Hampshire Constabulary, History Part 1

A Brief History of the Hampshire Constabulary

The present force is the result of an amalgamation in 1967 of the county forces of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight with the Southampton City and Portsmouth City police forces.

Old style county helmet

The County Police Act of 1839 enabled justices, if they so wished, to maintain a paid police force either for the whole county or any part of it. The number of police men in any such county force was not to exceed one for every thousand inhabitants and the cost was to be borne by the general county rates. It was as a result of this permissive act that the Hampshire Constabulary was formed in December 1839.

At a meeting held at the Grand Jury Chamber in Winchester it was resolved that the county should adopt the provisions of the act and that the constabulary force should consist of:

1 chief constable at a salary of £300 a year with an allowance for the purchase and forage of two horses of £100.

2 superintendents. One for the Isle of Wight and one for Head quarters at Winchester at £120 a year each.

12 superintendents for the remaining divisions at £75 a year each.

14 constables first class at 21s. per week each.

28 constables second class at 19s. per week each.

49 constables third class at 18s. per week each.

Especial emphasis was put on the need for smartness of appearance. Uniform coats were to be kept buttoned, clean white gloves of regulation patterns were invariably to be worn on duty and above all no shirt collars were to be allowed to appear.

From time to time individuals were singled out for censure. One man was denounced for “lounging along like any old cadger with his greatcoat thrown over his shoulders like a blanket or a woman’s shawl, as if drill and discipline, greatcoat straps and the use of them, orders and instructions regarding dress and general appear ance were unknown in Hampshire”.

The most common offences dealt with were larceny (theft), damage to property, drunk and disorderly and desertion from the armed forces. In 1855 the value of property stolen was £1,172, of which £512 was recovered.

In 1856 the superintendents of Hampshire Constabulary were appointed Inspectors of Hawkers Licences and the chief constable pointed out that by “an active performance of these duties much benefit will arise to the public revenue of the county” in that when penalties were inflicted on unlicensed hawkers one moiety would be paid “to the Constabulary Superannuation Fund, thus increasing the fund for the pensioning of old and deserving constables and members of the force who may be disabled in the service of the county”.

In 1846 the force was increased from its original strength of 106 to 165. This was at a time when the population of the greater Hampshire County area was 76,000. The Borough police areas were much smaller in the early days.

Even with the proposed increase in the force, the Hampshire Constabulary would still be weaker in proportion to the population than had earlier seemed desirable. Each police officer would still have to be responsible for 1,200 or 1,300 inhabitants of the county.

The Hampshire Constabulary was growing in numbers and also in the area it was concerned with. In 1846 Andover Borough joined the county and in 1852 Lymington followed suit. In 1865 Romsey’s police were to be incorporated into the county force, to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.

The historic city of Winchester, the ancient capital of Saxon England, however, remained aloof.

The citizens of Winchester, indeed, may be justly proud of the fact that an organised police force was estab lished in Winchester in 1832, before the Hampshire Constabulary itself came into existence. It was not until 1943 that Winchester City Police were amalgamated into Hampshire.

In 1874 came the beginning of a CID., when approval was given to the chief constable sending “the officers selected for the Detective Depart ment” to be attached to the Metropolitan Police for instruction. At the end of 1875 the Earl of Carnarvon, on resigning as chairman of Quarter Sessions, commented proudly on the manifold improvements in the force brought about during the previous two years.

At this time (1875) great annoyance to the public seems to have been caused by the large number of vagrants who roamed about and the police were hard put to cope with the problem.

Throughout the second quarter-century of the Hampshire force’s existence, the formidable character of Chief Constable Captain Forrest was to be found at the centre of all activity. He could be harsh and autocratic, and perhaps unjust.

Yet it is impossible to withhold admiration for the devotion and drive he brought to the work of governing the force and of hammering it into an increasingly efficient organisation. He could bestow praise and commendation most generously.

He could also scourChief Constable Forrestge slackness unmercifully. Repeatedly he thundered against infringements of the regulations regarding uniform and even more against any inadequacy or lack of zeal in the performance of day-to-day duty. There was the unceasing problem of drunkenness. But also there were constables who lost or damaged equipment, ruined their uniform and failed to keep such things as lanthorns (lanterns) in good condition.






Captain Forrest retired on superannuation in March 1891 and was succeeded as chief constable by Captain Peregrine Henry Thomas Fellowes. This officer had had an active and varied military career, and was appointed by the Standing Joint Committee from among seventy-four applicants. He was in his fortieth year, strikingly handsome, and seems to have been the very model, the “beau ideal”, of a Victorian gentleman.


Original HQ in Romsey Road Winchester


Part 2