Local HistoryPolicing

Policing the parish (Part 1)

Today in the 21st Century the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary are the police force responsible for crimes that are committed in the parish of St. Mary Bourne. But for how long have they had this responsibility?

Policing in Hampshire

The history of the police in Hampshire goes back nearly 200 years to 1832 when the first police force was formed in Winchester. The timeline below gives detail up to 1846 when an event occurred that meant changes to the way St. Mary Bourne was policed.

  • 1832 – Winchester City Police formed
  • 1836 – Southampton, Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Andover & Lymington Borough Police forces formed
  • 1837 – Newport Borough Police
  • 1839 – Hampshire County Constabulary formed with Bournemouth & Isle of Wight under Chief Constable Captain George Robbins. There were 106 officers, comprising of 1 Chief Constable, 14 superintendents and 91 constables. This was a ratio of one officer to every 1,200 inhabitants or 4,000 acres. Pay was 18/- per week at a time when labourers were paid 8 – 9 shillings.
  • 1839 – County Police Act
  • 1846 – Andover Borough Police merge with Hampshire County Constabulary. Increase in establishment to 165 officers.

See https://www.hampshireconstabularyhistory.org.uk/history/timeline/ for the full Hampshire Constabulary timeline.

“Before this, police arrangements in Hampshire were characteristically loose and rural. They were based on the parish. The only police officers were parish constables, of whom there were one or more per parish. In emergencies, justices might swear in extra constables.”

(Watt, 2006, p. XI)
Hampshire Constabulary Sergeants from British Police History on Pinterest

What happened in 1846?

We first hear of a change happening is in one of the local newspapers the Hampshire Advertiser in February. Here we hear of plans to make changes to divisions for the constabulary. This effects where a person is tried, as it is known in 1841 the year the first mention of a Police Constable in relation to the parish comes up in the newspaper, the person concerned was tried in Overton and is part of the Kingsclere division and within the Whitchurch Union.

DIVISIONAL PETTY SESSIONS AND THE CONSTABULARY FORCE – In looking over the report of Select Committee at Epiphany Sessions, 1846, appointed to take into consideration the divisions for holding special sessions, and the operation and arrangements of the Constabulary Force, we find various alterations are recommended: … It appears the Andover union is to have St. Mary’s Bourne, and the parish of Hurstbourne Priors, which are now in the Whitchurch union, yet we hear of no additional force or extra pay being proposed. …

(Hampshire Advertiser, 28 Feb 1846, Pg. 8)

The second mention of the changes planned comes in April when the proposal is discussed and the opportunity arose for anyone to oppose the plan.

The CHAIRMAN said the next business for the court, was to receive the Report of the Special Committee appointed to take into consideration the property of altering and amending the present sessional divisions of the county; and also to enquire into the operation and arrangements of the Constabulary Force. He would now read the report …

Your committee have taken a careful review of the present Divisions of the County; and they recommend certain alterations which, in their opinion, will greatly tend to the public convenience, and will be better understood if separately explained, in connection with the Divisions to which they respectively relate.

… To the Andover Division your Committee propose to add the populous parish of St. Mary Bourne, and the parish of Hurstbourne Priors, which are in the Whitchurch union, as they are informed that the inhabitants of these parishes almost exclusively attend the markets at Andover.

C. S. LEFERVE, Chairman

An appendix follows, showing the area, population and assessment of the present divisions, and what would be their amount with the proposed alterations.

The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to submit to the court, in succession, the several clauses of the Report, of which, as far as relates to the alterations in the divisions, there was only one point if difference, namely, that the parishes of St. Mary Bourne and Hurstbourne Priors should be transferred from the Kingsclere to the Andover division; …

Upon the motion being put that St. Mary Bourne and Hurstbourne Priors should be transferred,

Mr. H. FELLOWES rose to oppose it. He said it would be an inconvenience and a great injustice to the labouring population of those parishes. With the exception of himself there would not be a resident magistrate belonging to the division within the distance of six miles. He should therefore propose that the parishes remain in the Kingsclere hundred.

Seconded by Rev. Mr. Orde.

Mr. H.B. Coles presented a petition from the principal farmers of St. Mary Bourne in favour of the transfer, stating that it would be highly convenient to them, as they all attended the Andover market, which was the town where the inhabitants of the parish obtained their supplies, and there was very little connection between the place and Kingsclere.

A question then arose as to the relative distance of that place from St. Mary Bourne to Kingsclere and Andover, and it was shown that some parts of the parish, which is extensive, is nearer to Kingsclere, and that the remainder and more populous portion of it was nearer to Andover.

Upon a division, there appeared in favour of the recommendation of the Report, 30; against it, 19. …

(Hampshire Advertiser, 18 Apr 1846, Pg. 8)

There was indeed opposition to the plan as Mr. H. Fellowes believed it would be an inconvenience to the labourers! As he only mentioned the labourers did he think that only they committed crimes? The newspapers say otherwise…

However, the principal farmers had planned ahead and had made a petition which was given to Mr. H.B. Coles in favour of the change as they had many dealings with the town of Andover as well as the majority of inhabitants. It’s clear from the directory details below from 1855 that Andover is connected St. Mary Bourne as the post come through there and every Saturday Edward Cooke carries goods to the town, and probably brings things back too.

From the St Mary Bourne section of the 1855 Post Office Directory for Hampshire

A vote was then held after the discussions about distance which went in favour of those for the change and the plans went ahead.

One further mention of this change was in October.

POLICE – We observe by the Report of the Magistrates at the last quarter sessions, held at Winchester, that the parishes of St. Mary’s Bourne, six miles from Andover, and Down Hurstbourne [Hurstbourne Priors], five miles from ditto, are added to the Andover division; as was also recently the borough of Andover. These additions must give increased duties to the superintendent of this district.

(Hampshire Advertiser, 31 Oct 1846, Pg. 5)

Another change in 1846 was the merging of the Andover Borough Police Force with the Hampshire Constabulary.

“… the history of the police in Andover which went back before 1846, when there had taken place a consolidation between the Andover Borough Police Force, consisting of on sergeant and four constables, and the county force.”

(Watt, 2006, p. 182)

Further investigations are ongoing into policing in the parish St. Mary Bourne (hence this is part 1!), it’s known there was a police house and/or police station. I have been told of two houses in the village of St. Mary Bourne that were used as police houses but have yet to find any corroborating evidence to support this. Also these houses would not have been there in the 1840s so are not the location of the earliest police house/station.

As of today I do have the names of 10 police constables dated between 1840 and 1927 that were connected to the parish, more work is ongoing to see what else can be learnt.

Plus of course more work is required to find out if the parish had a parish constable, and how the parish was policed before the Hampshire Constabulary.


Watt, I. A. (2006). A history of The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary 1839-1996. Chichester: Phillimore & Co. Ltd.

1855 Post Office directory for Hampshire available as part of the Historical Directories of England & Wales collection at https://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/digital/collection/p16445coll4

British Newspaper Library collection accessed via Findmypast at https://www.findmypast.co.uk/search-newspapers

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