Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
  • MENU

Early Days of Ryde Borough Police

Ryde Borough Police 1922

It was not until 1869, when Ryde was incorporated into a Borough, that Ryde Borough Police Force was established. Prior to that, from 1839, Ryde was policed by the County Police Force. The formation of the Ryde Borough Police Force caused some problems in the town in that Oakfield, although a suburb of Ryde, was still in the parish of St Helens and not included within the limits of the borough. So it would seem that, initially at least, Ryde Borough Police did not deal with any problems arising in Oakfield!  The most common offences dealt with at that time were larceny, damage to property and drunkenness.

In 1869 a house in Quay Street, Newport was bought for use as a borough police station, and was completely rebuilt with cells, at a cost of £650. This remained in use as the town police station until 1943, when the Isle of Wight force merged with the Hampshire Constabulary. The succeeding divisional police headquarters in Fairlee Road was built in the 1880s. From 1890 to 1943 it served as the office of the Chief Constable of the Isle of Wight, and from 1943 to the early 1960s as the Isle of Wight Divisional Headquarters.

In 1874 came the beginnings of a Criminal Investigations Division and selected officers were sent to the Metropolitan Police for instruction.

In 1889 the Newport Borough Police became the Isle of Wight County Police Force and covered the whole of the Island except for Ryde. Ryde Borough Police did not join with the Isle of Wight County Police until 1922.

In November 1912 it was reported in Hansard that Mr Douglas Hall, MP for the Isle of Wight asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why Sergeant Watson, of the Ryde Borough Police, had not been granted the Coronation medal seeing as he was the oldest police constable serving on the Isle of Wight at the time of the Coronation of King George, with thirty years’ service and exemplary conduct to his credit, twenty of which he had served as a sergeant.

Mr Hall asked the Secretary of State to authorise an extra medal to be bestowed on the deserving officer. However, the Secretary of State in reply said that a certain number of medals had been assigned to each police force in proportion to its numbers and he had been guided by the recommendation of their chiefs. In the case of Ryde, Mr Watson was not the officer selected and he was now unable to bestow any further medals. Mr Hall stated that he thought this was a ‘gross miscarriage of ordinary justice’. Medals were awarded to Chief Constable Charles Greenstreet and Sergeant Frank Ryall of Ryde.  The police medal had a red ribbon with three narrow blue stripes.

The humble bicycle remained an increasingly important tool of everyday police work and it was only in 1929 that the first motor vehicle was provided for the Isle of Wight Constabulary. This was a BSA twin motorcycle combination that was used on motor patrol and other duties.

In World War Two, the heavy air raids on southern England in 1940 and 1941 gave many opportunities for police officers to distinguish themselves by their alacrity and courage. In 1943 the Isle of Wight County Police merged with the Hampshire and Winchester forces for the war effort.

Even after the war things were still difficult for the British public, food and clothing were still rationed, and remained so for some years to come. The economy had been strained and inevitably existing arrangements were looked at and change and reorganization were called for. Under The Police Act of 1946 the wartime merger of Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Winchester forces was made permanent in 1947 and the single force was called the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary.

After the war boy clerks, who had first been appointed early in 1939, were replaced by police cadets. At first the cadets had no proper uniform and worked a 48 hour week. There was no organised training for them, and if they attended appropriate evening classes they did so in their own time at their own expense.

An important development in the Hampshire Constabulary was the establishment of a Traffic and Communications Department at Headquarters. This was made necessary by the growing weight and complexity of motor traffic. 20th century society is highly mobile and mechanical, and the police service has had to adapt its methods and equipment accordingly. The vehicle establishment increased steadily, and in doing so kept pace with the ever-growing volume of traffic throughout the county. By 1965 the force possessed a total of 281 vehicles including 33 patrol cars and 44 motor cycles.

A significant change in organisation in 1963 was the centralisation of all emergency calls to the information room at Headquarters. This worked well but imposed a great burden on the information room staff who had to handle as many as 15,000 messages that year. The Traffic Division continued to be mainly responsible for dealing with emergency calls, and each division maintained one of the divisional cars equipped with radio on constant patrol. This development required increased manpower and more vehicles. In each divisional station a radio sub-control was installed which enabled the divisional headquarters to communicate directly with its own vehicles, including the vehicle being used for emergency purposes and so pressure on the information room was relieved.

At the end of June 1963, a new divisional headquarters for the Isle of Wight Police was built in Newport and in June 1966 the new HQ building for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, in Winchester, was officially opened by HRH Princess Margaret, replacing the old headquarters that had been built in 1847.

In April 1967, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary amalgamated with the forces of Portsmouth and Southampton and became known as the Hampshire Constabulary.

Sources: “A History of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary 1839 – 1966” by Ian A Watt.
Hansard millbank system,
Image: RSHG Archive