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Odell Sharnbrook Paths to Crime Walk stop 8 Police Station

The Old Police Station, Sharnbrook

Sharnbrook Police 1920

Sharnbrook Police in 1920 [ref.QEV20/6]

A Policeman's Lot is not a Happy One

The Quarter Sessions records are littered with descriptions of assaults on policemen by criminals, by their friends and relatives, and even by whole communities when resentment agains the actions of the police spilled over into riots and violence. The case brought by PC Joseph Neal of Sharnbrook against Joseph Bailey is a typical example, although in this instance the policeman escaped unscathed.

PC Neal and his superintendent William Byers Graham had apprehended William Bailey in the parish of Bletsoe and were returning with him to Sharnbrook. At Coffle End Bailey's brother Joseph came up and threatened to "stick" a sickle into Neal's head unless his brother was released. Joseph Bailey followed them to an unnamed public house in Sharnbrook where he was arrested by Superintendant Graham, who searched him and found a sickle under his frock coat. Joseph's efforts were to no avail as his brother William was sentenced to four months hard labour for stealing fowls and Joseph himself received just one month less for assault and rescue.

Local policing was in the hands of parish constables until 1840 when a rural police force of which PC Neal was a member was established. Even these more professional policeman faced difficulties. In Turvey in 1841 PC Thomas Tillyard became the target of a brawling mob when he tried to break up a fight following a hedging and drainage competition. He was forced to flee for sanctuary with the local magistrate. When he found John Higgins of Turvey Abbey was not at home he was pursued by a one hundred strong mob to Turvey House. PC Thomas Sinfield of Eaton Bray had a long running feud with much of the village which culminated in a riot that achieved Monty Pythonesque levels of farce and appears to have led to his removal from the police force.

PC Neal had to take his captive to a public house as the police station at Sharnbrook was not built until 1872 and there was no village lock-up. The new police station incorporated a Sessions House for the Petty Sessions court which was then moved to Sharnbrook from Bletsoe where it had been held since the Division was set up 1830. The police station also included a house for a police inspector who was responsible for policing in the north of the county. The police station closed in 1967 and has since been converted into residential accommodation.

Beats, Boots and Thieves, a book on the history of policing in Sharnbrook has been published by the Sharnbrook Local History Group.

References: QSR1842/4/5/22; QSR1841/2/5/18; QSR1846/3/5/24-25,35-50; QGV10/2