Reigate Borough Police

1864: Reigate Borough Police: 1863 saw the authority for the formation in the Borough of Reigate by Royal Charter and a year later the council formed its own borough police force.

Reigate Borough Police Badge of 1863

Reigate Borough Police Badge
of 1863

1863 saw the authority for the formation in the Borough of Reigate by Royal Charter and a year later the council formed its own borough police force. It appears to have been a speedy operation, as the watch committee met on 15 January 1864 and decided the force should be operational on 25 March 1864. The initial establishment was:

One superintendent (designation later changed to head constable) – salary £90 per year
One sergeant – salary 21s per week
Ten constables – salary 18s per week

The first superintendent was George Gifford, who was appointed on 5 March 1864 but resigned after nine days. He was succeeded by George Rogers, whose tenure lasted a little longer, until 1888. On 23 March 1864 a house in Redhill, 3 Carleton Terrace, was taken over as a police station but there were no cells and prisoners had to be detained at Redhill Market Place. The county constabulary also had a police station in Redhill but it retained the premises and only made the hand over to the borough authorities in 1931.

In 1866 the borough built a new police station in West Street, Reigate. By 1871 the establishment had increased to sixteen and 1873 saw the head constable granted an additional allowance of "… £20 yearly for travelling and horse hire …" One officer was appointed detective constable in 1875 with a pay increase of 2s 6d but it was not until 1890 that the first inspector was appointed, Charles Prior. In 1894 James Metcalfe became head constable and remained in office until 1930, when it is recorded that on retirement he was permitted to retain his uniform and bicycle.

A summary execution was carried out at Redhill Police Station in 1896 when PC Skeggs shot dead a dog suspected of having rabies.

By 1899 the establishment of the force had reached one head constables, two inspectors, four sergeants and twenty nine constables. The average height was recorded as 5' 10" with an average age of thirty three. The officers were obviously extremely zealous in performing their duties as the annual report for 1879 reveals that '196 doors and 81 windows were found insecure'!

In 1902 the force moved its headquarters to Reigate. Recruitment did not appear to be a problem, as it is recorded in 1909 that the town was 'invaded' and the station 'besieged' by about two hundred applicants anxious to become policemen.

The force accepted increased responsibilities for the ambulance service in 1913 and it was ordered that an ambulance constable was to accompany the horse ambulance on all calls at a charge of five shillings for the first hour and one shilling per quarter hour thereafter, for the ambulance, horse and driver.

The war years saw the force depleted as men enlisted and about thirty special constables were engaged. 1922 brought the introduction of electric lamps into police use although the head constable decreed that "... great care be taken of them and that no more light then is really necessary is to be used." Evidently extremely careful with police equipment, in 1923 he issued an order restricting the use of the new police bicycle for him and the inspectors. Standards of discipline, however, needed attention in 1929 when it was ordered that each day there would be a quarter of an hour's drill in 'saluting'until it was thought acceptable by the head constable.

With the retirement of Mr Metcalfe in 1930, William Beacher was appointed to head the borough force on 1 January 1931 and adopted the title of chief constable. He remained in post until the amalgamation with the county force in 1947 and was looked upon as both a caring and, in many ways, innovative chief.

The best use of manpower seems to have been high on the agenda during his first years, with the Home Office pressing for the installation of more traffic lights to relieve policemen from point duty. Additional fine-tuning resulted in co-operation with the fire brigade and a fireman taking over the duty of ambulance driving. The fire brigade also agreed to "... take charge of and exercise and feed any stray dogs impounded by the police."

1932 saw what could be regarded as one of the most appropriate appointments in the history of Reigate or, indeed, any police force. The chief constable reorganised the Special Constabulary and formed a mobile section under Special Chief Inspector Sir Malcolm Campbell (of Bluebird fame). The mobile specials were divided into two classes:

1st Reserve – Super fast cars
2nd Reserve – Moderately fast cars

A few years later the family connection was extended when Donald Campbell joined the Special Constabulary as a motorcycle dispatch rider.

The economic recession of the early 1930s also affected the police force and there were two cuts in pay. In 1935, despite the recession, the chief constable made what even now is regarded as an almost unbelievable decision by forming a Special Constabulary Air Unit. With pilots based at the local Redhill Aerodrome and up to twelve planes available, regular police officers acted as observers for the unit.

It was used for large-scale searches and remained in being until the demise of the force. After Reigate was temporarily joined with the county force during the war years, the situation was formalised in 1946, ending eighty two years of independent policing in the borough.

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