he photographs below were taken at the Essex Police Museum at the force’s Chelmsford Headquarters on December 12, and show images on display in the museum charting the story of Essex Police. As with all British Police forces – especially the county constabularies – the story of the Essex force is a fascinating one, involving not simply the county force, but also the

borough forces that were incorporated into it.


























These were: Harwich Borough Police, Saffron Walden Borough Police, Borough of Maldon Police and Colchester Borough Police. There was also Southend Borough Police, but the history of this force is a story in its own right, because of the unique situation relating to Southend.


Originally, Southend had been part of the Rochford Division, but in 1873 the ratepayers and inhabitants of Southend petitioned the County Justices for an increase in the number of Officers and for a permanent Police Station and Magistrates’ Court. The station was built and, with Southend developing rapidly as a community, the Divisional HQ was moved there soon after the building was completed; despite this, Southend remained within the Rochford Division.


However, Southend was granted full County Borough status on April 1, 1914, and in a reversal of normal trends at the time, Southend Borough Police was established as a fully independent force on the same date. Just three years earlier the borough had at last become a Division of the county force, and then the independent policing of Southend came about after protracted and often acrimonious discussions involving all the interested authorities.


Southend Borough Police ceased to exist on April 1, 1969, when it once more became part of the county force. The Harwich and Saffron Walden forces had been amalgamated into the county constabulary in 1857; the Maldon force was amalgamated in 1889, and then in 1947 the Colchester Borough Police became the last of the original four independent forces in Essex to be swallowed up by the County Constabulary.


The county of Essex has had a regular Police force since 1840, the first Chief Constable being John Bunch Bonnemaison McHardy who, at the time, was a Naval Captain. Captain (later Admiral) McHardy found himself in the same position as the first Chiefs of other county forces in that he had to form a County Constabulary in the knowledge that regular policing already existed in four Boroughs of his patch (see above).


The various photographs reproduced here show just some aspects of the story of policing in the county of Essex and some of its boroughs. Anyone wishing to study the subject more thoroughly is advised to obtain a copy of any (or all) of the books highlighted below. In particular “The Essex Police” by John Woodgate contains a huge amount of detailed information, and it is highly recommended.



Above: This Essex decorated truncheon is by the firm William Parker of Holborn. In the 1880s the Essex Chief Constable issued an order that “all decorated staves to be scraped clean and varnished”. No wonder they are difficult to find today. (Photograph courtesy of Alan Cook)

Essex Pictorial History



Above: Admiral McHardy poses with members of his force at Old Court, Chelmsford, some time between 1875 and 1881, which was the year the first Chief Constable retired. The Officers fourth from left and second right in the front row are wearing the Star of Merit (see further explanation below).




Constable James Ballard of Shoeburyness, photographed in the early 1870s, wearing the bowler style of hat which was replaced in 1874 by the first type of what was to become the traditional British Police helmet.



This excellent photograph from the book “The Essex Police” shows Constable Thomas Dewbury of the Saffron Walden Borough Police in the mid 1850s, wearing the tall hat of the time.

Worthy of note is the two styles of hat, separated in time by only 20 years. The stovepipe hat on the right had a reinforced crown in order to make it capable of taking the weight of a bobby who could use it as a stand to look over walls and to assist him climb over walls and other obstacles.



Above: Men of the Rochford Division, photographed in 1873, when the Division still incorporated Southend, which was a fast-growing borough. Soon after this photo was taken the Divisional HQ was moved to the newly-built Police Station in Southend.

Below: Here we see the Superintendents of the Essex Constabulary in 1875. They had gathered to bid goodbye to the Deputy Chief Constable, Wallace McHardy, who had been appointed Chief Constable of the Lanarkshire Constabulary.










Above: wearing his dress uniform with ceremonial sword (or perhaps a hanger?) and senior officers parade helmet is Superintendent David Scott who served from 1883 to 1920. He is wearing the Merit Star on his collar next to the Crown.








Above: In the Victorian and early Edwardian times Essex Constabulary issued both white metal and black versions of its helmet plate. The common view is that black versions were night plate and the others were worn in the day. However, in Essex the black versions were worn by Constables and the white metal by Sergeants. This is shown nicely in these two photos from Alan Cook. The Sergeant in this photo is wearing the Star of Merit on his right sleeve (see also the photo above of the group with Admiral McHardy). Mr McHardy introduced the Award in 1871, and the first Star was awarded in February 1872 to Constable John Street. Initially the Award was tightly restricted, so that only 10 Sergeants and 20 Constables should wear the insignia at any one time, and to begin with it was worn on the jacket collar.




Constable Gladwin of the Borough of Maldon Police



Superintendents and Inspectors were first issued with caps instead of helmets in 1875, according to John Woodgate in his excellent book “The Essex Police”. However, some photos that may have been taken later than this show senior Officers still wearing helmets. We don’t have a date for this photo, but of course there’s no mistaking the Essex County badge on the cap of the unknown senior Officer.



Above: It would seem that these two Constables are making a Conference Point near Ridgewell around the turn of the century. We know that the Officer on the left is PC Arthur Oliver, but we don’t know the name of his colleague with the bicycle. The machine is, in fact, typical of the Police bicycle of the time, and it represents a style of bike used by Police forces right through to the 1950s.


Officer in the quiet Essex coastal village of St Osyth in 1910




Above: Humber car F4499 was owned in 1914-1915 by a Mr Albert Ling of Plas Newydd, Southchurch. He may well have been the driver of these Southend Specials.

Essex Constabulary WWII police vehicle top-box










etal was hard to come by in World War II, even for Police forces, and this Essex Constabulary vehicle top-box was one way of getting around the problem, being constructed mainly of wood. In fact, most (if not all forces) constructed their own vehicle equipment of this kind. The “Police Stop” signs fitted to the rear of the Ipswich Borough

cars were still being made by hand in the force’s Lady Lane garage by Traffic mechanic Billy Wright right up to the very late 1950s.

Three Reference Works




The Essex Police
By John Woodgate



Sworn to Serve
By Maureen Scollan



The Borough Men
Essex Police Museum

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