Southampton police force came into being in 1836, one year after the Municipal Corporation Act came into force, which required provincial towns to establish police forces. Prior to this the town had been policed rather inefficiently by watchmen and constables. The first 'Inspector of Police', as the head police officer was then termed, was John Thomas Enright who had been borrowed from the London police to organize the new force. Two sergeants and a number of constables were also appointed. The watch-house and lock up at the Bargate were rebuilt as a station house and another police station established in the St Mary’s district. The quality of the previous force can be gauged by the fact that when Enright made his preliminary inspection he could not find all the existing watchmen until he began to look in the public houses, whereupon he found five of them drinking together in the Rose and Crown.

The strength of the force was increased to 30 by 1853, but in spite of this early attempts to improve efficiency were hampered by a high turnover of personnel. The railway companies' private police forces were much better paid and men were constantly leaving to join one or the other. The force was also too small and the resulting long hours and arduous duty caused dissatisfaction in the ranks. Improvements only began after 1861 when the force was reorganized and augmented.

See also

Further reading:

A History of Southampton City Police, 1836-1967, by Alfred T. Cullen. (HS/lq)
‘Louis Young - A Victorian Policeman’, by Maureen Goss in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, No. 7, Summer 1998, p24-25. (HS/y)


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