Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Not the best line of defence...

It probably wasn't the best line of defence to offer up to the magistrates.

When Henry Jackson, 30 a smith at the GWR Works, appeared at Swindon Petty Sessions in November 1881 charged with being drunk and disorderly, he claimed that 'he meant to be locked up to see what sort of beds they had at the station, as the last one he had was a wooden one.'

It's to be hoped the accommodation at Swindon Police Station came up to Jackson's exacting standards. In 1873 the new station at the top of Eastcott Road (then called Eastcott Lane) replaced the old one in Devizes Road, built some 20 years earlier.

Before the 1850s Swindon had only a lock up at the top of Newport Street. Built in c1762 this 8ft square, dark and dingy structure was less than secure. In the 1840s a railway navvy was liberated by friends who dug a hole under the door and then burned the building to the ground.

The new purpose built station at the top of Eastcott Road had accommodation for a superintendent, an inspector, a sergeant and 8 constables; a public court and 8 cells, although at the time of the 1881 census there could have been barely room to swing a cat o' nine tails in the new station.

Superintendent George North, his wife and five children plus a servant; Inspector Worthy Porter and his wife and nine children and Sergeant Thomas Rebbick with his wife and their four children all managed to squeeze in - oh and there were two prisoners, William Mills and George Barker.

By 1889 the Swindon branch of the Wiltshire Constabulary had increased to a superintendent, an inspector, two sergeants and 16 constables and in 1891 the building was enlarged on the South Street side.

With a population in excess of 45,000 in 1904 the Superintendent at Swindon was given a pay rise to reflect the heavy workload.

The station in Eastcott Road was closed and demolished in 1973, replaced by a new divisional headquarters on Fleming Way, which has since also been demolished.
The £19.5 million Gablecross Station opened at Swindon in 2005, though whether the beds are wooden or not remains unknown.

Wiltshire Constabulary was established in 1839.

Four superintendents were appointed at an annual salary of £100 exclusive of clothing but with a horse. A further nine superintendents received £75 per annum, minus the horse.

Constables were required to be under 40 years old, 5ft 6ins tall, literate, numerate and "to be free from any bodily complaint, of strong constitution and generally intelligent." Pay was 17s 6d (87p worth today about £59).

Frances Bevan

Photograph 1911: Swindon Division - Police Station, Eastcott Road, Swindon by William Hooper courtesy of Mr P.A. Williams see www.flickr.com/photos/swindonlocal/

Police Station 1966 courtesy of Swindon Viewpoint see http://www.swindonviewpoint.com/


  1. Hi Frances,
    not sure if you got my last comment or if you check before they are posted. Worthy Porter is my great great grandfather. He died in October 1881 in Bath. His wife married again and its her grave that Ive been looking for at Radnor St:) I have the obituary for him from the Advertiser at home and have transcribed it if you'd like a copy for your records.
    See you in November!

  2. Hi Ruth - If Worthy is buried in Radnor Street I should be able to find the grave for that date. Do you have his remarried wife's new name? It would be great to have that obituary. It was good meeting up with you again - see you in November.

  3. Here are the details about Worthy. I do hope I can find a photo of him some day, specially in his uniform. It would be one for pride of place over the fireplace!
    Worthy Porter [my great great grandfather], was born in Great [sometimes known as Broad] Somerford in 1834. Originally in the Berkshire Constabulary, he transferred to the Wiltshire Constabulary as a 2nd class constable on th 31st of December, 1861 to the Hindon Division.

    His rank number when he joined the Wiltshire Constabulary was 39. His entry age for theWiltshire Constabulary was 27 and single.

    He is described as being 5ft 8ins tall, fresh complexion, hair is light brown, eyes blue.

    On August 1st, 1868 he moved to 1st class constable.

    In 1871 there is a note in the station ledger at Dinton in which he is noted for his zeal and intelligence. He was awarded £1 by the court of session for playing a part in stopping a robbery. The £1 doesn’t seem much but it was probably a nominal amount as he was a public servant and couldn’t be rewarded monetarily for doing his job.

    On the 1st of November, 1868, he was promoted to 2nd class sergeant and on the 14th of August ? he was promoted to 1st class sergeant.

    When he was promoted to Inspector on the 19th of February, 1879, he was transferred to Swindon. [At the time of the 1881 census they were living in Eastcott Lane, Old Swindon].

    He died on October 10th, 1881 in Bath, where he was believed to be ‘taking the waters’ as it was reported in the station ledger that he had been ill for sometime.

    On the 15th of October there was a death announcement in the Swindon Advertiser in which it was noted of his sad passing and that he leaves a wife and 10 children [with his wife expecting at the time of his death]. It also included a request for a subscription [appeal] for monies to be given to his family.

    Here is the announcement, verbatim, from the Swindon Evening Advertiser:

    Our readers will be sorry to hear of the death of Mr Inspector Porter, of the Wilts Constabulary, stationed at Swindon, which took place on Monday last. The deceased, who had been unwell for some time, was advised to go to Bath a fortnight only previous to his death. He leaves a widow and ten young children, which number, we hear, is likely to be increased. It has been suggested that a subscription shall be raised for the family. If such a thing is started, we feel sure it will meet with a hearty response.

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  5. Hi Frances,
    did I make a slip up in my last post about Anna Maria? sorry about that. Ill email you instead with the details,

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  7. The police station was still there in 1973 I don't think it was demolished till at least 1977-78. I was born in 1974 and moved into Eastcott Rd when I was 3. It was still there then !