180 years of Leicestershire Police

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1836 | Frederick Goodyer appointed first head constable

Frederick Goodyer was appointed as the first head constable of Leicester Borough Police in February 1836. An original member of Sir Robert Peel’s New Police in London, he was recommended by the Home Office to head up the force. After three successful years in the post he left to become Chief Constable of the newly formed Leicestershire County Police force. Photo of Frederick Goodyer

1843 | Wooden truncheon

The earliest officers were issued with a truncheon - some of which were painted in a manner not dissimilar to narrow-boat art today. The wooden truncheon, in its various forms, remained on personal issue until the early 1990s.

In March 1843 the county was still in the grip of the Chartist Movement following years of rioting in London, Birmingham and across the country so the Leicestershire County Force was armed and ready to deal with any challenge.

100 cutlasses (a short sword with a slightly curved blade) were issued to county stations for the personal protection of officers in the performance of their duty. The Chief Constable directed that they were only to be worn at night or at a time "when rioting or serious public disorder had actually taken place or upon a sudden emergency." In 1857, wearing of the cutlass was confined to superintendents, inspectors and sergeants on night duty. Cutlasses were withdrawn for patrol use in 1868 but not actually recalled from stations until 1950.

A display of early truncheons and cutlasses on display at force headquarters

1864 | Where did you get that hat?

The traditional British police helmet has become an internationally recognised symbol of the force. Although it appears that Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland initially dressed their officers in top hats, the police helmet - based on a military design of the time - became an enduring part of the uniform towards the end of the 19th Century.

There is no accurate record of when the helmet was introduced in Leicestershire, however a photograph shows Leicester Borough officer PC John White in a helmet, clearly dating its introduction to sometime before 1872 - the year he left the force to become keeper of the Town Hall. White’s helmet is relatively recognisable as the forerunner to the helmet worn today by officers on foot patrol.

The basic shape of the helmet has not changed in over 100 years, although external decorations such as the rose or spike, bands, the badge and the nature of its internal construction have changed significantly.

Male officers have worn a flat topped cap for a variety of duties since before the Second World War, with the chequered band introduced in 1971. The war saw the introduction of more practical headgear.

Female officers in Leicestershire have never worn the custodian helmet however a peaked beret gave way to a variety of hostess style hats in the late 1960s and through to the 1990s, when the current bowler style hat was introduced. The need to respond to large scale disorder in the 1980s has led to the development of ever more protective headgear for use in specific situations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) helmet with full-face and neck protection.

1873 | Sound of music

Chief Constable Joseph Farndale formed the Leicester Borough Police brass band and over the succeeding years they gave concerts in the town’s public parks.

1897 | Group fine

Thirteen men were fined 18s 16d (18 shillings and 16 pence which in today's money would be around 97 pence) after being found guilty of taking part in a cockerel fight near a wood at Staunton House, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

1899 | First speeding prosecution

Leicestershire’s first prosecution for speeding. The motorist was caught on Taylor's Hill in Glenfield travelling in excess of 18 mph. He pleaded not guilty and was fined 15 shillings.

1903 | PC William Wilkinson

On Monday 25 May 1903, PC William Wilkinson left his home in Sileby to go on night patrol when he heard a plaintive cry from his three-year-old daughter: “Daddy, don’t go out again tonight”. Perhaps he should have listened to her, as that was to be the last time he ever saw her.

At about 11pm, PC Wilkinson was patrolling the centre of Sileby, when he heard a rustling coming from the churchyard across the street. As he went to investigate, two figures sprang up from behind a gravestone and a shot rang out in the middle of Sileby. PC Wilkinson died on the scene.

Suspicion immediately fell on two men who had a well known feud with the local policemen, and they were soon discovered at a house in Swan Street, intoxicated and armed with a shotgun.

Their trial commenced at Leicester Castle on Monday 29 June 1903 where both were found guilty of murder.

They were hanged at 8am on Tuesday 21 July 1903. The same evening Sileby Church held a memorial service for PC Wilkinson.

1904 | Wanted!

An example of an early wanted poster from Leicester Borough Police.

1907 | Bicycle allowance

In 1907 a £2 annual allowance was introduced for inspectors and sergeants in rural districts for the upkeep of their bicycles. Photo of an officer with a bike

1908 | Tubby Stephens

PC 83 John William "Tubby" Stephens, who died in 1908, earned his nickname because he weighed 24 stone and was reputed to be England’s heaviest policeman. He served for 22 years with Leicester Borough Police force and was one of the most popular and well loved bobbies the town had ever had. He also fought in the Zulu War in 1879.

It is said that Tubby was the inspiration for the famous song 'The Laughing Policeman' because he was witty, jovial and good humoured.

Tubby died at the age of 48 years. Press reports tell of dense crowds lining the whole of the funeral route from his house in Cobden Street, East Leicester, down Welford Road Cemetery, South Leicester. An estimated 10,000 people turned out to pay their respects. It showed what affection the people of Leicester had for him. Joyce Lee in her book, Who's Buried Where in Leicestershire, writes: "The love and respect he had earned from both his colleagues and the public was evident at his funeral."

1909 | Sports & Leisure

Guests and officials of the Leicester Borough Police sports association (photo to follow)

1916 | Zeppelin attack on Loughborough

On 31 January 1916, nine Zeppelin airships flew over Britain to bomb Liverpool docks. None reached their target because of fog but Zeppelin L20 spotted the lights of Loughborough and Captain Franz Stabert gave the order to unleash it's 50kg bombs. The first bomb landed in Ashby Square, followed by a second in the The Rushes and a third in Thomas Street. The last bomb to explode did so in Empress Road, killing five people. Ten people were killed in total, and L20 went on to drop bombs on Ilkeston and Burton-on-Trent. Some years later a fifth unexploded bomb was found in the canal basin. Loughborough was targeted because night time blackouts were a matter for local councils, and unlike the big cities of Leicester, Derby and Nottingham, no restrictions were in force for many county towns.

1919 | Green bicycle murder

On the night of the Saturday 5 July 1919, the dead body of a 21-year-old woman, Annie Bella Wright, was found lying beside a bicycle at Stretton, on the outskirts of Leicester.

PC 97 Alfred Hall of Great Glen was called, and a local doctor gave his opinion that the death had been caused by a fall, with no obvious grounds to suspect foul play. PC Hall was not happy with this and following a meticulous search of the scene he found a used .455 bullet that had been trodden into the surface of the road by a horse only a few feet from where the body was laying.

PC Hall returned to the mortuary and washed blood from Annie Hall’s face, discovering a bullet hole an inch below the left eye. An investigation was launched and details emerged of a suspect on a green bicycle, which had recently been repaired.

The missing bicycle was fished out of the Leicester canal by a passing barge. The owner of the bicycle – a former army officer called Roland Vivian Light – was traced to Cheltenham and arrested. Light admitted to having been with Annie Hall on the day of her murder. He admitted to having owned the bicycle that was later recovered from the canal, and it was proved that he had been issued with a .455 revolver whilst serving as an army officer.

However, at trial, Light was defended by one of the most brilliant advocates of his time, Sir Edward Marshall Hall. Light was found not guilty. No conviction was ever secured in this case, and speculation about Light’s involvement remains to this day. Photo of officers investigation the green bicycle murder

1923 | The devil is in the detail

Leicester City Police used an unmarked motorbike for speeding enforcement as early as 1923. In July 1923 the Chief Constable, Herbert Allen, noticed that a young PC, Thomas William Haywood, appeared to have a real interest in motorcycles. After a discussion on the potential to operate a motorcycle patrol, Haywood was instructed to buy a suitable bike. He bought a Triumph S.D. Not just any bike, the Triumph has just finished second at the Isle of Man TT and held a number of speed records - if he had been asked to buy a car, he may well have bought a Ferrari! Dressed like a gamekeeper, Haywood patrolled on his bike and reported two drivers on his first day and four on his second - motorists were generally fined 40 shillings and had their licences suspended for six months. Local newspapers took an interest with headlines such as 'War on reckless motorists' and 'Haywood Strikes Again'. His activities caused a storm of correspondence to editors and to the Chief Constable about 'ungentlemanly' methods of enforcement. Haywood was a significant character. He later taught the Chief Constable to drive, and after transferring to the detective department he ultimately gained the rank of Detective Superintendent. In one of his early cases he investigated an overnight burglary at a furrier's shop. He made enquiries at the railway station and found that a man with a large parcel had boarded a train to Durham. After a phone call, Durham police detained the man and recovered over £600 worth of furs. Bill travelled up to Durham where, on searching the suspect's home, he recovered wax impressions of the keys to the shop.

1924 | The devil is in the detail

An interesting picture taken at Leicester Town Hall after the City Police Ball in 1924 showing various police uniforms from throughout the ages. Why was the devil in attendance?

1931 | Police boxes introduced

Police boxes were introduced in 1931 to make it easier for people living in remote parts of the county to contact the police. The boxes meant that residents no longer had to go in search of their local police officer and officers could be notified and dispatched on their motorbikes much quicker.

The first boxes in Leicestershire were in Lutterworth, Arnesby, North Kilworth and Ullesthorpe and others followed shortly after. By 1967, many homes had a telephone and police boxes were removed as they were no longer considered necessary. Our only remaining operational police box stands at the entrance to Bradgate Park. It originally stood at North Kilworth and was transferred to its current site in 1952. Photo of the police box at Bradgate Park

1932 | First traffic officer introduced

A police officer, complete with white hat and gloves, directs traffic.

1936 | Where did 999 come from?

The idea of having an emergency number rather than going through the operator was suggested after a fire killed five women in London. When neighbours tried to call the switchboard by dialling 0, they found the line to be jammed and so they were not able to let the emergency services know about the fire. It was suggested that a three digit number was used which would then trigger an alert and a flashing light at the exchange.

999 was suggested as it was the number nine featured at the end of the dial and so would be easier to find in thick smoke or in the dark. The 999 system was launched in July 1937 covering a 12 mile radius in Central London and received 1,336 calls during the first week.

Leicestershire Police now receive over 121,000 per year.

1947 | Got your number!

In Leicestershire, officers have been given numbers since the formation of Leicester Borough Police in 1836. It is not clear whether our earlier officers displayed their numbers on their long-sleeved coats, but it had certainly become common practice by the late 19th Century in all three forces to wear a closed collar tunic with the officer’s number (and often the force crest) picked out in metal numerals on either side of the stiff collar.

This practice established one of the more enduring elements of police terminology and officers will still refer today to their ‘collar number’, even though the practice ended in 1947 with the issue of open-neck tunics, when the numbers were transferred to the shoulders.

For most officers their collar number is as much a part of them as their name. As a relatively small force, all Leicestershire officers are identified by a number between one and four figures that they keep throughout their service, regardless of rank, promotions or posting. Photo showing collar number

1951 | The first mobile police station

Leicestershire & Rutland Constabulary got its first mobile police station

1953 | John Buck

In June 1853, John Buck resigned from his position as a part time medical officer with Leicester Borough Police to become superintendent of the Leicestershire and Rutland County Lunatic Asylum.

During his time in control, Buck reformed the harsh prison-like treatment and restraint of patients. He persuaded the Commissioners for Lunacy to build a number of new buildings including a wash house, bakery, chapel, recreation hall, workshops and farm buildings which were used both for servicing the asylum and providing a wide range of job opportunities for the inmates. Buck also formed a brass band among the inmates and organised frequent excursions outside the asylum for groups of 10 to 20 patients.

The Asylum's original building still survives today - it is now the University of Leicester's Fielding Johnson Building.

1962 | Ford Zephyr police cars

Police patrol cars at London Road force headquarters, the Ford Zephyr 6 mkIII, were the largest passenger cars in the British Ford range.

1964 | Come rain or shine...

PC Arthur Clarke was photographed during his shift at the Clock Tower in the winter of 1963/64. On this freezing eight hour shift, people kindly brought him cardboard to stand on, but it did not help against the cold. Arthur is now 81 years old and lives in Redcar, North Yorkshire. Photos of Arthur in 1964 and today

1965 | Magic eye

Chief Superintendent Antill stood by the side of the M1 checking speeds of motorists with the force’s new “magic eye” – today known as a speed camera. The new equipment meant that the speed could be set at certain point, in this case 70mph, and anything going faster than this would trigger the camera. The date, place, speed and registration were recorded so that the driver could be traced. The machine was even able to take photographs at night using an automated flashlight

1974 | Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder

A Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder (VASCAR) control panel in a police car was the predecessor to the speed camera.

The switch would be flicked as a fixed point (usually a bridge, manhole cover or road sign) was passed and then switched off when the vehicle in question passed a fixed point further down the road. The units cost around £600 each and contained a small computer which then worked out the speed that the vehicle had travelled between the two points.

1982 | Police Support Volunteer John Marriott receiving his long service medal

Eighty-five-year-old Police Support Volunteer John Marriott offers his time every Wednesday to monitor CCTV footage from around Leicestershire. Based at Melton police station, and using the police airwaves for information, John is tasked to observe specific areas in order to collate footage for officers to use for evidence and developing a case.

More than 50 years ago, during his employment as a tailor, John started his service with Leicestershire Special Constabulary where he covered the Belgrave and Beaumont Leys area. He received a long service medal in 1982 and in total, served 23 years as a special between 1962-1985.

After retiring from his later employment as a truancy officer, he returned to Leicestershire Police in 2000 as a police support volunteer.

He continues to look fondly on his time as SPC3 and continues to share stories of his service as a special.

1986 | Leicester City football success

Leicester City played against Nottingham Forest at Filbert Street stadium, Leicester. The teams went head to head twice during 1986, with Leicester City winning both of the matches. Photo of police controlling the crowd courtesy of Leicester Mercury

1989 | Kegworth air disaster

Friday 8 January 2016 marks the 27th anniversary of the Kegworth air disaster. The British Midland Flight 92, a Boeing 737-400, crashed onto the embankment of the M1 motorway near Kegworth, Leicestershire. The aircraft was attempting to conduct an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport.

Of the 126 people on board, 47 died and 74, including seven members of the flight crew, sustained serious injuries.

1990 | IRA bomb

On 20 February 1990, Leicester City Centre was rocked by an IRA bomb attack on an army van in Rutland Street. Luckily the bomb fell off the back of the vehicle before it went off and so there were no fatalities. However, the blast shook buildings within a 200 yard radius. Two army personnel and a civilian were treated at the Leicester Royal Infirmary for minor injuries and shock. At least 50 detectives and officers were involved in the investigation.

1996 | Speed awareness

A life sized cardboard policeman was enlisted to help slow down traffic on the county’s roads.

1999 | Going somewhere in a hurry

The force invested in a number of new fast response motorbikes. Photo of PC Darren Blaylock riding one of the new bikes

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