Woking in the 1970s
1970s, early: The Old Police Station at Woking: Ann Carter: I wonder how many people who served at the Old Nick in Woking will remember the Divisional Office, which was housed upstairs in a very small office. It would not be allowed these days as I believe a person must have so much space but not in the 1970s.
This office housed David Wakefield who was the boss with Pat Keating as his deputy and Pauline who seemed to do anything and everything including making Chief Superintendent Jackman's tea. This, if my memory serves me correctly had to be Earl Grey. I was later to cross the path of Pauline long after she left the job at the police station. I walked into Horsell Middle School as it was then known and there sat Pauline having acquired the job of administrator.
In my days as a probationer when first at Woking the divisional office was a mine of information and a positive emporium for all manner of forms. It also housed a copy of general orders or the Big Red book, as it was known. We were later issued with these books, which weighed a hundredweight, took up space and were a source of constant moans with updates occurring regularly.
In my time in the women police office one of the sergeants' thankless jobs was to check that each officer had correctly performed the task of updating their books and woe betide anyone who had not done so. Can you imagine them having the time to do that now? I wonder what became of all those books when they reached the end of their useful life. I would imagine that they were all melted down and became very posh toilet rolls, as they were printed on shiny paper!
The vehicles we used have now changed significantly as when I arrived at Woking we had Morris 1000s, an old Bedford Tilly that accommodated everything from a stray dog to confidential waste, and one or two Ford Anglia saloons. CID cars consisted of Morris 1000s and I believe a Hillman Imp was there somewhere. The old bull nose Morris was quite good for batting along at about seventy if you were lucky and the wind was not in the wrong direction. Who would believe that they became most sought after!
Later we were issued with the new Mini saloon, which was wonderful for doing enquiries, but hopeless if you arrested a tall person, or a 'struggler' as it was damn nigh impossible to get them inside a mini. The Mini was so low that a box arrangement had to be put on the roof to house the Police and Stop sign with the blue lamp on top of that so that it met the legal height requirement for flashing blue beacons!
I remember arresting Willy Watson, a very well known miscreant in Woking who used to have a different mode of transport to everyone else – a dumper truck. Willy was six foot eleven inches tall and no way was he ever going to fit in a Mini. I had to borrow the Sergeant's car, a two door Ford Anglia and I could just get him in by him sitting on the back seat with the front seat tipped forward.
Willy had to have his shoes specially made as they were so large and it always caused problems when his shoes had to be 'detained' for forensic examination, as he only possessed two pairs of shoes. However Willy never stood a chance where a scene of crime revealed a very large footprint, as he was the only one in town with those size feet!
At that time Woking had a divisional garage, which was the empire of one Don Vivers and he used to service the vehicles and 'hide' the odd dent or scrape. However, it always had to be determined as to whether it was a 'little hammer job' i.e. Don Vivers or a 'big hammer job' in which case it was HQ garage.
The garage, in its heyday had been the coach house and the superintendent's garage had been the stable. Don guarded this garage fiercely as if he had not I don't think he would ever have had a spare bulb or fuse in the place! When the new Land Rover arrived he guarded that too!
1970s: Woking Police station: Ann Carter: I can still remember my first day at Woking nick, although it seems a very long time ago now. My first meeting with Maurice Jackman was in his office, which was dimly lit with a desk lamp. I remember a rather pungent smell and was later to discover that the perpetrator of this miasma was Boots, his faithful Black Labrador who resided under his desk, waiting for 'Mike the Bike' to take him for his daily constitutional to Woking park.
In those days we did not have the modern technology although the police station was certainly air conditioned as all the windows rattled and let in the most horrendous draughts. The cellblock resembled something from Dracula and the doors were three inches thick with metal plates at the bottom, often needed for the 'kickers'.
I still have one of the old 'spy holes' and the female cell key, which were given to me by the demolition company who had the job of knocking the place down. These days of course you do not have to run the risk of putting your eye to a peephole; they have cameras doing the job for you whilst you recline in front of a CCTV unit!
Photographing prisoners was somewhat of a lottery and to assist us in taking even a vague resemblance of the person there were white dots painted on the floor so we knew where the tripod legs should be placed. The name and number then had to be placed in a 'holder' which was swung in front of the prisoner, more white dots on the floor to show where to put the feet. A Heath Robinson contraption had a large light bulb affixed to it to enable you to blind the subject whilst you took the picture.
No such thing as instant pictures, the film then had to go to HQ for processing. Heaven help you if you got it wrong, as there was usually no second chance. Measuring the prisoner demanded even more technical skills as it required the person to stand up against the wall and be measured against a 'yard stick' which had been handmade, I believe by Arthur Massey. This measure had been placed very conveniently in the main corridor nailed to a flight of stairs.
In my case, if I had a very tall prisoner I used to get one person to stand in front of them whilst I climbed the stairs, hung over the banisters with the piece of wood used for the top of the head whilst the other person read off from the measure. This 'yard stick' was later moved to the cell corridor but now resides in my house as a constant reminder of those days. Sadly I only have part of it as the demolition contractors destroyed the 'head' piece.
The women police department was situated in a converted bicycle shed at the rear of the main building. About the only luxury we had out there with the spiders was a gas heater, which if the wind blew in the wrong direction sent all the fumes into the office. We were sandwiched between the scenes of crime 0fficer/crime prevention office and the traffic wardens office.
I can still see Jack Pennington sat in there in the gloom with his mug of tea picking out the 'winners'. Later in my service the Women Police Department was re-homed in a portacabin also in the back yard, we knew our place!
After the Equal Rights Act was passed the Women Police Department vanished overnight along with most of the records and the policewomen were brought in 'out of the cold'. However, I was later to return to both the portacabin and the bicycle shed as the first schools liaison officer. School liaison was started on the Woking Division and the first ever meeting between head teachers and the police was held in the bar at the nick – where else!
I shared this office with Peter Bradley the road safety sergeant and Trevor Foxall the crime prevention officer. These 'offices' had the dog kennel for strays opposite and the emergency generator next to that so there was never a dull moment. The upstairs window in the main block overlooked the entire scene and belonged to Maurice Jackman who did not always believe in telecommunications!
The canteen at Woking was something of a legend as well. At that time we had a small section house and therefore had to have a cook. Betty Logan was the first one I came into contact with and was certainly a force to be reckoned with. Charlie Frost, I seem to remember always managed to get around Betty even when the knives were flying! Her husband Jock was the caretaker and could usually be found having a crafty fag as his cough gave him away.
When Betty retired Grace arrived and the regime changed somewhat. My best recollection of Grace is one morning when she was cooking the dinner, which included boiled cabbage, which seemed to be cooked for hours; she was heard to say "ooh I've dropped me fag in the cabbage"!
1973: Woking Division Station Sergeant/Patrol Sergeant: Bob Bartlett: The police station building in Woking was the worst in the county. It was a large very old-fashioned red brick building on the edge of the town centre, in need of refurbishment and re-development. Nothing had been spent on the place for years as a new station was always about to be built.
On my first visit to Woking police station, as was the usual practice, I was immediately sent to see the chief superintendent, Maurice Jackman. This man was a legend within the Surrey Constabulary for his language, his attitudes and some of the really outrageous things that he did. His room on the first floor was fairly long and narrow and always very dark being lit by a small table lamp. Alongside him on the floor was his large black Labrador dog.
When I went into his office there was another man there - a civilian friend, but I never knew who he was. A kindly but foul mouthed welcome to the division and I was posted as a station sergeant. This was quite a difficult job as you dealt with all the prisoners on this busy division and most of the paperwork submitted by the constables. The station sergeant had a desk in the front or station office alongside the public counter, which allowed for a concentration span of about sixty seconds.
To the side of the front office was a small control room with the switchboard, radio and teleprinter along with a civilian operator. On a good day there might be a PC to help out as jailer and a helper at the public counter. Just behind the control room with access from a central passage were the cells, secured behind a cell-gate.
A noisey and particularly the drunken prisoner could be heard caterwauling throughout the building, and often by the public at the counter. Often prisoners were brought fighting and swearing through the front door past the public counter to the cells although there was a rear way in.
There were not many quiet times to be had; in fact there was constant complaint that it was impossible to do the paper-work as well as all the other tasks.
The division was dominated more than any other I ever served on by the Chief Superintendent. He liked his drink, was besotted with the Guards Depot at Pirbright, which was on our ground, and was also into golf and looking after his friends.
For such a busy town to police we had few resources and often only one patrol car plus the supervisor's vehicles out and about. These vehicles were frequently used late at night to take Mr Jackman's friends home; take his uniform to the Guards Depot for tailoring etc. He was a despot although many who worked for him over the years were devoted to him and at his death the funeral was so large not everyone could get into the crematorium. He obviously did many things right.
I worked a section with a Scottish Inspector Danny McNulty, an able man who never seemed to get excited about anything or anyone. The inspector was to spend a great deal of time in the office but would turn out to the scene of any serious incident. The sergeants worked four weeks inside the police station followed by four as a patrol sergeant.
The problem was that no one liked working as the station sergeant and always took their time off when they had these duties. This meant that sergeants spent less time on the street and more time in the cells.
Life in the cellblock as the sergeant was simple. There were few rules, no Police and Criminal Evidence Act [PACE], and so often prisoners were left overnight to stew before being interviewed the following day. Interviews were carried out where a space could be found, and notes were not always taken as this was considered an inhibitor to the suspect, and would interrupt the flow.
Notes of the interview including direct quotes of questions and answers were written up later. They should have been written as soon as practically possible afterwards, but this was frequently not the case. It was a charade done with the full complicity of the legal system. PC in court:
"May I refer to my notes your Worship?"
"When was your pocket book made up?"
"Immediately after the interview you're Worship."
There was no violence initiated by the police but where a prisoner had a go at a police officer he was not treated with kid gloves. I recall on several occasions explaining to disgruntled, now sober prisoners that they were not dealing with a bunch of boy scouts and if they misbehaved they had to accept the consequences. Outbreaks of violence often happened just after or at the time of the arrest or arrival in the cellblock, but very few prisoners were so daft to take the police on in the isolation of the cells.
At no time then or at all during my service during which time I saw the inside of many a police station cellblock, did I ever see any gratuitous violence from the police. In fact it is always remarkable how restrained the police are given the aggravation they encounter by so many unpleasant people. The public impressions of what goes on comes from silly TV programmes and defence solicitors who have no defence for their client and so attack the prosecution i.e. the police.
Following an interview if the suspect admitted the offence the approximate wording of the admission was used, as it was not possible to have an exact recall of the words used. Heaven help us when they say as they did "It's a fair cop Guv!" It was very unusual to have a solicitor present during the interview except for the most serious of offences.
The exception was when dealing with the professional villain who would access a solicitor some of who appeared on a list we held of "bent" lawyers who had little regard for the law they were supposed to serve. The station sergeant was there to steer a course through the minefield, to watch out for malpractice and to decide what course of action should be taken, to charge or release the prisoner, to grant or deny bail.
If the sergeant considered that there was a case, even if there were doubts over the availability or the quality of the evidence, it was considered that it was for the court to decide on guilt or innocence, not the police. "Charge him. Give it a run" was often the response where there were conflicting indications of guilt.
If there was a difficult part to the job it was deciding what the prisoner should be charged with. The sergeant made the decision but of course there were others he could consult including the inspector or even a station sergeant at another station if the circumstances of the offence were unusual, and they frequently were.
The cells were a focal point of the station sergeant's life. If he were lucky he would have a PC gaoler on duty to help with the feeding, etc. With the usual banging of doors it was obvious that a prisoner had arrived in the charge room, this time for stealing a car and he was soon walking with a distinct limp towards the cells.
As with all prisoners he was carefully searched and a set of car keys were found inside his socks, placed in the instep of his foot. The keys were the link to the vehicle that he was suspected of having stolen.
It is possibly the nightmare scenario to come to work to find that one of the PCs off your section was locked up in the cells. This happened to me when a young very able Geordie constable had been stealing credit cards and using them. At his home in Woking he had a garage apparently jammed full of goods bought with stolen cards.
It is a dreadful feeling to have one of your team arrested. It was also wrong that he was detained at his home station. With a little thought he could have been dealt with at Addlestone or Guildford, which were not far away. After a trial in due course he went to prison and was never seen again.
One of the difficulties about moving areas is the problem of finding your way around particularly if there is an emergency. This problem was exacerbated by spending so many shifts in the police station, making it difficult to get some sense of the division's layout particularly as it covered such a large urban area. When I was allowed out the type of work was typical for the policing of any large town; a great deal of booze driven incidents in pubs, domestics at home and fights in the streets.
We were very short handed and often there was little more than a double-crewed car and maybe one or two others to be sent on patrol. On top of this there were traffic patrols and the odd dog man. There was a night duty Criminal Investigation Department officer and of course the sergeant and inspector. Not a great deal although if pushed, there were officers at Addlestone and Guildford, which were not far away.
There was a major national strike during my time at Woking, when the Edward Heath government decided to take on the miners. "Who governs the country?" was the cry. A three-day working week with extensive power cuts and electricity saving measures imposed by emergency legislation the result.
The lights did not exactly go out across the land but a fair proportion did and the police were used to enforce emergency regulations. In Woking this meant patrolling the town centre and nagging the shopkeepers to reduce electricity consumption. "Turn off that light!" We would patrol and if there were more lights on than we considered necessary, or I think if they had window lights on, they were told to switch off.
Living two doors away from our house in Milford was Superintendent Bert Futter and his wife Chief Inspector Jenny Futter. Bert was the superintendent at Guildford and a thoroughly nice man. He needed a sergeant at Cranleigh and knew that I was an experienced detached beat sergeant having spent three years at Ash and not happy tanking across to Woking every day. He offered me the sergeant's post at Cranleigh, which I jumped at.