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Newbury Borough Police


Dick Godfrey

26 January 2010

7:30pm at St John's Parish Room

Non-members £3

Dick Godfrey, who spoke to us in December 2008 on The Swing Riots, returned to give an evening lecture on the wider aspect of his research, the history of Newbury Borough Police, 1836 – 1875. A brief survey of law and order from Roman times to the early modern period was followed by a chronological account of a long-forgotten local police force in Newbury, a transformation of the old night watch system, formed in 1836 as a result of the Municipal Corporations Act of the previous year. The Berkshire County force was not established until 1856. Mr Godfrey’s well-illustrated talk was based directly on archival sources, especially the County Constabulary Records, Newbury Borough Council Corporation Minute Books, Quarter Sessions Records, and the Watch Committee Minute Book, and brought to life many events in Newbury’s history. In 1840 there was the strange case of the body of a baby girl which had been sent in a basket on the Optima coach from London. In September 1842 many arrests were made after the protests at the enclosure of East and West fields. The Riot Act was read to a mob at the Mansion House during the Parliamentary Elections of 1852. In 1865 it was recorded that police stovepipe hats were to be replaced by helmets. The following year a gruesome double murder and suicide by Henry Martin was reported. In 1868 special constables were summoned by bells as a result of the Fenian ‘scare.’ Stocks were employed in 1872, the last recorded use in the country. Mr Godfrey was congratulated on a most informative and entertaining talk.


Dick Godfrey retired from Thames Valley Police with the rank of Chief Inspector. The later years of his career were served in Newbury, which he has made his home. Always interested in history he has spent his retirement years researching various aspects of the history of crime and the police. His book 'Newbury Borough Police' is almost sold out - but his booklet on 'The Newbury Association for the Apprehension & Prosecution of Thieves and Felons' is still available (see our Publications page). He is currently working on a history of the Wallingford Borough Police.
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