Detective Inspector James Smith


r. James Smith, who retired from the Bolton Borough Police in February last, after 41 years' service, was born on the 14th March, 1849, at Wickin Lees Farm, Tostock, which

is now included in the Borough of Bolton. In August, 1867, he joined the Bolton Borough Police, which then consisted of Mr. James Harris, C.C.; Mr. Thomas Beech, Inspector and Superintendent of Fire Brigade; four Sergeants and 34 Constables.


During his Police career Mr. Smith has seen many changes and improvements in the Service. When he first joined the Force a Constable's pay started at £1 per week, with 1s. rise per year for the first three years. At the end of seven years, with conduct money, the Constable received £1 3s. 7d. per week with an addition of 1s. 2d. per week for merit. The Constables belonging to the Fire Brigade were paid 2s. per week extra. Now a Constable on joining receives 25s. 6d. per week, and may rise to

34s. 6d. The hours of duty, too, were much longer, for the men on day duty worked 13 hours per day, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., with one hour for dinner and half an hour for tea, as against the present eight hours scale.


The night duty men came on duty at 8.45 p.m. every night except Saturday, when they started at 8 p.m. Half left duty at 3 a.m., the other half at 5 a.m., but one man out of this late turn had to remain on duty until 7 a.m., to go and warn the Firemen in case of a fire. There were no Police on street duty from 5 to 8 a.m. The reserve man worked from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. The night duty men had to eat their supper in the street all the year round, with the exception of three months in the winter, when they were allowed 20 minutes under cover.


All the men had one day off every 17th day, but no annual leave. Now they have one day a fortnight in addition to ten days' annual leave.


At the commencement of his service Mr. Smith was for over 12 months on night duty, some men having been on night duty for four or five years. The night men who left duty at 3 a.m. had to come and do Court duty from 9.30 a.m. until the Court was over, whether they had any case or not. The night duty men had also 3 1/2 hours to work every Sunday, the men leaving at 3 a.m. coming on duty at 9.30 a.m. until 1 p.m., and the 5 o'clock men from 2.30 to 6 p.m. The Sergeant on night duty in the office had to attend to any tramps who might call, and after making the usual inquiries, gave them tickets for certain lodging houses, which were allowed 4d. for each lodger.


Mr. Smith in 1868


In those days the Inspectors and Sergeants wore silk hats and no belts. The Constables, as may be seen from our portrait of Mr. Smith, taken in 1868, wore tall hats with glazed tops, long body coats, and carried the staff in the lap behind. No whistles were provided. The Constable carried a logwood stick, and when he required any assistance he would sound his stick on the flags. In two low districts in the centre of the town, two men worked together on night duty until 2 a.m. They were often assaulted, but the assailants did not always get off with a whole skin, for the Constables used their logwood sticks freely, and many a head was cracked open in the fray. At the Police Office the reserve man had his work cut out in washing and bandaging wounded heads. The Constables, too, came in for some rough usage, and it was their practice to wind a piece of white rag round their legs inside their stockings, which were often saturated with blood from kicks. One week end Mr. Smith and his mate arrested no less than 18 persons for various offences.


When he first joined the Force the Fenians were very strong, and

shortly afterwards over 1,000 special Constables were sworn in, and all the works in the town were guarded. The Police at that time had to learn sword drill with basket and stick. They also learned to shoot with revolvers, and on certain occasions wore cutlasses. On the night of November 22nd, 1867, hundreds of persons were walking from Bolton to Salford, to see the execution of the three Fenians, Allen, Gould and Larkin who were being publicly hanged on the following morning for murdering Sergeant Brett, of the Manchester Police. The day duty men were on reserve for two nights in the Police Court, and the night duty men during the day time.


In October, 1872, Mr. Smith was appointed a Detective, also Lodging House Inspector. Once every week he and one of the other detectives rose at 1 a.m. to visit lodging houses. They had to knock the inmates up, and very often had to report as many as half a dozen, houses for over-crowding, as the result of one morning's visits.


In December, 1877, he was appointed Inspector under the Explosives Act; Hacknev Carriage and Omnibus Inspector; also Coroner's Officer, In April, 1893, he was promoted Detective Sergeant, and in October 1894, Detective-Inspector. In May, 1902, he joined the reserve class then in force.


During his service Mr. Smith has arrested hundreds of persons for all kinds of offences, including pocket-picking, attempting, frequenting, manslaughter, burglary, shop and house breaking, forgery, fraud, conspiracy and murder. He has had to go to London and other large cities many times to prove convictions, and has also been to Ireland. He has several times been commended for the fair and impartial manner in which he prepared his cases. On one occasion the Bolton Recorder, in passing a sentence of three months' on a man, who tried to prove an alibi, said that Detective Inspector Smith was an officer who would not intentionally wrong any man. He was thoroughly impartial, and his evidence could be relied upon for its fairness between the Crown and the prisoners. He had never been known during 25 years to have given any evidence which was unduly strained against any man.


There are a large number of men and women now in Bolton whom Mr. Smith has apprehended for various offences, and some who have served as much as ten years are now working and doing well. He has always found pleasure in assisting his former prisoners in getting employment. Since 1893 it had been a portion of his duty to interview all prisoners in custody charged with felony and indictable offences, with a view to tracing their antecedents. Mr. Smith always availed himself of the opportunity to speak a few kind words to them, as drink had been at the bottom of most of their troubles. Mr. Smith himself has been an abstainer for over 30 years.


Bolton Borough Police was established 18 February 1839 and became part of Lancashire Constabulary on 1 April 1969. (Police Review and Parade Gossip, 23 April 1909)


Bolton Borough Police Sergeant



Bolton Borough Police, stationed at 33 Abingdon Road, c1923 (Submitted by Ray Ricketts)



Believed to be PS 21 Howarth (Submitted by Ray Ricketts)


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