Hampshire Constabulary, History Part 3

On June 16th, 1949, the Secretary of State authorised an increase of two sergeants and five constables in the strength of the force, bringing the total establishment to 849. In 1952 the strength of the force was to increase still further to 864. The additional numbers were to allow for staff in the wireless control room, for more traffic patrol personnel, and for more men in the Havant area.

Because of the pace of development a further fifty-two officers were authorised in March 1954, giving an establishment of 916. Again, small additions were approved in 1957, 1958 and 1959 bringing the total to 927. In February 1960, Home Office approval was given to a substantial increase to bring the establishment to a total of 1,002.

The reason for this was clearly expressed by the chief constable, Mr. Osmond, in his report to the police authority in July 1963 on “The Establishment and Organisation of the Force”. He stated “This increase was designed to cope to some extent with the increased population of the county and also with the reduced working week which had been introduced in 1955.

The total strength of the force in 1963 was 1,091, consisting of one chief constable, one assistant chief constable, four chief superintendents, seven superintendents, fifteen chief inspectors, forty-eight inspectors, 126 sergeants and 857 constables; and also of one woman police inspector, three women police sergeants and twenty-eight women constables. In addition there was one chief inspector surplus to establishment for traffic duties in order to relieve the traffic superintendent for part-time Civil Defence duties.

An important change in organisation already realised in 1963 was the centralisation of all emergency calls so that all of them were received in the information room at headquarters. This worked very well, but inevit ably imposed a great burden on the information room staff who had to handle as many as 15,000 messages that year.

The Traffic Division con tinued to be mainly responsible for dealing with emergency calls, but to supplement its resources each division maintained one of the divisional cars equipped with radio on constant patrol.

This development too required increased manpower and more vehicles. In each divisional station a radio sub-control was instituted which enabled the divisional head quarters to communicate directly with its own vehicles, including the vehicle being used for emergency purposes. Thus pressure on the infor mation room was relieved.

On June 1st, 1966, the new headquarters building of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary was officially opened by Her Royal High ness the Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. Plans for this magnificent construction had been laid several years earlier, but only in 1961 did they receive the approval of both the County Council and Winchester City Council. Now the buildings have at last replaced the old headquarters at West Hill.

The latter had been erected in 1847 at a cost of £10,000, and the prison which was built two years later had cost £74,000, although certainly £12,000 had been realised from the sale of the old gaols.

The police centre of the Isle of Wight has always been at the capital. Newport, whether the island force was part of the Hampshire Constabu lary, or on its own. In May 1838 the Police Committee decided that the then Watch House was to be converted into a lock-up room for men, and a butcher’s shop opposite into a lock-up room for women; also that the present town clerk’s office was to be the room for the inspector of police.

The first mention of a police station for the Hampshire Constabulary on the Isle of Wight is found in a post office directory of 1852, which states that a building in Holyrood Street, Newport, had been converted from its previous use as a gaol into a station for the county police.

In the same directory mention is made of the Newport Borough Police Station, which was also situated in Holyrood Street, and no doubt this too was a building with a past, having been a bridewell before it was acquired in 1848 for police purposes. In 1869 a house in Quay Street was bought for use as a borough police station, and completely rebuilt, with cells, at a cost of £650.

This remained in use as the town police station until 1943, when the Isle of Wight force was once more merged with the Hampshire Constabulary. It is now used as a probation office. The succeeding divisional police headquarters in Fairlee Road was built in the eighties.

From 1890 to 1943 it served as the office of the Chief Constable of the Isle of Wight, and since 1943 as the Isle of Wight Divisional Headquarters. At the end of 1963 a new divisional headquarters building was completed.

On April 1st, 1967, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary was to end its separate existence, on amalgamation with the forces of Portsmouth and Southampton. The roots of English police are indeed local. Now the size and nature of the locality may be changing, and the claims of a wider loyalty becoming imperative.

But the need for an intimate understanding of its own territory on the part of the force con cerned, and for co-operation between police and public, remains as vital as ever. Only thus can the Queen’s Peace be maintained. In the ceaseless struggle to uphold and strengthen the rule of law in England, the Hampshire Constabulary has played a long, a proud, and an historic part.

Extracts taken from a book compiled by Ian A. Watt, first published in 1966, entitled,

“A History of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary 1839 – 1966”

Reprinted by Phillimore in 2006 for the Hampshire Constabulary History Society –

end of part 2