Kent Police Museum Logo - Based at The Chatham Historic Dockyard the Museum traces the history of The Kent Police Force from it's early days right through to modern times.
     
 
Wed 03 Sept , 2014
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History

The history of the Police in the United Kingdom is long and interesting. Following the Peters Field Riots, known as the 'Peterloo Massacre', in Manchester in 1819, Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary at the time, was tasked with setting up a lawful uniformed police service for the Metropolis of London.

Following the successful start, and the acceptance by the public of 'uniformed officers' on the streets, the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 required all new corporations to set up a police force. It was not until 1856 that the County and Borough Police Act made the requirement for all counties to have a uniformed police service.

John Henry Hay RuxtonThe Kent County Constabulary started on January 14th 1857, with 222 officers and men, under the Chief Constable, John Henry Hay RUXTON. Captain Ruxton was an army man, serving in the Kings Own Regiment, with the experience to organise the complete setting up of the force. He had twice been in charge of convict ships to the new world, Australia, where it was his role to set up the settlements for the convicts, arranging barracks for the soldiers under his command, and prison blocks for the transportees. With this experience, he rented the first police headquarters at Wrens Cross, Stone Street, Maidstone. These premises are still there, and are used by the Kent County Council. On 23rd November 1860 Wrens Cross was purchased for the force at a cost of 1,200.

At this time there were police forces within the county in the towns of Canterbury, Deal, Dover, Faversham, Folkestone, Gravesend, Hythe, Maidstone, Margate, Rochester, Ramsgate, Sandwich, Tenterden, and Tunbridge Wells.

Example of an early Frock CoatInitially the uniform consisted of a Frock Coat and a high hat, but in 1860, the long uniform tunic and Shako hat were adopted. The constables were issued with a staff, (truncheon), and a rattle to summon assistance. Whistles were issued to the Kent Force in 1885, although many of the borough forces had been taking them into use for several years prior to this, as they had been moving from high hats and shakos, to the more readily recognisable 'bobbies' helmet. Kent adopted the helmet in 1897.

The borough forces of Deal, Hythe, Faversham, Sandwich and Tenterden were merged with the Kent Constabulary on 1st April 1889, leaving just nine autonomous forces, which amalgamated with Kent on 1st April 1943.

Captain Ruxton retired from the post of Chief Constable, on August 14th 1894, after 37 years in the post. During this time an order was made that 'for health reasons' county officers were not allowed to shave. This however, was rescinded in 1873.

Over the course of his term as Chief Constable, Mr Ruxton was known as the Gentleman Chief, as he was more often that not, seen in his plus fours and tweed jacket than his uniform. He was a firm but a fair man, and woe betide any man that crossed his path twice. He had many police stations built throughout the county, some that still stand as a monument to him. He died on 20th April 1897, and is buried in the parish church cemetery, in Hawkhurst.

SuperintendentWhen the Kent County Constabulary was formed, there were 12 Superintendents in charge of Divisions, and each was issued with a horse and a two-wheeled cart. Apart from the obvious supervisory role, they were used for a variety of purposes. For example, they were used to convey prisoners to the prisons in Canterbury and Maidstone. The death of a certain Samuel Wilson in 1892 prompted the issue of an instruction that a covered vehicle was to be used for this purpose in inclement weather and prisoners should never be conveyed in an open vehicle 'without a sufficiency of clothing'.

CyclistsA constable was usually detailed to look after the horse and cart and to drive it when it was not being used by the Superintendent, the position being formalised in 1884 with the appointment of Groom Constables. The horses were also used as mounts for the Superintendent, and some of the officers who were ex army used them as a patrol 'vehicle'. In 1896 20 bicycles were purchased for the force, at a cost of 8 each, however, by 1904 there were 129 bicycling police patrols in Kent. Each cycle patrol was issued with a forage cap, knickers and puttees. The forage cap being replaced in 1915 with a peaked cap.

At this time, police officers were working 7 days a week, and it was not until 1912, that PC's, Sergeants and Inspectors were allowed one day off in every 14.

To improve communications, telephones were installed in all rural sergeants offices in 1925, followed in 1930 with the purchase of 8 motorcycles for the rural sergeant's use. In 1931, the county bought 1 car and 19 motorcycles for road patrol.

In 1935, it was realised that the premises at Wrens Cross were too small, and the present site, at Sutton Road, was purchased.

In 1943, the last Kent Constabulary horse, Bess, retired from her service.

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