A Short History of Policing at Newport (Monmouthshire) Harbour and Docks

Researched by Viv Head


The following paragraph is extracted from the Alexandra (Newport & South Wales) Docks and Railway Company Records

1. Newport Docks: Administrative / Biographical History

1.1 The Newport Dock Bill received assent in 1835 to develop an inland port. The Newport Dock Company was the forerunner of the Alexandra (Newport and South Wales) Docks and Railway Company. By 1864, the docks were becoming congested with the increase in water and inland traffic.

   In 1865, the first Lord Tredegar, Sir Charles Morgan (1792-1873), formed the Alexander Dock Company in Newport, Monmouthshire. The Newport North Dock and Lock was opened in 1875. Following an Act of Parliament of 1882, the Alexandra (Newport) Dock Company and the Newport Dock Company were amalgamated to become the Alexandra (Newport & South Wales) Docks and Railway Company (ANDR). The new company took over Old Town Docks in 1884.

The company also constructed a railway line connecting the docks to inland towns. The Pontypridd, Caerphilly & Newport Railway Company (PC&N) was incorporated in 1878, but not completed for many years.

In 1922 the Alexandra (Newport & South Wales) Docks and Railway Company (ANDR) was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway Company under the Government’s scheme to form just four railway companies.

SOURCE: Company Records:



1.2 Note:

Other company records references are: Gwent Record Office, Catalogue of Records of Alexandra (Newport & South Wales) Docks and Railway Company; Davis, Haydn, The history of the borough of Newport: from swamp to super-town (Newport, 1998); Hutton, John, The Newport Docks & Railway Company (Wadenhoe, 1996).



2.1 The Monmouthshire Merlin newspaper of 25.08.1855 records that the Newport Dock Act was given Assent in July 1835 allowing start of construction work but financial problems and industrial unrest in 1842, led to a body of well-armed Police being sent to quell the disturbance. [Almost certainly Newport Town police.]

2.2 The same article carried information on the inquest of PC William NASH, age 31yrs found drowned on 11.08.1855 when he fell into the water of the Town Pill1, while on foot patrol near the Cinderhill Wharf.  1[The term ‘pill’ refers to a cut or inflow of water into a river where small boats can be moored.]

2.3 There are currently ‘four’ names on the UK Digital RoH Memorial

http://digital.ukpolicememorial.org/ under the list of Newport Harbour Police, including William Nash mentioned in 2.2 above.

2.4 Another is:

PC John Clement MAULE died 08.11.1868 – drowned when he fell into the harbour.

No other details known

2.5 However there is some confusion over the other two, the entries for which are.

PC Alfred RODWAY said to have drowned at Blaina Wharf, 07.01.1864

Alfred Briggs RODAWAY, shown to have died on 07.01.1861

In fact, research has found they are one and the same person, correctly, it is-

Alfred Briggs RODAWAY who drowned at Blaina Wharf, 07.01.1864

Having rescued a drunken seaman from the river he took him to the Docks Police Station to ‘sleep it off’.  He then returned to his beat where he slipped into the water and drowned. A Sergeant Pratten is also mention in a related article

The organisers of the UK Digital RoH Memorial have been informed and hopefully this error will be corrected soon.

2.6 There are 11 officers in the Newport Borough Police shown on the Digital Memorial under Gwent Police. Alfred Biggs Rodaway and William Nash are also shown there as well under Newport Harbour Police.


2.7 The first mention found of an Alexander Dock & Railway Company policeman is Pc Comley 30.01.1873 (www.headline.org.uk original source not quoted) (A BNA search for Comley did not find any results)


3. The Newport Harbour

3.1 The Newport Harbour Commissioners were originally constituted in 1836 under the Newport (Monmouthshire) Harbour Act [not found by a digital search] and initially comprised some thirty-six Commissioners. The Commissioners are an independent statutory body and are classed by Her Majesty’s Government as a Trust Port. The Commissioners are the Statutory Harbour Authority (SHA) for the Newport Harbour, and (in modern times) the main duties and responsibilities of the Commissioners, are the provision and maintenance of navigation aids and generally to ensure the safety of navigation within the Newport Harbour of the River Usk.

3,2 Although usually referred to as Newport Harbour Police (NHP) their full title was the Newport Harbour Commission Police (NHCP) and it is by this abbreviation that they will now be referred to in this paper. There is no indication as to when the NHCP was formed but it is likely to have been not long after the Commission itself was formed in 1836. It was certainly in place when Constable Nash was drowned in 1855. It was still in existence at least until 1883. (See Para:5)

Note: Wikipedia has a list of abolished dock and port police forces. The Newport Harbour [Commission] Police is listed but has no information attached to it.


3.3 The Local Canal Network

The Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal received its act in 1793. It was open from Gllwern to Brecon by the end of 1800 and by 1812 had it joined the Monmouthshire Canal near Pontypool and so provided a through route to Newport and its river wharfs. The canals were profitable mostly with coal traffic, but the arrival of the railways brought serious decline.

   It has been suggested that the Newport Harbour Commission bought the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal Company (B&ACC) but no evidence of this can be found. The Monmouthshire Railway & Canal Company bought out the B&ACC in 1865, but the  Monmouthshire Canal gradually closed, while the Brecon line was retained as a water feeder. Control of both canals passed to the Great Western Railway in 1880. It might have been a convenient time for the NHCP to have also been passed on to GWR but the existence of the 1883-1886 truncheon (See Para 5 below) proves that was not the case.

(www.mbact.org.uk/canals.php) (Wikipedia)



4.1 The Monmouthshire Merin & South Wales Advertiser 12 January 1867


The usual monthly meeting of the Commissioners of the Port and Harbour of Newport was held in the Council Chamber, on Friday 11 January 1867.


The Chief Superintendent suggested the appointment by the Board of a medical officer to attend to the harbour constables, as is the case with the borough force. Dr Davies was appointed at a salary of £5 per annum


A memorial from the harbour police was read, requesting to have their scale of pay assimilated to that recently introduced into the borough force. After a brief conversation, the application was granted but Mr. Batchelor objected to such changes being made without previous notice being given.

4.2 The Monmouthshire Merin & South Wales Advertiser 11 May 1867


The annual meeting of the Commissioners for the port and harbour of Newport, was held in the Council Chamber, on Friday 10 May 1867.

POLICE REPORT. the Gentlemen,- I beg to lay before you my report of the operation of the Harbour Police for the past year. No serious ship or other robbery connected with the maritime interests has taken place during the year. The number of persons charged before the magistrates for offences on the wharves, ship desertions, etc is considerably in excess of the year previous, which result may be principally ascribed to extra efficiency through the appointment of additional constables. John Lawless, appointed on probation in September last has since that time, performed his duties to my satisfaction. I shall therefore be obliged by your confirming his appointment. I beg to apply for the usual supply of police clothing. J. HUXTABLE1, Chief Superintendent. It was agreed to give the order for the police uniform to Mr. Reynolds, of London.

1 John Huxtable was Chief Constable of Newport Borough Police 1852 – 1875


Note also that John Lawless was appointed on probation to the Newport Harbour Police in September 1866


5 The NHCP Truncheon

Photos and information on a 19th century painted /decorated truncheon of the Newport Harbour Commission Police have been provided by Ross Mather. Painted Victorian crown and around the mid shaft, the letters N H C. Created in 1836 Newport Harbour Commissioner is a body created by Statute and covered by the Newport (South Wales) Harbour Acts and Orders 1836. It was responsible for the wharves such as the Blaina Wharf, along the River Usk leading to Newport.

The handle end of the staff has the makers stamp mark in the wood – FIELD, 22 TAVISTOCK ST. W.C. From that Ross Mather is able to definitely attribute its manufacture within a very narrow window of 1883 to 1886.


6. Conclusion

6.1 It is clear that the Newport Harbour Police (NHCP) were part of, and financed by, the Newport Harbour Commissioners and that they existed at least between 1855 and 1883. Yet there is an ambiguity in that they seem to have been led in the 1860s by Chief Superintendent John Huxtable who at the same time was Chief Constable of Newport Borough Police. That they were separate from that force though, is indicated by the application for the Newport Harbour Police officers to receive the same increase in salary ‘as was awarded to the Borough Officers.’

6.2 No reference to a ‘Town Dock Police’ has been found. It would therefore seem logical for the NHCP to patrol the Town Dock as well as the wharves on the river. It is unlikely that the Town Dock Company was owned by the Newport Harbour Commissioners from the very fact that it is described as a ‘company’. It was sold to the Alexandra Dock & Railway Company in 1883 for £150,000.

6.3 There is currently no information on what became of the Newport Harbour Commission Police (NHCP) and there is no direct indication to them becoming part of the Alexandra Dock & Railway Police force (a BTP Constituent force), although that remains a reasonable supposition.

6.4 In the absence of any evidence to the contrary I believe it is safe to assume that at some point they were absorbed into the Alexandra Dock & Railway Police and that they are therefore a constituent force. Their existence should rightfully be recorded by the British Transport Police History Group. At least the names of the officers who served, including the death in the course of duty of at least three of their officers, can be fully recorded.

Viv Head (BTPHG Researcher) April 2020

Additional information provided by

Glyn Thomas, Martin McKay, Ross Mather

[This article has also been saved to Rodaway’s CPR]



The following article is taken from the Newport Past website


When colleagues dragged the body of Constable Rodaway from the river Usk at Blaina wharf, the first thing they noticed was that his watch had stopped at 4 o’clock. Only one hour before the time indicated on the be-slimed instrument, the constable had rescued a drunken semen from certain death in the chill January waters of the Usk.

  Rodaway had taken the inebriated sailor to the docks police station to sleep it off and had returned to his beat. Now it was he who lay dead while the man he saved lay in a drunken slumber.

  There had been no lights to guide PC Rodaway as he walked back to his beat that fateful night, having carried out his merciful task. The nightmarish thought that shortly after saving one life is own would be forfeit to the cold swirling muddy waters of the unforgiving river could not have occurred.

  The story is succinctly told in the January 9 edition of the Monmouthshire Merlin the forerunner of the South Wales Argus. The Merlin story read thus:


“On Thursday morning the body of Alfred Rodaway one of the harbour constables, was fly found lying in the mud in the river near the Blaina wharf he was visited on the beat shortly before 3 o’clock by Sergeant Pratten and reported that all was well.

   He was not seen again until his body was discovered in the ebbing of the tide between eight and 9 o’clock. The place where the deceased fell was one of the safest parts along the whole of the dangerous river side, and by what means the deceased was precipitated over the wall is a matter of conjecture and therefore various reports are in circulation, none, however, disparaging to the character of the deceased, who was always a study well conducted officer and who, it was stated, was never once reported during the 10 years he had been in the police service.

   Shortly before Rodaway was seen by Sergeant Pratten he had rescued a drunken seamen from a watery grave and had conveyed him to the station. Soon after this he must have fallen in himself since his watch stopped at 4 o’clock.  

  However distressing the circumstances we have detailed we have still to add the deceased has left behind him a wife and 10 children, the youngest being a fortnight old.

  The deceased has made no provision against a contingency of sickness or death and therefore their grief may be embittered unless of benevolent will extend their assistance to a case so lamentable in its results.

   Why should such a sober public servant meet his death in such an untimely manner leaving a wife and 10 children grieving? Did the benefactors of Newport stump up the money for his widow’s support or did she and her children end up in the workhouse?1 [Then at Wollaston house now the administrative wing of Saint Wallace hospital]

  There is nothing to suggest the officer might not have been entirely sober, but policeman in dock areas, then notorious hotbed of crime and vice had enemies: could it have been one of these who pushed him to his death?

  The mournful sequel to this story is that within days of constable Rodaway’s death his youngest son was taken by sickness and followed him into the hereafter.”

1 A newspaper report of 6 February 1864 reports that a sum of £149.16s.3d. had been raised as a welfare donation.