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 12 to 16 by day and from 16 to 20 by night. At this time 22 members of the Force worked nights. An additional inspector and a boy clerk were appointed.

The authority obtained under the Explosives Act was soon exercised, for the Chief Superintendent reported that he had seized fireworks from unlicensed premises occupied by a Mrs Coles. The committee imposed a penalty of £5 on Mrs Coles, but issued her with a licence and returned the impounded fireworks to her. 

At a meeting of the Watch Committee two years later, the Chief Superintendent successfully submitted a report against the introduction of an eight-hour tour of duty. 

In the year 1877, Detective Sergeant Jones applied for the rank of inspector without pay. This was readily granted subject to Home Office approval, which was soon received. 

Things in Newport were improving at this time; the police station in Temple Street and the Town Hall were connected to the new telephone exchange. Apart from this, things began to “shine”, the committee gave permission to a shoeblack to operate at the top of George Street.

Steamers between Newport and Bristol were always heavily loaded and this caused police to check on the steamer “Chepstow”, which left Newport on 16th July, 1881, with 630 passengers and returned with 679. She was only registered to carry 455!

All shipowners in Newport were circularised against the evil practice of paying wages in public houses. The Watch Committee also issued handbills against stone throwing, which was very prevalent, and directed that the headmasters of all the schools should read them aloud to the pupils. 

On 11th July, 1882, a speed limit of 2 miles per hour(!) was imposed on all locomotives using certain streets between the hours of 1 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Eight-hour tour of duty.

On 27th March, 1884, the committee, after circularising 77 towns in England and Wales, adopted the eight-hour tour of duty. This led to the Force being increased to 52. No doubt, the extra strength was necessary. Considerable rivalry existed between tramcars and horse- drawn omnibuses at this time, and obstruction was frequently caused near the Westgate Hotel due to both types of vehicles remaining there for too long a time. 

In April, 1886, further progress was made, Cardiff and Newport being connected by telephone. Each authority paid half the cost. The following are extracts from the Head Constable’s report for the year ending 30th September, 1886. (The Chief Superintendent had by this time been appointed “Head Constable”).

1,412 males and 359 females dealt with summarily, a decrease of 166. The decrease was mostly common assaults, assaults on police, breaches of byelaws and simple larceny. Cases of drunkenness increased from 412 to 445, of whom 264 were Newport residents. Robberies totalled 241, a decrease of 9. Of these, 174 robberies were detected, 67 undetected and 232 persons were arrested. Property to the value of £386.1.2d. was stolen and property to the value of £207. .18.8d. was recovered. 

Animals impounded 27 cattle, 13 sheep, 32 horses and 5 pigs. 

63 children were restored to their parents. 

3,212 vagrants were relieved for one night. 

Accidents : 79 persons were injured, of whom 48 were taken to the infirmary and 31 taken home. Vehicles were involved in 41 accidents without personal injury. 

The increase in drunkenness no doubt meant an increase in disorderly conduct for on 27th January, 1887, a report was received that the cell used for the accommodation of drunken prisoners had been damaged. A new shutter door was ordered to be placed over the top window and the cell was reserved for very drunken prisoners. A cell as described was in use at the Town Hall police station until 1940, when the premises were vacated and the Force moved to its present head- quarters at the Civic Centre.

At this time the Council were considering extending the borough eastwards and there was considerable argument about the area to be taken over. The Head Constable reported that in 1886, in the Christchurch district, with a population of 1,919, there were 40 licensed houses, one for every 197 of the inhabitants, whereas in the Newport district, with a population of 12,222, there was one for every 138 inhabitants, in spite of the fact that since 1865, there had been a reduction of 14 inns and 40 beerhouses.

The borough was extended in 1890, and as a result the Maindee district, which had previously been policed by the Monmouthshire Constabulary, was taken over by the Newport Police, together with the station at 3, Speke Street, and the Western Counties and South Wales Telephone Company connected it by telephone to the Town Hall police station.

Although a number of public houses were taken into the enlarged borough, drunkenness in 1891 showed an appreciable decline. In 1871, there was one case for every 56 inhabitants, but in 1891, this had dropped to one case for every 123 inhabitants.

In 1893, a constable was found drunk, and fined ten shillings by the Watch Committee. The chairman observed that in this case, as in others, the drink had been given to the constable from the pocket flask of a gentleman stranger.

Constables were not granted Sundays off nor allowed time for supper; they had to eat their meals on the beat. They were allowed only two hours for taking prisoners to Usk Prison, a journey occupying five hours.

Despite all this, the standard required was rather high for, “A person dismissed from any police force, or over 24 years of age, under 5 feet 10 inches (without shoes or stockings), under 36 inches around the bare chest, flat-footed, cross-eyed, ruptured, or unable to read or write, hammered toes, varicose veins, tumours, skin diseases, stiffness of joints, narrow chest, weak sight, defective teeth, impediment of speech, colour blindness, or deformity of any kind ” would not be eligible for appointment.

By 1896, the Newport Police were well to the fore in the athletic field. Constable George Hiles won the Usk open mile swimming championship and was presented with the Abrahamson challenge cup. Later, he jumped into the river Usk and saved a man from drowning. A fund was organised by the “South Wales Argus ” and the sum of £46 was presented to him, together with the bronze medal and a testimonial on parchment of the Royal Humane Society and an unusual medal, the “Tit Bits”, Award of Merit. This is a very nice medal and probably the only one in existence today.

The beginning of the twentieth century saw an increase in traffic. Mr C. D. Phillips was granted permission to operate a steam omnibus between the Customs House, Dock Street, and Alexandra Docks. On 9th April, 1903. horse-drawn trams were withdrawn and electric tram-cars inaugurated. Then the Watch Committee had another problem – should the police pay while travelling on duty on the trams? Some members suggested the issue of travel discs, others advocated free travel, but the committee finally decided to pay the fares of officers attending the Court.

Increased traffic was followed by an increase in crime and local detective officers applied for a cycle allowance, claiming that their cycles cost £10 and lasted only four years. The application was acceded to and they were granted £1 per annum, plus rail fares if they were required to go out of the town on their cycles.

By 1907, the Force had grown to 93, to deal with a population which had now increased to 75,000. An average of eight men were on leave each day, with an average of two off duty sick each day. Thirty minutes were allowed for breakfast and 20 minutes for refreshment at night.

In 1908, we learn that the committee wanted to introduce white helmets, but so strong was the feeling against this innovation that seventy members of the force successfully petitioned the committee against their introduction.

In 1909, attempts were made to get the Assize Court transferred from Monmouth to Newport, but it was not until 6th November, 1939. that Newport’s efforts met with success and the Mayor of Newport (Alderman J. R. Wardell, J.P.) officially opened the Law Courts at the Civic Centre. The Hon. Sir Geoffirey Lawrence, Kt., D.S.0., presided at the first Assize.

H.M. Inspector of Constabulary, having recommended the reconstitution of the mounted section of the Force in 1909, equipment was purchased for five horses, and horses were hired at a cost of seven shillings each per day. Incidentally, during his visit the Inspector had insisted that prisoners should be given three meals a day instead of two.

The following year was a happy one as far as the police were concerned. The committee granted a weekly rest day of one day in seven, together with seven days’ annual leave. All leave taken in excess of the weekly rest day was to be deducted from the annual leave.

On 19th May, 1910, serious industrial disputes arose at the docks, and the Secretary of State’s permission was sought for the enrolment of 500 special constables and 20 mounted police. Contingents of the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire Constalbularies were brought to the town and accommodated on the dock premises, but the dispute passed off quietly and there were no serious disorders.

On 19th August, 1911, during a railway strike in Newport, a company of the Devon Regiment took over duty at the station approach. On the 19th of the month, posters were displayed appealing for special constables, both paid and unpaid. Thirty-six civilians responded, but the strike was soon over, for six days later the Watch Committee thanked the volunteers for their services- and allowed them to retain their truncheons and badges! 

Between 30th October and 31st December of the same year the police were engaged for nineteen days in protecting three ships at the docks, although the exact nature of the emergency is not known. 

It is interesting to learn that whenever a person was arrested at this time, his educational attainment was recorded. The following record shows the degree of literacy prevailing among the arrested No standard – 98; standard 1 – 21; standard 2- 53; standard 3 – 106; standard 4 – 163; standard 5 – 99; standard 6 -142; standard 7 and above -140. Total- -822. 

The police dealt with 10,729 vagrants, 277 being females and 72 children, in this particular year. 

On 31st July, 1912, the Head Constable resigned and thus came to an end 37 years of Scottish rule. He had served the town well and a grateful Watch Committee allowed him to keep his uniform and gave him permission to wear it on ceremonial occasions.

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