A Brief History of the Training Centre, Tadworth.

by Kevin Gordon

In common with most County and Borough Forces, there was little formal training for Railway Police recruits prior to the Second World War. A newly recruited officer could expect to work alongside a more experienced officer for a few weeks before being allowed out on independent patrol. Of all the Railway Police Forces, the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) Police received the best training, providing officers with facilities for education and “mutual improvement”. This force also sent officers to the Metropolitan Police Training School at Peel House, London or to some of the larger County Forces who were also beginning to set up training schools. Railway Police Officers were provided with a Manual of Guidance and could read about new legislation and advice on “report writing” of “statement taking” in General Orders. Some Railway Forces held weekly classes held by senior officers.

Keen officers could purchase their own law books such as “The Police Code” by C.E.H. VINCENT of Scotland Yard (first published in 1881) or “Moriarty’s Police Law” by Cecil MORIARTY, former Chief Constable of Birmingham. This was first published in 1929.

During the War the Railway Companies temporarily amalgamated under the umbrella of the “Railway Executive”. Regular meetings were held by the companies Chiefs of Police to discuss the mutual problems of policing the busy railway network during wartime. Rationing and the regular blackouts made the railways a lucrative and easy target for thieves; indeed during the War years, the numbers of thefts on the railways exceeded all English and Welsh Police forces put together! At this time the Railway Police were the second largest Force in the country and were supplemented by hundreds of Special Constables.

During a meeting of the Chiefs of Railway Police held on 21st October 1943, the post-war training of recruits was discussed. The subject was brought up at subsequent meetings and in April 1944 it was agreed that the meetings ruling body (The Railway Staff Conference) be approached with a view to establishing a “Railway Police School”.

In December 1944 it was reported that the proposals had been accepted. The Chiefs of Police Group decided that two officers from each Railway Police Force should be nominated to attend a “Special Course for Civilian Police Instructors” at Peel House, the Metropolitan Police Training School. Places were reserved on three courses at a cost of £2.10s.0d per week per officer.

The Officers who attended this course were:

Great Western Railway Police

W.O. GAY Assistant to Chief of Police

G. CARVOSSO Assistant to Chief of Police

London North Eastern Railway Police

E.A MOODY Detective Inspector

J.A CLARK Inspector (1st class)

R. LANCASTER Inspector (3rd class)

A.S. POOLEY Detective Sergeant

London Midland and Scottish Railway Police

S.P. SMALL Inspector (1st class)

J.R. HILL Sergeant

J. O’NEIL Detective Sergeant

London Passenger Transport Board Police

E.C. HUNT Inspector (2nd class)

Southern Railway Police

F. BREWER Detective Sergeant

J. R. STEVENS Detective Sergeant


These officers were asked that on completing their course, each should draw up a syllabus of training Railway Police recruits. The course should be of 14 weeks duration and include physical training and drill.

In March 1945, the Chiefs of Police were asked to approach their individual railway companies with a view to ascertaining if premises suitable for a Railway Police School would be available after the war. As a result, three properties were considered:

  • “Beenham Grange”, Aldermaston, Berkshire;
  • “Newberries”, a premises occupied by the R.AF in Radlett Hertfordshire, and
  • “St Cross” a former school in Walton on the Hill, near Tadworth in Surrey.

A decision was made by the Chiefs of Police Group in August 1945 to purchase “Newberries” in Hertfordshire. They also set up a Training Sub-Committee. It was then agreed that the recruit course should be 13 weeks long and that a Commandant should head the School.

Two names for the post of Commandant were discussed; Mr G. STEPHENS, the Chief of Police for the Great Western Railway Police and a Mr FRANKTON, a former Superintendent with the Metropolitan Police. In a heated discussion in September 1945, the experience of Mr FRANKTON, being a former Commandant at the Metropolitan Police School, secured him the job. Mr STEPHENS, who was of the opinion that the appointment should be from within the railway police service, walked out of the meeting.

Mr FRANKTON was appointed on a salary of £800 per annum and the Deputy Commandant, Detective Sergeant BREWER of the Southern Railway Police at a salary of £650 per annum. DS BREWER at that time was preparing a police manual to be used by all Railway Police Forces.

Maybe the premises in Radlett became unsuitable or perhaps the R.AF. were slow in releasing the property, but, in November 1945 the Training Sub-Committee reported that “St Cross” was now to be purchased. “St Cross” was a High School built in 1911 on the outskirts of Walton on the Hill, Surrey on the site of an old Roman Villa. A stream ran down the eastern side of the grounds and the schoolboys had formal gardens to tend and a large model railway to play with. A wooden chapel catered for their religious needs. At the outbreak of the war an air-raid shelter was built in the grounds but soon the school was evacuated and the building was taken over by the Canadian Army who used it as a Convalescent Home and extended the air raid shelter to accommodate beds. By 1945, the Canadians had left and the premises were taken over by the “War Office Selection Board”.

The school was suitable for training up to 100 recruits at a time and two nearby cottages in Sandlands Road were requisitioned by the local authority for use as accommodation for the Commandant and his Deputy. Mr DRAKE, the owner of the school offered certain cups which had previously been presented to the pupils, to the Training School for competitions amongst students.

The first recruit courses for the Railway Police commenced early in 1946 but as “St Cross” was not ready, these were held at offices in Eversholt Street near Euston Station. “St Cross” needed alterations and whilst these were taking place, accommodation at the school had to be limited to 30 students. Inspectors MOODY (L.N.E.R.Police) and HILL (L.M.S.R Police) were appointed as permanent instructors and others were appointed on a rota basis by other Railway Forces.

The first courses to be held at “St Cross” started in July 1946, but the students had to travel daily and as there were no canteen facilities, had to bring their own food. As rationing was still in place, the Commandant even had to apply to the Food Office for permission to supply tea and coffee.

Class hours were from 9.45am to 4.pm. and the Commandant requisitioned the following equipment from the Southern railway to enable these first courses to take place:

Tables for class work

40 chairs

8 Oil Stoves

40 Gallons of Oil

Chalk and dusters

Exercise Notebooks

50 copies of “Moriarty’s Police Law”

Pencils: black and indelible

Toilet paper

Cleaning materials

Teapots, cups and saucers

Large Tea urn

Police Notebooks

Lined Foolscap paper

Presumably the two classrooms still had the blackboards from school days. By September 1946 the Deputy Commandant and his family had moved into one of the cottages in Sandlands Grove near the school gates. The Commandant at this time was preparing for forthcoming courses and dealing with the day to day running of the school. He made an application to the Home Office for 200 pairs of gym shoes and the provision of a Police Canteen. Both were turned down but he did get a telephone (Tadworth 2202) installed.

In December 1947 Sergeant LAFLlN was appointed as the resident Duty Officer and Drill Instructor. He was to remain in this post for many years and became a popular figure not only with the students but locally as he managed the local village football team.

Up until this time London Transport had had no input into the setting up of the school but it was agreed that from January 1948 Inspector HUNT of the London Transport force should give occasional assistance with the training.

The Training School was formally opened by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Hugh TURNBULL, K.CV.O., K.B.E. the Commissioner of the City of London Police on Friday 12th December 1948. Before the ceremony, Sir Hugh inspected a passing-out parade of 50 students and watched a demonstration of drill and self-defence. He said that the school excelled compared to other Police Training establishments and hoped that it would have a happy and successful future. By the time the school was formally opened, 679 Police Officers (including 35 women) had already attended Tadworth for their training. At this time there were over 4000 officers in the Force.

In January 1949, Course 19, the first residential course commenced. The Training School at this time consisted of two classrooms, a mock court room (in the former chapel), 5 dormitories, 2 bathrooms and accommodation for instructors and “servants”. Unfortunately the large model railway lay-out was removed, one cannot help thinking that this would have been a useful aid for training purposes!

During the 1950s the facilities improved and a canteen was provided. In 1955 a nearby house “Withybed” on the far side of the school playing fields was requisitioned for use as a dormitory. Following complaints that highly “bulled” boots were getting spoilt a raised path was built and this is still visible today. In 1959 the old wooden gymnasium was replaced with an “Assembly Room” which included a stage, dance floor and a small bar. This building was opened by the Right Honourable Lord RUSHOLME, then the Chairman of the Police Committee.

Sadly, in December 1967 the School was closed for proposed development and George WIMPEY & Co applied for planning permission to build 107 houses on the school site. Mr BLACKMORE and Mr HOLMES were retained to work as gardeners but thankfully, as the land was part of the London Green-Belt planning permission was rejected.

Whilst Tadworth was closed training for the British Transport Police transferred initially to Beckenham and then to “New Lodge” part of the British Railways Training School in Windsor.

Sir Frederick HAYDAY C.B.E. re-opened “St Cross” as the British Transport Police Force Training Centre on 21st July 1971. As well as basis recruit training, a wide range of other courses were crammed into the busy training schedule including Cadet and refresher courses as well as specialist courses including those for Policewomen, Detectives, Radio Communications and Crime Prevention.

The Centre was further improved in 1981 when a 42-room bedroom block was built at a cost of £440,000. The block was formally opened on 23rd October that year by Mr J. G. URQUHART, the Chairman of the Police Committee. The new block was later named “the KIDD building” after Detective Sergeant Robert KIDD was murdered whilst on duty in Wigan in 1899. At the same time the former dormitories were altered to become classrooms and a library which included a TV Studio. Other improvements at this time included a new dining room adjoining the kitchen.

British Transport Police have often been in the forefront of the British Police service and were the first Police Force in the country to use Police Dogs. Training for Police Dogs previously occurred at Hull and Elstree in Hertfordshire but in March 1984 a new Police Dog School was opened within the grounds of the Training Centre. It provided office and kennel accommodation for the 35 Dog Handlers of the Force. Not only “general” police dogs were trained here but also sniffer dogs for detecting explosives and drugs.

Improved facilities made it possible for conferences to be held at Tadworth. Seminars for Senior Police Officers were, regularly held and in September 1984 the Centre hosted a three-day conference with delegates from 7 European Police Forces who discussed the problems with international football traffic. Similar conferences were held prior to the Euro96 football tournament held in England and the Eur02000 tournament.

The Home Office utilised the Training Centre for many years in the 1990s for holding its “Osprey” Promotion Examinations and officers from other Forces from all over the country attended to take their exams.

Under the direction of the Chief Constable Desmond O’BRIAN Q.P.M., the training methods for the Force changed. The British Transport Police was split into 8 areas, each having an Area Training Unit of an Inspector and three Constables. The Commandant of the Training Centre was re-titled “Force Training Officer” and was based at Force Headquarters in central London leaving the Training Centre to be run by a Chief Inspector. The instructors or trainers had previously been Sergeants or Inspectors but at the turn of the century the majority were Constables.

A new accommodation and training block which provided further bedroom / study facilities for students as well as two modern classrooms. This block was opened in 1993 and named “the WINTER building”. PC Keith WINTER who was killed whilst on duty in Hull when he attended a traffic accident involving a petrol lorry. With the opening of this new block the old chapel, that had been used for many years as a draughty classroom, was demolished.

A famous figure in the school during the 1980s and 1990s was Mrs Sylvia JOBSON, the House Manageress. Due to her efforts in maintaining the high standards of catering at the school and ensuring that the Centre ran smoothly, she was awarded the M.B.E. in 1994. She died suddenly and a new 84 seat Dining Hall was named after her when it was opened in 1997.

The Training Centre boasted a well-equipped Resource Centre with Internet access and a Computer Training Room. The Centre provided continuation training for recruits who also attended Home Office Police Training Centres as part of their probation. Other courses included those for Detective and Specialist selection, Computer and Major Incident training. Sexual Offences and Victim Support courses were also held.

Although there was no longer a call for drill, fitness of police Officers was of great importance and the Centre contained a Fitness Centre. A civilian Fitness and Health Officer provided not only fitness but also self-defence and safety training.

By the year 2000, Chief Inspector Adrian WELLS was Head of Centre and his team included three Sergeants and five Constables. One of the Sergeants was responsible for Investigative Training and Development. The civilian support staff included three administration officers, the House Manageress, two chefs, and several domestic staff. A Technology Training manager and Recourse Centre Manager were also based at the Centre.

The British Transport Police Training Centre remained a centre of excellence and was renowned throughout the country for providing excellent facilities for Police training which exceeded those provided by many other Forces.


[Second Edition, June 2000]


Also, see The Official Opening of Tadworth