When town bobbies pounded their beat

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THE story of Hartlepool’s thin blue line against crime began in 1891.

The Mayor was Edward Nixey, Chief Constable was John Metcalfe, and policemen were appointed by the Watch Committee of the Borough.

Robert Wood, writing in the Mail on October 2, 1964, said the committee “at once devised some rules and regulations for its police force to digest”.

These included the qualifications to join the force.

Candidates had to be under 30, over 5ft 9ins without shoes, be able to read and write and “to be free of all bodily complaint, of a strong constitution and generally intelligent”.

The successful candidate would earn 3s6d (17.5p) a day in his first six months, rising to 4s (20p) and promotion to first class constable after two years. After 15 years the pay rose to 4s 6d (22.5p) a day, and if promoted to sergeant the officer would take home between 4s 6d and 5s 4d (27p) a day depending on length of service. There were paid holidays, but just seven days each year.

Robert wrote: “There were no Z Cars in those days and a policeman was always to be found on his beat in the particular place to which he was allotted at that time.”

(Z Cars was the name of a popular TV show between 1962 and 1978, referring to the mobile patrol cars of the time).

“Popular legend has it that policemen have big feet,” wrote Robert, “and when I examine the prescribed beats, I don’t wonder.

“Have calculated that the bobby had to maintain a steady 2.5 miles per hour to get round his beat.

“This might not sound like much but when it is considered that he had to try doors, examine suspicious characters and do a thousand and one things besides walk his beat, I marvel at thow he did it.”

Robert gave the route of number one night beat, starting from the police station, up Middlegate Street to St Mary Street, High Street, to the dock gates along Ferry Walk to the Town Wall.

The bobby would then go along the Town Wall to Sandwell Chare, examining all the passages leading into the High Street, up Sandwell Chare into the High Street.

That was all supposed to take 15 minutes and Robert went on to detail the route for the next hour of the beat.

“By this time I suppose you are dizzy,” wrote Robert, “but the unfortunate bobby isn’t finished yet.”

Another 45 minutes of streets followed, making 1 hour 45 minutes, and a total distance travelled of 6,043 yards.

Robert concluded: “The world of the constable on his beat, keeping his points regularly through the night, seems a long, long time ago and is as much a part of past history as the streets he walked along.”

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@jpress.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.