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 … Read the rest

Administrative Problems

On 22nd November, 1839, the Home Office issued Circular Number A.54368, the first “Instruction to Constables.” The circular consisted of five pages and the first part read:

“It is intended here to state such parts of the law relating to the Office of a Constable as may be sufficient for the general instruction of the Constables. 

Each individual will bear in mind the extreme importance of making himself perfectly acquainted with this subject; it is necessary to enable him, with due regard to his own safety, to act efficiently for the protection of the public. 

At the commencement of a new establishment it is more than necessary to take particular care that the constables do not form false notions of their duties and powers. 

The powers of the constable, as will appear hereafter, are, when properly understood and duly executed, amply sufficient for their purpose. 

He is regarded as the legitimate Peace Officer, both by Common Law and many Acts of Parliament, he is invested with considerable powers, and has imposed on him the discharge of many important duties.”

The instruction went on to describe felonies. powers to prevent felonies, felonies on the charge of another person, arrest at night, … Read the rest

The Chartist Riots

In the autumn of 1838, one William Graham, a sheriff’s officer of Chepstow, was in the Bush Inn, Commercial Street, looking for a criminal. He noticed considerable activity upstairs, enquired the reason and eventually, after having paid the admission fee of one penny, was admitted to a meeting to be addressed by John Frost, a former Mayor of Newport. In 1836, John Frost during his mayoralty had enrolled a number of special constables, as bribery was widespread in the town at that time.

In April, 1839, the Mayor issued a circular cautioning all persons attending these meetings and warning publicans against letting their premises to the Working Men’s Association promoting them. 

A membership card found by the police while searching a house at Malpas set forth the aims of the Association as being “Peace, law and order – equal law and equal rights. ” They claimed and advocated “he inalienable right of universal suffrage, vote by ballot, annual Parliament, and no property qualification for election to Parliament,” and claimed that intellectual and moral fitness should be the only qualifications needed.

Following the issue of one circular calling a meeting, signed by Henry Vincent, of Bristol, editor of the “Western Vindicator,” … Read the rest

The Formation of the Force

On 1st February, 1836, the Watch Committee appointed its first Police force.

It was reported that the Chief Constable (Sergeant Redman) was the only officer then receiving a salary. He also held the office of bailiff but was not paid a salary for this duty. It was further reported that the twelve beat constables appointed by the magistrates had been very inefficient in their duty. It was accordingly resolved that in consequence of the Pillgwenlly and Commercial wharves having been added to the borough and because of the continual increase in population, prevention of crime should be dealt with more actively and efficiently.

It was decided to appoint a paid Constable, to be stationed at Pillgwenlly, and that he should receive a salary which would justify the inhabitants expecting from him a strict performance of his duty.

The following were appointed members of the new force :

John Redman, Chief Constable, at a salary of £90 per annum.

Town Division

William Roberts, ship’s carpenter, Queen’s Parade. 

John Griffiths, Cross Street. 

John Allen, Club Row. 

James Collins, gardener, Friars Fields. 

William Miles, shopkeeper, Mill Street. 

Thomas Samuel, Commercial Street. 

Joseph Hill, George Street,

William Jones, carpenter, Charles Street.

Pillgwenlly Division

Rees … Read the rest

Newport Before the Passing of the Municipal Corporation Act, 1835

The precursor of the modern policeman in Newport was the constable mentioned in the Charter of James I, 1623, who was to  “do and carry out all assizes, assays, corrections and punishments in our Hundreds of the aforesaid town.” 

Under this charter, the Mayor and aldermen were empowered and given authority for “framing, determining, ordaining, making and establishing from time to time reasonable laws, statutes, conditions, decrees and ordinances,” which to them seemed “good, wholesome, useful, necessary and honest according to their wise directions for the good rule and government of the borough. 

Very little is known of police activities until 1711, when Ordinances, comprising about fifty paragraphs, were made dealing with the maintenance of order, the conduct of trade, regular attendance at church, duties of the Mayor and aldermen, in fact, with every activity with which the Corporation was concerned. 

The following chiefly concerned the police. Every person or persons who  “do make assault, affray, or bloodshed ” was liable to a forfeit of seven shillings for every assault and affray, and for every bloodshed, ten shillings. One half was payable to the Mayor and the other to the commonwealth of the town. 

Every constable was liable to a … Read the rest