120 Year History of Docks Police to End

by Martin McKay

Back in July 2013, this website published an article by Graham Major on Canal Policing after 1948, the article had originally appeared in the BTPHG Year Book 2013.

One question that arose from that article was why did the BTCP only take over policing of the Aire and Calder Navigation – which included Goole Docks – in 1954, which was several years after the canal had been nationalised and placed under the control of the British Transport Commission?

Recently we were able to make contact with David Holmes, who was the last Police Sergeant at Goole Docks before our withdrawal in 1985. David was able to provide a cutting from the now defunct Goole Chronicle from that year, which sets out the history of policing on the Aire and Calder Navigation as far back as the 1860’s. Although a definitive answer to the original question is not forthcoming, presumably it took several years for the docks and canal to become fully integrated into the Humber Ports Group, and therefore policing arrangements remained as before. But if anyone has anymore information we would be pleased to know.

David Holmes was also able to supply a list of names of Police Sergeants in charge at Goole Docks whilst it was under the control of the BTCP / BTP:
Robert Palten (retired),
Jack Hartley (retired as Inspector at Southampton),
Ernest Redfearne (died in service), and
David Holmes (retired as Detective Sergeant at Hull Rail).

One interesting question remains. Who policed the canal prior to the West Riding Constabulary? The various parts of what would become the Aire and Calder Navigation were begun in the late 1700’s, and the canal and docks were complete in 1826. Previous research suggests that constables were probably on the canal in 1840, yet the West Riding Constabulary was not formed until 1856.

So did the canal employ their own constables prior to 1856, as many canals did?

The research continues…..

Here is the Goole Chronicle article:

120 year history of docks police to end

For more than a century Goole Docks has had a full-time police force. Soon it will disappear, and in this article Mr Harold Crabtree, retired senior administration assistant with Associated British Ports, reviews the history of this special force.

The history of policing Goole Docks goes back to the early 1860s when the Aire and Calder Navigation, who constructed and developed the Port of Goole, made arrangements for a constable of the West Riding of Yorkshire Constabulary to be appointed for full-time duty on the dock’s estate.
As the docks were extended and the trade of the port steadily increased, the police presence was steadily augmented until it reached the level of one sergeant and five constables.
The cost was borne jointly by the Aire and Calder Navigation and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. The railway company, who had important interests in the docks area, although they never owned any of the land (they only leased parts of it from the Aire and Calder Navigation) – contributed slightly less to the cost than the Aire and Calder. In later years, other shipping companies operating regular services from the port also made small but regular contributions to the cost of the police services.

Some 20 years after the appointment of the first constable, under the provisions of the Aire and Calder Navigation – inspired Ouse (Lower) Improvement Act of 1884, the company obtained powers to appoint Special Constables from their own staff to act, as and when required, on its own property and up to a quarter of a mile around any land or property they owned.
A Company’s Special Constable could apprehend offenders “by night and by day” for damaging property or attempting to commit a felony or for breaking the peace”. To assist in his duties, he had powers to enter any vessel lying in the docks or canals.
Additionally, he could take into custody without a warrant, “any loose, idle or disorderly person disturbing the peace” and “all persons loitering about the towing paths etc. between sunset and 8am”.
To resist a Special Constable was to make one liable to a fine of ten pounds (a  large sum in those days), or to imprisonment “with or without hard labour”, for any period not exceeding two calendar months.
The appointment of Special Constables continued right up to the nationalisation of the Aire and Calder Navigation on January 1, 1948. In the 1930s a Company’s Special Constable received a quarterly payment of thirty shillings (£1.50) in recognition of being available for his special duties if required and a sergeant received twice as much, three pounds.

On the outbreak of World War I, in August 1914, additional special constables were appointed for the duration of the war.
Each constable was issued with a truncheon stamped A & C N, a whistle marked “Leeds Police – Hudson’s Patent” and an armlet showing his number and the lettering A & C N. He was “armed” with a warrant signed by two magistrates of the West Riding of the County of York and a leather wallet in which to keep it, together with a printed extract entitled: “Powers of Special Constables appointed under the Act 3 & 4 Vic. Cap. 50”.

The West Riding Police, of course, had full police powers and were frequently charged with certain particular responsibilities. One instance is that of Police Sergeant  T. Lancaster, who was appointed to the Goole Police in 1909, at a time when the port was heavily engaged in the shipment of five horses to the continent in the steamers of the Goole Steam Shippers Company.
The horses were mainly brought to the docks by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company’s rolling stock. At that time, the “L and Y” owned the Goole Steam Shipping Company.
Sergeant Lancaster’s particular responsibility was to oversee the “decrepit horse traffic” and to ensure that all the regulations concerning the treatment of the horses were strictly observed. When he retired in 1921 after twenty-five years police service, it was reported that during his twelve years at the Port of Goole, he had supervised the shipment of over 94,000 horses.
The number of Company Special Constables was reduced after World War I, while the West Riding Constabulary continued their full-time docks policing.

When World War II commenced in September 1939, the staff of the Aire and Calder Navigation, reduced as the trade of the port fell.
In addition, many who were members of Territorial Army units or forces reserve were called to the colours in August 1939, while more left in due time under the Conscription Acts. Others joined the “Home Guard” and most of the remainder performed night-time fire watching duties in case of German air raids.
The regular police were augmented by special constables who wore full Special Constabulary uniform and some of these were frequently on regular duty on the Goole docks estate.

At the end of World War II, policing of the docks reverted once again to the West Riding Constabulary, paid for still by the Aire and Calder Navigation who received contributions towards the cost from the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company (which had succeeded the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company in the early 1920s) and to a lesser extent from other shipping companies operating regular services from the port.

This arrangement continued until August 1, 1954; by which time the Aire and Calder Navigation had been nationalised and replaced by the British Transport Commission.
The Port of Goole was then one of the Humber Ports Group, controlled from Hull by a Chief Docks Manager.
On that date policing was taken over from the West Riding Constabulary by the British Transport Police. The establishment at Goole consisted of one sergeant and four constables, all uniformed. Administrative, C.I.D., and other specialist services were also provided from Hull. This arrangement has continued.
Now it has been announced that the services of the British Transport Police will be continued to the middle of 1985. We wait to see how they will be replaced.


First published in the Goole Chronicle, Thursday 28th February 1985.

Special thanks to Henry Wreathall and Tony Haigh for their enquiries and for making contact with David Holmes.