herbert Peacock was recalled to the 2nd Battalion of the South Wales Borderers and went with them to South Africa. On 15th February, 1900, Constable Coombs was recalled to the Royal Field Artillery, Woolwich, but rejoined the Force in October of that year. Constable John Thomas Cooper, who was recalled to the Grenadier Guards, did not return to the Force until 22nd July, 1902.

THE GREAT WAR 1914 -1918.

On the eve of the outbreak of the 1914 – 1918 war, information had been received at Newport that the German steamship “Belgia “, (Hamburg- Amerika line) had been refused permission to enter Newport docks and had returned down channel and anchored ten miles from Newport.

At 2.56 a.m. on 4th August, a message was received that this country was at war with Germany. Immediately on receipt of the message, the Chief Constable, with twelve of his staff, armed with service rifles borrowed from Territorial headquarters, proceeded down channel in a tug, commandeered by Capt. Cutcliffe, the dock master. They boarded the vessel, and brought her back to Newport, making captain, officers and crew prisoners.

As the military were unable to render assistance, … Read the rest

Thirty-Seven Years of Scottish Rule

At the Council meeting on 9th November, 1875, Chief Superintendent Huxtable handed over his baton of office to the Mayor and made way for his successor. 

The post had been advertised at a salary of £250 per annum, rising to £300 if the contemplated extension of the borough materialised. The duties included the inspection of cabs, charge of the fire engine and such other functions as the Council might from time to time direct. No gratuities were to be allowed. 

Mr Alan Inderwick Sinclair was appointed Chief Superintendent. He was born at Glenmoriston, Inverness, and was educated privately and at the James Watt Institution, Edinburgh. At an early age he joined the Edinburgh County Constabulary (now part of Lothian and Peebles Constabulary) and within three years became chief clerk at headquarters. On 18th September, 1871, he resigned this post and joined the Derbyshire Constabulary. Promotion soon came his way and in May, 1872, he was appointed an inspector. He took an active interest in the Cambridge University Extension Scheme and qualified in constitutional history, geology and physical geography. 

In October, 1876, the new Chief Superintendent applied for the Force to be increased to 48, the number of beats increased from … Read the rest

The Turn for the Better

On 1st May, 1852, Superintendent John Gristock Huxtable, of the Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company’s Police, was appointed Superintendent of Newport Police. He had joined this force as a constable in 1840, been promoted sergeant, and had carried out the duties of acting superintendent during the time between the resignation of Superintendent Hopkins and the appointment of his successor, Superintendent English. No doubt, too, he had carried out these duties on numerous occasions during the absence of leave of his superintendent. He left the Force on 10th July, 1849, to join the Railway Police. 

His first action on his return to the Force was to complain of the lack of street lighting, which made police duty at night extremely difficult, especially as the main street lights were extinguished shortly after 1 a.m.

In July, a letter was received from the Glamorgan magistrates, thanking the new Superintendent and nine of the constables for their services at the Llantrisant elections. 

Superintendent Huxtable was next appointed deputy relieving officer for the borough and parish of St Woolos, for which he was paid the sum of £8 per annum. His duties were to check on vagrants entering the town.

Councillor Batchelor having complained to … Read the rest

Troubled Years Following the Reorganisation

The reorganisation and the new rules caused remarkably little friction within the Force, but, nevertheless, things did not go entirely smoothly.

Superintendent Hopkins was soon in trouble for allowing a soldier to escape from his custody without first having been brought to the station house, and for not interfering in a riot during an election.

The Superintendent then reported several constables for not paying respect to strangers and other persons in the street. This caused the Watch Committee to issue an instruction ordering the constables to carry out the Superintendent’s instructions in this respect on pain of being dismissed from the Force. 

Standing Orders defined the various beats and imposed the duty to call at the police office and record visits in the book provided, as well as not wasting any time in the office. Pocket books were issued in which to record the time street lamps were lit at night and extinguished in the morning, and any defective lamps had to be reported. 

In October, 1842, the new Town Hall police station was opened. 

In the following August, a new wage structure reduced constables’ wages to fourteen shillings a week on joining, increased after three months to fifteen shillings … Read the rest