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 Rees, shoemaker. 

David Ebsworth. 

David Lewis, mason. 

William Roberts, smith. 

John Lewis, labourer. 

All of Pillgwenlly and Commercial Wharf.

Rees Rees was the only paid constable. He received £25 per annum, plus all fees for executing warrants, serving summonses and orders granted by the magistrates.

Redman estimated that the cost of the police for the ensuing year would amount to £362.13.6d., which was equivalent to a threepenny rate, and he was ordered to collect this police rate under the authority of a warrant granted by the Mayor and bearing the corporate seal of the borough.

At this time, a Mr New wrote to the committee suggesting the appointment of night police, but the proposal was rejected because it would add greatly to the cost of the Force without commensurate advantage.

On Guy Fawkes night in 1837, the year following his appointment, Redman and his assistants were assailed in Commercial Street by a gang of ruffians armed with clubs and stones. As a result, Redman was confined to his bed for some days. 

The Council met a few days later and expressed their view that the strength of the Force was inadequate, that a proper conveyance was needed to convey prisoners to the Town Prison and that there was need for an inquiry into the state of the prison. 

On 17th November, 1837, the Chairman of the Watch Committee wrote to Redman alleging that he had been inefficient in his duties and stating that the Watch Committee intended to advise the Council to dispense with his services. The Council concurred and the committee then appointed Rees Rees, James Collins and William Miles as constables at twelve shillings per week each, with extra remuneration for serving summonses, orders, executing warrants, etc. In addition, 24 petty constables were appointed. 

Redman was granted the sum of £67.10.0, three-quarters of his salary, his services being terminated on 21st November, 1837. Four days later, the following advertisement appeared in the “Monmouthshire Merlin”:


“WANTED IMMEDIATELY – An active, intelligent person capable of performing the duties of Superintendent of Police at the Borough of Newport in the County of Monmouth, He will be assisted by three efficient subaltern officers and twenty four petty constables. The salary will be £90 per annum, payable by monthly instalments. Applicants for the situation must attend personally at a meeting of the Watch Committee, to be held at the Carpenters’ Arms Inn, in the town of Newport, on Thursday the 7th day of December next, at 12 o’clock NOON : and at the same time produce written testimonials of their competency and general good conduct.”

On 16th December, 1837, it was reported in the “Bristol Mercury ” that Sergeant Edward Hopkins, of the Bristol Police, had been appointed. Bristol Police records show him as born in 1798. a carpenter by trade, nationality English. 

The new Superintendent was soon confronted with unexpected problems, the canal froze for five days and waterborne traffic was entirely suspended!

On 12th January, 1839, the strength of the Force was one Superintendent and four constables, but little more than two weeks later all four constables resigned. Incidentally, the constables at that time were issued with great coats, dress coats, trousers, capes, truncheons, rattles, armlets, cutlasses and belts, hats, boots, handcuffs and lanthorns. 

Advertisements for constables were inserted in the “Bristol Gazette” and three applications were received, the committee then ordering the Superintendent to write for character sketches. Actually, four constables were appointed, namely John Joseph Bartlett, silk dyer, Newport; William Lewis, butcher, Caldicot; Moses Scard and Henry Chappel, constables of the Bristol Police Force. 

On 15th March, 1839, the Watch Committee met in the Police Office at the rear of the Parrot Hotel, Commercial Street.

It seems that the new Superintendent was soon in trouble, for on 12th April, 1839, all the constables were ordered to attend the Watch Committee, when the Mayor called their attention to the observations of Mr Justice Patterson at the previous Assize, when he criticised the Superintendent for introducing a workman into the Town Prison for the purpose of obtaining an admission from a prisoner concerning a case of robbery. The committee expressed the hope that the observation made by the Judge would prevent a repetition.

Constable Scard then complained to the committee that on several occasions he had reported offences to the Superintendent, who had made no record of them. The committee thereupon issued Scard with a notebook, ordered the Superintendent to sign it each day, and instructed that he should himself keep a record of all reports. 

Scard was next in trouble, Mr Richard Hawkes preferring a charge against him of buying and selling cargoes of sand and stone, etc. Scard admitted three charges and witnesses proved other deals. Ordered not to deal in any articles in future but to devote the whole of his time to police duty, Scard shortly afterwards was dismissed for insubordination, and took over a public house at the corner of George Street and Commercial Road. Incidentally, during a subsequent election, a scaffold pole was pushed through his window, it being alleged that he was a Tory. 

He later became a contractor to the Corporation, for whom he did most of the scavenging work.

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