Southampton Docks Police (2)

Birth of the Division

The formation of Policing of Southampton Docks, Town Quay and the Terminus Railway Station

Part Two

As a reminder, in my first article I wrote about the early development of the Policing of Southampton Docks, Town Quay and Terminus Railway Station, which covered a period between 1836 and 1857. The information I used was based on extracts from Southampton Police Minute Books, held at Southampton Archives.

The first minute book showed that during this period, Southampton Borough Police were responsible for policing the Docks, Town Quay and Railway Station areas, which later fell within the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police.

I have since been researching the 2nd Minute Book held at Southampton Archives, which covers the period from 1857 to 1873. Once again the book is hand written and is made up of nearly 500 pages. I have found a few more entries regarding the Docks, Town Quay and Railway Station which indicate that between the dates of the first and last entries in the book, Southampton Police were still responsible for Policing those Areas.

I have also found entries for the recruitment of a few of the Officers shown in the photo of Southampton Docks Police taken in 1890, also I have photos of their actual signatures. The other item I found in the 2nd Minute Book was reference to a second Railway Station in Southampton, namely Blechynden Station, which is now Southampton Central.

The entries I found in the Minute Book are as follows:

Policeman for the P&O Company Premises:
On Monday 4th July 1859 the Watch Committee received a letter from Captain Engledue, the Superintendent of the P&O Company, requesting the appointment of a suitable person to act as a Police Constable, solely for the protection of premises of the P&O Company at Southampton Docks.
However it was resolved that the Watch Committee held no power to comply with Captain Engledue’s request, as they were unable to recruit a Police Officer solely for the protection of single premises.

Salary of Superintendent of Police:
On Monday 14th January 1861 Superintendent John Enright the Officer in charge of Southampton Police and as mentioned in my first article, made a request to the Watch Committee for an increase in salary. The reasons he stated was that during his 25 years in charge of Southampton Police the Population had increased from 22,886 to 46,000, while there had been considerable increase to the population. Docks had been constructed, bringing an increase to Shipping and there were now Railway Stations on both sides of the Borough. All of which had greatly added to the duties of Superintendent Enright and the Police Force.In his letter Mr Enright cites various reasons why he felt he deserved a salary increase, such as his loyal Police Service to the Borough of Southampton, the fact that he had never received any complaint from the Watch Committee regarding the way he carried out his duties. Also he had been receiving the same salary £150 per year, for many years. It was resolved by the Watch Committee that due to Superintendent Enright’s lengthened and efficient Police Service to the Borough of Southampton and increase in Police Duties bestowed on him, he was entitled to Salary increase from £150 to £200 per year.

Complaint against Constable off his Beat:
A huge number of entries in this particular Minute Book relate to complaints against the Officers of that era. Most of the Complaints appear to relate to Alcohol Consumption and Drunkenness and some of the names appear several times over. This entry concerns an officer who it appears, should have been on duty at Blechynden Railway Station.

On Monday the 22nd of December 1862, the Watch Committee heard from P.S. Harris, that on 24th November 1862 during the early hours of the morning, he had waited 20 minutes at Blechynden Railway Station for P.C. ….. …… believing the P.C. was in the Station. When he finally appeared the P.C. advised the Sergeant that he had been in the Station and had need of the Water Closet. However when questioned by the Watch Committee Chairman, the Officer admitted that he had actually been in a Public House near his beat, with a County Policeman. This Officer was reprimanded by the Watch Committee and advised that if any further charge were preferred against him, he would be dismissed from the Force.

There are also entries relating to the conduct of two of the Officers in the photo. One for being of his beat at West Quay. The other for being found asleep and in a state of intoxication, in the Gate Keepers Box, at Blechynden Railway Station. When questioned, this officer said he had been ill the night before and had gone to the Gate keeper’s box for a cup of cocoa but had taken a little rum instead.

The Watch Committee at the time, seemed quite lenient, as most of the complaints recorded in the Minute book, resulted with a reprimand. Very few Officers were dismissed. Perhaps it was not easy to recruit Police Officers into the force during those times.

Recruitment of Constables:
I have been looking for a link between Southampton Borough Police and the Officers named in the 1890 photograph (mentioned above). I have found entries in the Minute Book, which relate to the recruitment of Officers with the same name, who I am certain are the same Officers in the photo.

The following Officers shown in the photo, were sworn in as Constables of Southampton Borough Police after appearing before the Watch Committee, all of whom having had the Rules and Regulations of the Southampton Police Force, read over to them.

Thomas Shearing                                 27th June 1864

George Fuller                                       24th September 1866

Henry Rowthorn                                   8th January 1867

Henry Batten                                       5th December 1870

Richard Isaacs                                     4th December 1871

Absalom Pugh                                      4th December 1871

John Eldridge                                       24th February 1873

Southampton signatures

(Henry Rowthorn’s name is spelt “Rowthown” in the photo but I think this is the same person.)


Three Lads bathing at the Town Quay:
Monday 4th September 1871, at this meeting the Watch Committee heard from Inspector Harris that he had previously instructed two P.C.’s to apprehend three lads bathing off the Town Quay but these Officers had failed to attend both the incident and the Magistrates Court the following morning, to give evidence about the matter.  The officers were summoned before the Committee and advised to be more careful with their conduct in future.

Accidents at the Pier Head Platform:
3rd January 1872. At this meeting the Watch Committee heard from Mr William Coxwell, Deputy Coroner that the Jury of a recent inquest had asked him to bring to the attention of the Committee, the number of fatal accidents occurring between the Pier Head and Platform at the Town Quay, involving persons falling into the water at night.
Mr Coxwell recommended that a Police Constable should be put on duty at those places to prevent such accidents. The Committee resolved that as there were already 3 Policeman and the Customs House Officer on duty at the Pier and Platform, they could not justify the expense of a further Policeman at the Town Quay. The Committee recommended that Superintendent Breary*, instruct his men on duty at the Pier and Platform to make every effort to prevent such accidents in future.
*Superintendent Breary was successor to Mr Enright, who had retired from the Force, due to ill health.

Policeman for the Quay and Pier:
Monday 2nd September 1872. In connection with the above, the Watch Committee received a letter dated 19th July 1872 from Mr H Skelton. Clerk to the Harbour & Pier Board, stating that the Board were desirous of the constant attendance of a Policeman on the Pier and Quay, and requested the Watch Committee to advise them of the Annual cost of a Constable.
The Watch Committee agreed to appoint a Constable for constant attendance on the Quay and Pier, provided the Harbour Board paid the annual cost of the Officer, which, for a 2nd Class Constable, was £63 19s 0d including clothing.
On Monday the 7th October 1872 the committee received a letter from Mr Skelton advising that his Board were willing to bear the cost of a Policeman for constant attendance on the Quay and Pier.

The last entry I found in this edition of the Minute Books was the recruitment of Constable John Eldridge, as a 5th Class Constable on 24th February 1873.

I have still not been able to find out when Southampton Docks, Town Quay and Railway Stations, ceased to be under the control of Southampton Police, the subject of my project.

I have found an entry in a book entitled “History of Hampshire & Isle of White Constabulary.” By Ian A Watt. Reference is made to a Dock Strike in Southampton, during September 1890, whereby at the request of Southampton’s Head Constable, Hampshire Chief Constable supplied 50 Officers to assist the 60 Officers of Southampton Police, to control a Dock Strike by over 1000 Dock Workers. Having had a request for assistance rejected by the Metropolitan Police. I am hopeful that details of this occurrence will be entered in one of the Minute Books.

This Item supports my theory that at the time the photo was taken in 1890, even though it is of Southampton Docks Police, they were in fact Officers of Southampton Borough Police.

I think I can now safely answer one question about the Jurisdiction of the Southampton Harbour Board Police at the Town Quay. Which was an area within a 1 mile radius, from the Town Quay. Today this area would probably include Southampton Central Station, part of the Western and Eastern Docks and a big chunk of Southampton High Street. These areas probably formed some of the Historic Police Beats patrolled by the early Police Officers in Southampton.

The Harbour Board Police jurisdiction was probably inherited from their days with Southampton Police, as the Station House they patrolled from was within the walls of the Bargate, which is located approximately half a mile from the Town Quay, straight up Southampton High Street.


by David Caplehorn

Extracts from the July and August 2012 editions of History Lines (No. 35 & 36)