|During the early nineteenth century the pattern of policing in Wolverhampton was very similar to that outlined for neighbouring Walsall. Various systems and officers were employed to maintain law and order including parish constables, street-keepers and both day and night watchman. However, they seem to have had little or no effect while using a fragmented system that was totally unsuited to the needs of a rapidly expanding industrial town. As a result in the late 1820s many businessmen formed local associations in order to protect their own property.|
|The Town Commissioners approved the formation of a ‘new’ borough force on the 3rd August 1837. A new style Watch Committee replaced the two old committees of ‘Watch’ and ‘Street-Keepers’ and had ‘full powers to appoint, suspend and discharge all and every of the Day and Night Police, to agree with them such wages they may deem right, to clothe them in uniform and appoint additional men, provided that the whole body do not exceed 16 in number….’|
|Wolverhampton Police Van (click image to enlarge)|
Like their neighbour, Wolverhampton sought the assistance of the Metropolitan Police in recommending a ‘Sergeant of Police from London’ who could take charge of their force. Richard Castle was sent from London and appointed as Superintendent at the rate of five shillings and six pence per day until a more permanent arrangement could be agreed. It appears that the maximum of 16 men was never in danger of being breeched as the Town Commissioners initially appointed one Sergeant, John Fenn, and five constables namely James Hill, Joseph Ellitts, John Gadsby, George Colley and Samuel Hill. At the same time they discharged four men from the old Watch as being ‘inefficient and unable to discharge their duties’. In September 1842 the force was disbanded under the terms of the Police Act 1839, and the Staffordshire County Police took over the policing of the town. Responsibility rested with that force until 1848 when Wolverhampton again formed its own force under the command of Lt. Col. Gilbert Hogg.
The force was initially based in the old Town Hall in Garrick Street and remained there until 1870 when the Headquarters was moved to the new Town Hall in North Street, although the barracks and cells remained at the old station. In this period various sub-stations were opened including Berry Street (1855), Monmore Green (1861) and Whitmore Reans (1863). Also in 1855 a Fire Brigade of twelve men was appointed under the control of the Chief Constable. By the late 1870s the size of the force, including the Fire Brigade, had risen to 73. These early years of the force appear to have been marked by violence, civil unrest and numerous industrial disputes. During this period the Wolverhampton force had access to a variety of weapons including rifles, revolvers and swords, although it is unclear whether they were ever carried on patrol or deployed to keep good public order.
By the early 1900s the force numbered 109 men, there being no women until 1937 when two were appointed and attached to the Criminal Investigation Department. During the 1914-18 war there had been some Women Police Patrols on the streets of Wolverhampton but these had been abolished in 1919. After the 1939-45 war the establishment of the force was again increased to 215 men and 8 women to meet the needs of an ever increasing population and the demands placed upon the police: in 1920 there were only 204 recorded criminal offences while in 1947 these had increased to 2037.
The force continued to grow in size to about 300 officers by the mid-1960s and adopted many of the innovative ideas and technology available to assist in policing Wolverhampton. However just like its neighbour, Wolverhampton was a small borough force surrounded by a number of other similar police forces. The government was looking for efficiencies and the Royal Commission on the Police 1960 recommended the abolition of smaller forces. In 1966 the West Midlands Constabulary was formed by merging, Wolverhampton Borough, Walsall Borough and Dudley Borough Police.
CHIEF CONSTABLES OF WOLVERHAMPTON BOROUGH POLICE
1837 – 1842: Richard CASTLE
1848 – 1857: Lt. Col. Gilbert HOGG
1857 – 1878: Capt. Henry SEGRAVE
1878 – 1891: Major Robert David Dewar HAY
1891 – 1916: Capt. Lindsay Robert BURNETT
1916 – 1929: David WEBSTER
1930 – 1943: Edwin TILLEY
1944 – 1966: Norman W. GOODCHILD