Reigate

Reigate Police Stations: Dave Vigar: Reigate must have had more police stations over the years than anywhere else in Surrey. Before the current station (opened in 1972) there were once others in West Street and London Road (old Surrey Constabulary buildings), High Street, Castlefield Road and Chart Lane (all Reigate Borough Police premises). All these old buildings still stood when I was posted to Chart Lane in 1966.

There was also a little lock-up office under the Old Town Hall in High Street, complete with a nearby bicycle shed. In this office were a table and chair, an electric fire and a telephone connected to a blue flashing beacon on the roof of the Old Town Hall.

When the phone rang, the beacon flashed and at night this could be seen all over town – useful in the days before personal radio. Although we weren't supposed to, it was very tempting to sit here on cold nights, watching the town crossroads and lit only by the glow of the fire – a perfect observation point. If you fell asleep, though, you'd be in big trouble when caught.

Chart Lane (Churchfelle) is an interesting old house, now converted into flats, which became the Reigate divisional HQ and police station when the borough and county Forces amalgamated during WW2. It was a small building, as can be imagined by looking at it now; though there were other stations at Horley and Redhill to cover the rest of the division.

The front door led immediately into a hallway which held the enquiry counter and a massive 'plug and socket' telephone switchboard on the right hand side. Another board with rows of red and green lights controlled all the air raid sirens throughout the division; still an important civil defence measure over twenty years after the War had ended.

The sergeants' and inspectors' offices were directly opposite the counter and CID, prosecutions and general offices and senior management all lived somewhere upstairs (some things never change – young PCs rarely ventured onto this hallowed ground, so my geography becomes a little hazy here).

I'm on much firmer ground with the bar lounge, though, which was accessed via an outside door from the front yard, just to the right of the main house in a later extension. We all went there off-duty and after work in those days and it was a thriving enterprise. The chief superintendent and superintendent were no strangers to this place, either, and this was where a young PC was most likely to encounter them, as they never ventured out onto the street.

The Reigate inspector, too, was a fairly remote figure, arriving at 9 am each morning in brown boots and carrying his swagger stick. He did not normally speak directly to a lowly probationer – if he grunted as he passed the front desk, it was going to be a good day!

When you were in the firing line for some misdemeanour, nothing was said – he went into his office as normal, closed the door and rang an electric bell that sounded in the sergeants' office. The sergeant would answer the call, listen to the inspector's comments and then go back into his own office.

Finally, you were called into the sergeant's office to receive your roasting, or whatever. This strange hierarchical ballet was repeated every time the inspector wished to speak to a PC.

Sharp left inside the front door was a former conservatory containing a full-sized snooker table. A couple of us eventually moved this to the top of the new Reigate police Station, using the old divisional brown van – the heaviest job imaginable.

To the right of the front yard was an old stable block and coach house. This is now a luxury apartment, but was then the divisional garage and workshop, inhabited by PC Sid Crowhurst. In the back of the main building, at the end of the main hallway and to the right, were a mess room and kitchen, plus a cell block. And that was it – a complete divisional HQ and police station in a detached house.

It seems amazing now that this was possible, although we had far fewer vehicles to accommodate – two Hillman Huskies (one as the Area crime car and the other for the sergeants), a divisional motor cycle and a van – otherwise you just walked everywhere or rode your bike.

This was still before the days of personal radios and, although the two Huskies (call signs J38 and J39) and the motorcycle were VHF fitted, everyone else relied on public telephones for communication. In the late 1960s, a white Lambretta scooter arrived to augment the fleet slightly.

Given there are around fifty cars available to the present-day Force at Reigate, it's sobering to reflect that ALL Surrey Constabulary wireless vehicles could be comfortably accommodated in a call-sign range from J1 to J99. Surrey Fire Brigade shared our single wireless channel at the time.

Most married officers in those days lived in one of the many police houses dotted around the Division, often with a 'POLICE' sign over the door – it was unusual for someone to own their own house (and difficult to get permission to buy a property).

Single men lived in lodgings, usually with elderly ladies who had offered a room and been carefully 'vetted' by the inspector, thereby minimising the risk of an officer finding himself billeted with an attractive young landlady! Many were the legends (and tall stories) concerning young PCs who got lucky in this respect. Getting to work usually involved the trusty bike, as very few officers owned a car.

Working a beat involved going to various telephone boxes or private houses around the district and waiting at these points at the appointed times (roughly an hour apart) for at least five minutes so you could be contacted. The local beat book for each station listed several different beats for each shift and the sergeant would allocate one to each officer so the ground was adequately covered.

If we were a bit thin on the ground, only the town centre would be patrolled and the outlying areas would have to be covered by the crime car. Even if you were a qualified driver, actually being told to go out with a police car was akin to winning the National Lottery (and about as common). All foot patrols were done entirely alone, of course, without the benefit of radio. Still, we carried a whistle, to summon help if things got really ugly!

One unusual duty involved taking stray dogs to the police kennels in Tupwood Lane, Caterham, using the brown van. If Sid Crowhurst were unavailable, this task fell to one of us.

The kennels stood in a lonely wire compound in the woods and a local PC cycled up there on an 8-4 duty to open up, muck out, exercise and feed any residents, then sit and wait for police to arrive with the night's catch and deal with the public who came to claim back their dog. Then there was another round of exercising, cleaning and feeding before he cycled home – not much of a job for a highly trained police officer!

Another police task that faded from the scene was the regular checking of farm stock registers. All premises holding and moving sheep, cattle and pigs had to be visited on a regular basis to verify that all movements had been properly recorded. Some farmers kept better records than others, but how we were expected to distinguish one particular cow from another was never explained to us, so the best we could normally do was to see if the books appeared reasonably up-to-date and leave it at that.

I remember arriving at one farm and, standing in the farm yard almost completely surrounded by pigs, asking 'How many pigs have you here?' 'None', replied the farmer – which threw me a bit – along the lines of 'I've got ten porkers, fifty sows and ten runts – but no pigs!' The divisional motorcyclist dealt with all the more outlying properties and eventually became something of a pig-recognition expert.

Civil Defence (later called Home Defence) duties also involved some unusual activities and we were all trained in what to do in the event of a nuclear holocaust – still thought to be a distinct possibility in those days.

I'll leave someone else to write about the annual Mobile Columns, where police officers went off on joint exercises for several days at a time, as I was never sent on one and they were scrapped around 1970. Pity, because they were a good little earner at the time, bringing much paid overtime.

The early warning system still had to be maintained and tested, though. This comprised a grey receiver box in the front office which, when switched on broadcast an audible tick, like a heart monitor. This box received its signal from some distant source and we were told that, if it ever stopped ticking, we would all die within four minutes. As we never had the box switched on, we never had the benefit of this four minute warning and would have all been incinerated in blissful ignorance!

Fully operational, ex-wartime air raid sirens were sited at strategic points throughout the UK, with the intention that most of the population would be within earshot, so there were twenty or more such devices in Reigate Division, either mounted on buildings or on their own telegraph pole.

The sirens were tested regularly, either by activating them silently from the police station control panel or by going to each in turn and setting them off – which caused some older residents to assume that World War Three was about to begin. We only ever sounded the 'All Clear', though.

These tests had one major drawback – when the blades started turning, six months' worth of rainwater and dead leaves were sprayed out from the top of the pole, onto the head of the luckless PC!

In charge of all Civil Defence matters for the Division was Sergeant Wilfred St George Chandler, a resonant name if ever there was one. Sergeant Chandler had been in the RAF during the War and been very highly decorated – I think a DFC or similar. He always looked the part with his handlebar moustache, anyway.

Finally, who remembers Reigate Magistrates' Court? In those days, this was upstairs in the Town Hall (where the words 'COURT HOUSE AND POLICE' are still visible in the stonework above the front door – this being the Borough Police Station until it moved to Churchfelle).

The Clerk to the Justices was John Metters, always exquisite in dress and manner, a trademark handkerchief always kept up the sleeve of his jacket. The deputy was Ernie Hall and the junior clerk was Martin Durnin, who is still active today. One of the court rooms was the council chamber when not being used for hearings.

Return to main text

1966: Reigate: My career as a Police Constable started on nights at Reigate in September 1966. I reported for duty at Churchfelle and was introduced to my Sergeant, George 'Jammy' Jenkins, and the rest of the crew (hardly a lengthy task, as there were only about four PCs in total on each relief, one of whom was the area car driver).

Jammy had joined Reigate Borough Police as a boy clerk before the war and had been stationed here ever since. Once the formalities were over, including the issuing of a beat book (of more later) he said " You're local, aren't you lad?" "Yes", I replied. "Off you go then – don't get lost" said Jammy and that was it – my tutoring was complete.

So, on my first night as a police constable, I was let loose alone on the unsuspecting public, a situation that was to continue. On the next night, having established that I could drive a car, he sent me out on the area crime car (I think a driving course and certification to drive followed about six months later) – no problem!

I mentioned that there were three other PCs on George's relief – Geoff Hunter, John Carter and Arthur Delves. We usually only saw one another at meal times; for the rest of the shift we were out working our beats, according to the beat number given when parading for duty, as specified in the beat book.

This little book was important before personal radios were introduced and every station had their own. Each individual beat was a slightly different list of telephone kiosks or other premises we had to visit at specified times, where we would wait for a fixed period to be met or given a phone message.

Some beats took you by bike out to the farthest reaches of the district, whilst others centred on the town. In times of plenty, the town area could be split for two officers to patrol, but more often than not it was just you, with perhaps one other PC covering the whole out-of-town area on his bike.

Meal breaks on nights could be a charade. George Jenkins wasn't the most talkative of individuals and would sit at his own little table in the mess room. The two or three PCs would sit at another table, perhaps playing cards, whilst George sat in almost total silence.

Having walked to Churchfelle from the "point" at the telephone box outside the bus garage (0200 for five minutes), I wouldn't arrive until after 0210 for a forty five minute break. The next point was back at the bus garage kiosk at 0300, so things were already tight.

Approaching 0255 and without warning, George would slowly and silently rise from his chair and start to put on his cycle clips – Oh God, he was going to the 3 o'clock point! So, I would have to quickly gather together my stuff and run headlong via various back alleys to the phone box, just arriving as he rode majestically along the road on his bike.

Nothing was ever said – he just stood with me in silence for five minutes, muttered " Book me five" and rode off back to the police station.

Earlier in the night, George would have ridden his bike to the railway station to meet me on a midnight point there. As soon as he was safely out of sight, it was straight into the signal box for a cup of tea, which would already be waiting – the regular signalman knew George's routine better than he did. I also knew his routine, and could quite happily work the box in his absence, whilst he went along the platform to fill the kettle!

Then, at the 4 am point, George would meet you again, this time with the "Tilley" (Hillman Husky) for a ride round the outer areas to check vulnerable property. These premises were mainly outlying factories, sports and social clubs and the routine only varied on the weeks before Christmas, when a couple of turkey farms were also visited.

The route never varied – on arrival, George would drive round the back, where possible, to shine his headlights (without getting out, naturally) whilst I was detailed to get out and try the doors and windows. The time of each check was carefully logged on the back of George's Kensitas packet - goodness knows why, as it never varied - and an hour later I was dumped back in the town centre to continue my patrol. Any half-intelligent criminal knew exactly where the Thin Blue Line of Reigate could be found at any time of night!

Security of commercial premises was always a problem before burglar alarms became widespread. In Reigate, many High Street shops were very vulnerable where they backed onto the Castle Grounds and had to be checked thoroughly at night. On more than one occasion after nights, I awoke from a deep sleep at home to find a CID officer sitting on the end of my bed, wanting to know exactly when I last checked a property that had later been screwed and if I'd noticed anything amiss.

Many will remember the reel of very thin cotton carried by many older officers, to be stretched across a doorway or entrance once the property had been checked. Later in the night, this was a valuable indication that nothing had been disturbed.

Mind you, what could you do if you did find a recent break-in in the early hours of the morning? The only realistic course of action, if you didn't fancy going into the premises yourself, was to beat a tactical retreat to the nearest phone box and call for assistance, hoping it would come soon enough to catch those responsible.

I remember that it was a big step forward when, in response to many coin box thefts, alarms linked to the local exchange were fitted to most kiosks. All you then had to do was go into a phone box, give the coin box a mighty kick and wait for the cavalry to arrive!

Arthur Delves was a bit of a character – I think he originally came from the Forest of Dean area and he'd been at Reigate for some years. He was in the minority, as he owned his own house in Cornfield Road, so was unlikely to be moved around as much as officers living in police houses (it was actually quite difficult to get permission to buy your own house, as the Force needed to be satisfied that the inherent flexibility afforded by being able to move officers around almost at will would not be unduly curtailed). Arthur always gave the impression that he was a bit slow-witted, but in fact this was far from the case and he was as sharp as a razor. What a nice man.

John Carter left the Force after a while and I don't remember what happened to him. Geoff Hunter also resigned after a few years for a better paid job at Gatwick Airport – now he's retired and living in Spain and still keeps in touch.

The Chief Superintendent at the time, Ken Blandford, also went to Gatwick Airport, but in a much more elevated position as Chief Officer of the British Airports Authority Constabulary, later to be swept away by Sussex Police.

The Superintendent's name escapes me, but the Chief Inspector was Colin Brake (later Superintendent at Caterham) and the Detective Inspector was Basil Morris. As a lowly probationer, none of these senior gentlemen crossed my path to any extent! One officer I did see regularly, however, was our Inspector, 'Dibble' Saunders – how he came by this name I have no idea. Inspector Saunders was Trevor's dad.

Other PCs I remember from my time at Reigate were Gerry Bixley, Reg Allway, Roy Drudge, Peter Durston, Grant Stevens, Roger Martin and Len Truss, our local dog handler, who had served in the Division for years and lived in one of the Sidlow police houses.

Oddly enough, I don't remember the other Sergeants, although there must have been three or four. A little later, Doug Allmond arrived, but who was there in the mid-1960s? My mind's a blank - perhaps someone can help. Brian Cutler was around somewhere – perhaps in Prosecutions - but beyond that, I'm completely stumped.

Doug Allmond was a character, not averse to the odd practical joke, sometimes at his own expense. It wasn't unknown for him to drive the Sergeants' Husky into Reigate town in the early hours of the morning, lock it up and walk the streets until he found us.

Meanwhile, a 'spotter' on one of the rooftops had seen the car arrive, so we made ourselves scarce. When he eventually returned to the car, it had gone – keys in those days were pretty ropey and the same key fitted almost any car, especially if the lock was worn (as police vehicles tended to be).

It was the work of a moment to come down from the roof when Doug was out of sight, open the car with the nicely worn, thin key I always carried on my whistle chain and drive the car away. It would be found much later, of course, safe and sound at the back of the police station garage, crammed in sideways!

Another long-serving member of staff was Mary Street, who had worked in the Prosecutions office for longer than anyone could remember (perhaps since Reigate Borough days). The caretaker, Mr Morley, had also been around a long time and migrated to the new station in 1972, but retired not long afterwards. His son David had been a Cadet with us in the mid-sixties.

Women police were still pretty thin on the ground in the mid-1960s, perhaps a reflection of the difficulty experienced in finding suitable lodgings for single girls (i.e. almost all the recruits). In an attempt to solve this problem, a women's section house was opened in Belmont Road, where four or five girls could live together. This quickly became a place of great fascination for every single male officer in the area - many were the attempts to try and get through the front door on some pretext or other, but the residents, of course, were having none of it!

After a spell at Redhill, I was sent to Farnham, which was a rather different place to work.

Return to main text

1966: Reigate Division: Ronald Juleff, Chief Superintendent at Reigate 'B' Division: The first Chief Superintendent at Reigate 'B' Division was Basil West, his deputy being George Cork. Prior to the amalgamation of the old Oxted and Reigate Division, Basil West and George Cork were in charge of Oxted Division, when the then Chief, Mr Rutherford decided on changes within the Force area.

At that time I was process sergeant at Oxted, and an OM team, from HQ came to both divisions - called locally as the 'Orribe Mess' team. I think it was about 1966. When the divisions amalgamated, I transferred to Process Office in Reigate, Ken Blandford the then superintendent at Reigate retired, and became assistant chief constable of the British Airport Authority Police at Gatwick, Basil West and George Cork taking control of the joint Divisions. Basil West moved to HQ as Chief Superintendent, Traffic in 1968, I think the date is correct.

I left Process and went as station sergeant at Redhill in the old station in London Road, Colin Brake was superintendent; inspectors were Stratton, Adcock and Barrett. When Adcock retired, Alan Blondell took his place. Bryan Worth, Geoff Breckell, Dougie Almond, Brian Cutler, and Dave Maughan were sergeants. Dave resigned and went to Australia being replaced by Dave Stark.

I moved from the police station in Redhill to the new police station in Reigate early 1972; I was there some months before I retired on ill health pension in September 1972.

By that time the women police hostel in Belmont Road had closed, the section house in the new police station was up and running and a caretaker and cook were employed. Sergeants were me, Bryan Worth, Dougie Almond, Les Kemp, Brian Cutler, Jack Tanner, Dave Stark, and Robin O'Neil. Brian Cutler was later promoted to inspector. Until the new police station opened, the old station in Chart Lane was open from 8am to 12 midnight, the station officers being "Nellie" Alway, Arthur Delves, Harvey Martin and Jack Richards.

When Colin Brake retired, he was replaced by Bert Futter on promotion from detective chief inspector at Woking. He later transferred to Guildford and was replaced by Sid Harman who was still in charge of the sub-division when the move took place to the new police station. Tunn Clarke was chief superintendent. I can remember 'The Kodak Kid' attending divisional parades in the new police station, and I always seemed to be station sergeant when he paid his surprise visits.

When I left, the old police station in Chart Lane was still open as an enquiry office only; divisional office and process were already in the new police station. I spent a fortnight in process before I went out on ill health.

Charles Brunt was in charge of CID, and Nigel Dungate was DI. One of the uniformed inspectors was Peter Watts, and Trevor Saunders was inspector in charge of 'B' Section. The only contacts I have had were with Bryan Worth and John Green who retired as superintendent at Woking. Poor old John is no longer with us; we were both senior legal executives with solicitors, John in Exeter and I in St Austell.

Chris Atkins was superintendent at Reigate, followed by Frank Trussler, the latter moving to Farnham about the same time as I left. Ken Botting was chief inspector at Caterham, when the old Oxted and Reigate divisions amalgamated, but I think he moved to Addlestone before the new police station at Reigate opened. When Ken left, Eddie Gouffini was promoted inspector there; I think he died there. Russell Kingsford-Curram was an inspector at the new Reigate police station, in addition to Trevor Saunders and Peter Watts. I think Brian Cutler was the fourth.

When I went to Reigate process, Trevor Saunders' father was still serving; this was just before he retired, I can remember going through court files with him. I was in Oxted divisional office when Trevor came there as a probationer, he didn't stay very long. He had a reputation of being the only man who could eat a cold steak and kidney pie at 6 am after night shift. After he finished his probation he transferred to Plymouth City Police and later transferred back to Surrey.

I met him again in the late 60s, when he came to Redhill as inspector. I, Dave Stark and later Robin O'Neil were part of 'B' Section under Trevor. We got on well together. Finally, I think Ron Meredith was in charge of the Oxted Sub-Division for some time after the two Divisions amalgamated.

Return to main text

Surrey Constabulary badge