Profile of a Victorian Policeman

William Dipple
Police Constable 67 William Dipple3rd Division – Warrant number: 2948

William Dipple joined the Birmingham Borough Police on the 27th September 1855 at the age of 25 years. He served 25 years before retiring in April 1880.

William Dipple was probably born in 1830 in the small Warwickshire market town of Alcester. Dates of birth were not always recorded at this time and the first record of a child is often the baptismal register of the local parish church. The parish records for St. Nicholas’ church show that a William Dipple was baptised in Alcester on the 12th September 1830. In the late 1840`s, and by now in his late teens, he regularly walked the 15 miles between Alcester and the Cotswold village of Willersley to meet Harriot Widdows, destined to become his future bride . She was born in Willersley on 25 June 1832.

With the Industrial Revolution in full swing and

nearby Birmingham fast becoming a boom town, young William decided to seek work there in order to try to provide a secure home for his wife to be. Records show that he got a job as a labourer to a Mr Appleton of Bull Street Birmingham. We do not know when he arrived in Birmingham, but in 1854 he sent for his bride and they were married on 24 September 1854 at the parish church of St James, in Ashted, now part of Aston in Birmingham. They lived at 9 Morris Buildings, Great Francis Street and on his marriage certificate his occupation was recorded as a brewer.

A year later, William Dipple sought employment as a Police Constable with the Birmingham force. West Midlands Police Museum archives show that William Dipple enrolled in the police on 25 September 1855, a year after his marriage. From the police archives we know that William was 5 feet 8½ inches (1.75m) tall, with a sallow complexion, green eyes and brown hair. The Police surgeon’s record shows that he accepted Dipple into the police service on condition that he always wore a truss whilst on duty. Maybe William had acquired a groin injury, possibly a hernia from the days when he was a brewer and moving quantities of beer around in barrels. Perhaps this is the reason that William sought a new career.

Two years after their marriage, in the summer of 1856, Harriot gave birth to the first of their eleven children: Robert Charles Dipple was baptised in St James church, Aston, Birmingham on 28th December 1856.

Next year, in 1857, his police records show that William Dipple was cautioned for being late for duty on two occasions. Maybe this was due to the fact that Harriet was pregnant again with their second child and young Robert was becoming more demanding. Sarah Ann Dipple was born on 18th June 1858 but was baptised in Willersley Parish Church.

By 1860 Harriot was pregnant again, and in 1860 the records show that Police Constable Dipple was caught in a beer house on at least two occasions. Perhaps the officer was becoming used to ‘wetting the baby’s head!’

William George Dipple, the third child was born in July 1860 and was baptised on 29th July 1860 by the vicar of St James, the Reverend T Eagles.

The 1861 census, taken on 7th April records that the family had now moved to 70 Henage Street, Nechells, Birmingham. A Census had to include details of all persons resident at a house, including children (and still does today). There was no mention of the young William George Dipple as he had died in December 1860 when he was about six months old. Again, the police records show that on 18th December 1860, P.C. Dipple was sentenced to 14 days drill for being in the Train Tavern at 5.25am on 11th December and drinking whilst on duty. By this time he may have been seeking solace from alcohol.

On 20th April 1861, P.C. Dipple should have been at the Public Office (Court). He was disciplined for his missed appearance on 23rd April. It may be that his wife was ill at this time as the fourth child Charles was born on 21st July 1861 (baptised on 28 December 1862). The family were still living at 70 Henage Street.

A year later Arthur William Dipple, the fifth child was born but like many of the children of the day succumbed to the harsh life and times and was buried on 18th December 1864 in Witton Cemetery, Birmingham.

The following year, 1865, the family had moved to 49 Henry Street when the sixth child, Herbert George was baptised at St Matthews church, Duddeston, Birmingham on 19 June 1865. Young Herbert survived only another 11 days – by 1 July 1865 he too had died.

The seventh child, Annie Maria, was born on 19th February 1868 but survived only 18 months before she died in August 1869. Again William and Harriet were to stand at the graveside burying another child. It is difficult to imagine their feelings standing there in Witton Cemetery in September 1868 – only two children were left alive from seven births.

Edward the eight child in the family was born on 28th February 1869 and the ninth, William Henry was born in 1871. Edward survived but William was to die in February 1872.

The family had moved again by this time and were now living at 49 Henry Street.

Emily Harriet, the tenth child was born on 13th March 1872, baptised at home and died only 17 days later. On 9 April 1872 she followed her deceased brothers and sisters to Witton Cemetery where she too was buried.

Harriot was soon pregnant yet again and on 5th July 1873 the eleventh child Blanche Dipple was born. By this time William was aged 43 and Harriot was 41. Three months later Blanche had become another infant mortality statistic and had died, being buried on 15 October 1873


Children born to William and Harriot Dipple
Name Date of birth Date of Death
Robert Charles ?? 28.12.1856
Sarah Ann 18.06.1858 Survived
William George 1860 ??.12.1860
Charles 21.07.1861 Survived
Arthur William 1863 18.12.1864
Herbert George 18.06.1865 19.10.1865
Annie Maria 19.02.1868 August 1869
Edward 28.02.1869 Survived
William Henry ?? 09.02.1872
Emily Harriet 13.03.1872 09.08.1872
Blanche 05.07.1873 15.10.1873
Police service disciplinary record: PC 67 William Dipple
Date Disciplinary Offence Action taken
13 Jan 1857 For parading late at the Corn Exchange
at 2pm on 12th inst and without
his truncheon and belt
6 days Squad Drill
24 Sept 1857 15 Minutes late for 6pm duty on 23rd inst Cautioned
1 Dec 1857 20 minutes late for duty at 1/4 to 9pm 30th inst Cautioned
1 Feb 1860 Being in Vine Beer House, Summer Lane
for 15 minutes when on duty from
1am to 1.15am 31 inst
Fined 2/-
20 Mar 1860 Insubordination to P.S Johnson Fined 2/-
3 Apr 1860 Absent from part of his beat 50 minutes on 1st inst No sentence
18 Dec 1860 Being in the Train Tavern L.H. Gt Francis Street at 5.25am on the 11th inst when on duty One weeks drill
23 Apr 1861 Absent from Public Office (Court) when his case was called on 20th inst Explained
3 Sept 1861 Being in the Star and Garter L.H. Hill Street when on duty and insolent to P.S.Roveu when spoken to. 25th inst Reduced to the first class for two months
(Pay cut)
14 Jul 1861 Absent from part of his beat 1 hour 17th inst Cautioned
5 Apr 1864 Being in a Public House when on duty 31st inst Explained
31 May 1864 Being 7 minutes late for special duty 27th inst Explained
14 Mar 1865 Absent from his beat for 40 minutes. 10th inst Cautioned
25 Apr 1865 Absent from his beat for 40 minutes. 22nd inst Cautioned
27 Feb 1866 Drinking in a public house when on duty 20th Cautioned
6 Mar 1866 Using improper language to the wife of Dr Wilkinson of Summer Lane on 3rd inst Cautioned
22 May 1866 Being 1 hour and 30 minutes absent from his beat then found drunk at 3.30am Fined 1 days pay
7 Aug 1866 Loitering on part of his beat and not dispensing a number of disorderly persons at 12.45 am Cautioned
4 Sept 1866 Off his beat and drinking in a Public House when on duty Fined 2/-
8 Jan 1867 Drinking on Duty at 2am 6th inst Reduced from 1st class to
2nd Class for 1 month
19 Mar 1867 Allowing a Hawker to remain in the street for several hours and improper conduct to P.S.Ward Explained
8 Dec 1868 Not discovering the door of the Corn Exchange open on his beat on the night of 5th inst Cautioned
26 Dec 1868 Losing the keys of Worcester Wharf 21 Inst To pay for a new set
G.Glossop Chief Constable
22 Feb 1871 Fighting with P.C.Newman when on duty
21st Inst
Fined 1/-
19 Jun 1871 Granted 7 days leave with pay
12 Feb 1872 Granted 10 days leave with pay
14 Jan 1873 Joined (Long) Service Class
14 Apr 1873 Granted 10 days leave with pay
7 Nov 1873 Highly improper and disrespectful conduct to his Sergeant when taking a charge 12.10am inst Fines 1/6
1 June 1874 Granted 7 days leave with pay
3 May 1875 Granted 7 days leave with pay

PC William Dipple resigned from the Birmingham Borough Police on 18th April 1880 having served for 25 years.

PC Dipple’s service record, taken on its own, shows perhaps a rather undisciplined character. When read with the background of his family life and the tragedy of losing 8 out of 11 children, a rather different picture emerges. Look at the dates of the children’s births and deaths and match these against the disciplinary records. Might PC Dipple have had some reason for behaving in the manner he did. Does the term ‘explained’ suggest that his superiors were aware of his situation?

A Royal Commission was appointed in 1960 to inquire into various aspects of policing and one of its