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From an interview by Rae Drage on 23.9.2008. Transcribed by Jacky Lawrence.
Arthur Evans - Policeman

Arthur Evans in his uniform with his daughter in 1947
Arthur Evans and daughter 1947

When I came out of the Army I applied to join the Police Force. Then, eventually, in November 1946 came the call to go to the school. There were only four of us selected to go out of a squad of twenty five because it was very difficult to get into the Police Force in those days. You had to be really well educated and physically good as well. I was nearly six foot and I weighed, I was quite a biggish fellow actually when I came out of the Army. I passed the exams, nearly the top, most of the rejects were either officers, ex officers or ex RAF pilots and they failed. From there I went to Wrighton on Dunsmore training school near Coventry and was there for three months. At the end of each month we had an exam on what we’d done during that month and you had to qualify with a pass mark of at least 75% and I had 89% on all of mine. At the end of the three months you had a final exam and I qualified with 89% and then I was posted.

I was in the Northamptonshire County Police. At that time there were two Police Forces in the County, there was the County Police and the Borough Police in Northampton. The Borough Police were restricted to the County Borough, they had no powers outside of the County Borough whereas the County Police had full powers in the Borough and the rest of the County. I was posted first to Wellingborough for two years. In the meantime, after getting married, we lived with my mother and father for a short period of time until I could buy a house and eventually I bought one at Irchester. This was during the short period I was waiting to hear from the Police when to go and so I was the only Policeman I think at that time who owned my own house. I received housing allowance of course like everyone did and of course it helped with the mortgage immensely.

All the Police Force in those days, the County Police anyway, was operated in a very military style because most of the officers there, Inspectors and Superintendents, were all ex guardsmen and nearly all us new chaps had been in the Army and were used to discipline. For our pay we used to have to go once a month into Wellingborough, which was the Divisional Headquarters and form up in a line. The Superintendent sat at a table with the Chief Clerk and he had the pay sheets in front of him, you signed at the end, saluted and took a pace back and was dismissed. After you received your pay we either used to have a drill parade on the Cattle Market in Wellingborough or a mock court where we practised being at court. After then, probably, we’d have a uniform fitting for the next year’s uniform.

We were issued originally with a summer tunic and a winter tunic, they were all done up at the neck and your number was round the collar. We were issued with a summer tunic and a winter tunic which was lined, the summer one was unlined, two pairs of trousers, a greatcoat, which was a long one which buttoned over officer style and two capes, two helmets, gloves, a torch and a book of criminal law written by a man called Moriarty. This was the policeman’s bible actually and it had every crime under the sun written in it and how to define it, how to write it up and everything. I’ve still got mine somewhere, it’s got my discharge papers in it and references.

Anyway, suddenly a man retired in Rushden and they wanted a Constable there so they sent me and I took this man’s place and eventually I was asked to do the Irchester beat when the resident Irchester policeman at the Police House was on leave or whatever. This I did and from then on I eventually became a Station Officer at Rushden which meant that I dealt with all the internal calls, we didn’t have radios in those days and the messages had to be sent out via the telephone.

Photograph of the Old Police Station
The Old Police Station
In the Station then at one end was a house, where the Inspector lived and the other end was where a Sergeant lived. In between was the kitchen and games room and where we used to cook our meals when we had time. We only had half an hour in an eight hour shift and we had to be at the point and wait five minutes before we came in for our meal. So that took five minutes off the half an hour you were allowed and you had to be on the point going out so that you were there the exact time to start your beat. It was very rigid and you were paraded when you went on duty and you had to produce your handcuffs, truncheon and your pocketbook which was an official document and your whistle, that’s right.

At that time during the summer, it didn’t matter how hot it was, we weren’t allowed to take our tunics off or use shirt sleeves or anything and we didn’t get issued with shirts. When I first joined, you had your own shirts and pullovers underneath if you wished. Then they decided, the powers that be, that the police should have collars and ties so we were issued with shirts with loose collars which you’d need studs for. They were blue and you had to wear these shirts and ties and the tunics were altered and the numbers came off your collar onto your epaulettes then and each officer was known by his number.

The Police were on duty twenty four hours a day whether you were in civvies or not. You always had to live where you were stationed that’s why they provided Police Houses and lodgings for policemen in whatever town they were stationed. They always had to wear their uniform to work and to go home that’s why you used to see more policemen about. Rushden was a sub division, Wellingborough was the division but Rushden, Oundle and Daventry were all sub divisions and warranted an Inspector, three sergeants, thirteen constables. So you can tell there were plenty of policemen about and when you walked down the High Street everybody moved off the pavement for you. There was no cheek from youngsters then, if there was they got clipped round the earhole pretty smart. During interrogation in the station men I’ve seen grown men burst out into tears because they were being questioned and whatnot. I think, in those early days, when the rule of law was enforced at the bottom like that, that’s why you got a decent society. Now of course you can talk back to the police and they can’t touch you.

On one sunny summer afternoon, I can’t remember the date, I was alone in the station because all the others had gone to Wellingborough for pay parade. They had to leave someone in the station and I was the station officer so I stayed and all I had out in the town was a cycle patrolman and he should have answered all his conference points which were all at public telephone boxes. After a while, I was typing doing some reports and the phone rang and I answered it. There was a hatchway in the station where the public used to go and there was a bell push and the officer in charge used to answer the trap. This bell kept ringing and I was on my own on the phone, I said. ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, I’ll be with you in a minute,’ ended the phone conversation, went over to the trap and opened it. A bloke nearly fell into the trap, put a key down and said. ‘I want you go to Portland Road.’ He did tell me the number but I can’t remember it. ‘I’ve just killed my wife, I’ve just knifed her.’ So I thought, what the hell do you do. There’s a bloke, a confessed murderer but I don’t know whether he has actually done it so I said. ‘Come on inside.’ Took him round, sat him down and charged him with attempted murder and I said. ‘Now you wait until I can get verification.’

I rang the doctor and it was Doctor Paine and he said. ‘Must I go?’ I said. ‘Yes, you must.’ He didn’t want to go you see so I said. ‘Go to this address.’ I tried to get hold of the cycle patrolman, I rang all the points where he should have been, nothing. I thought, well I bet I know where he is now he’ll be at the bookies. So I rang the bookies and he was in there and I said. ‘Come on Frank, what are you playing at?’ He said. ‘Well what’s the matter, have you got a murder.’ And I said. ‘Yes, so I want you to go round and verify.’ So he went and found her, she wasn’t dead but she’d got a hole in her head that you could put an egg in. He hadn’t knifed her at all he’d hit her with a shoemaker’s hammer and he kept hitting her, he lost his rag you see. The head flew off and flew over the other side of the room, the head of the hammer. It was typical, a shoemaker’s, because a shoemaker’s hammer has got a big flat head on one end and another flat head on the other, smaller one. Whenever you saw one of those they were nearly always loose, you know, the handle was.

He got the doctor there, they got the ambulance and took the woman to hospital, she was examined there and she survived. In the meantime I’d got this man in the clink, locked up and charged with attempted murder and then they had to take him to Bedford Prison on remand. He came to the local court, Magistrates Court and spent three months on remand in Bedford Prison before he could get tried at the Assizes. In those days there was no Crown Court. It was, Magistrates’ Court was the lowest, the local one, then there was the Petty Sessions, then there was the Assizes. The Assizes were always held at the Guildhall in Northampton and they had a robed and wigged judge and he could pass sentence of death. He eventually came to trial there and I had to go and the Inspector came with me. The judge said. ‘Well having been in remand for three months, as you have, you have done quite a considerable prison sentence and also your wife has had mental treatment. She came from an institution and you had her home for a break and during that time you were hanging some pictures up in the bedroom and she came along and kept getting on to you until you snapped. So I’m going to bind you over now and discharge you but you mustn’t see your wife or have any communication with your wife now for as long as it takes.’ When she got better she went back into the mental home and he was killed on his motor bike and sidecar some short time later.

I had many more cases whilst I was Station Officer. I was also automatically the Coroner’s Officer so that any sudden deaths I had to deal with. I was in charge of the Mortuary and in charge of arranging any inquests or whatever and notifying the Coroner and I was the Coroner’s Officer then. Also, I was automatically an Inspector of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries so that I could authorise the movement of cattle, sheep, hens, pigs or whatever or ban the movement of them if I wanted. If I suspected there was any disease or whatever such as anthrax or foot and mouth or beef fever or fowl pest or whatever.
Arthur Evans with two colleagues at the back of Rushden Police Station 1951
Arthur Evans at back of Police Station 1951

I retired when the Panda cars first came about in the late ‘60s because I could see then that policing was going to go motorised. I’d had the chance then to take an off licence in Irchester, off licence and general shop it was, only a little place but it belonged to the Northampton brewery. In those days you couldn’t be connected with any business whatsoever if you were in the Police Force so I had to leave. So I resigned and took this outdoor beer house and after two years the brewery closed it and sold the property.

I was born in Montague Street and moved to this little cottage down the yard of, I forget what yard it was, it was the end of Ebenezer Terrace I think. I was there for a time until I was seven when the doctor said to my mother. ‘If you don’t get this child away from here, from this house, you’ll never rear him.’ I was always poorly, I had scarlet fever, you name it I had everything while I was there. It was built over the top of a well and all the kitchen was flagged stones over the top of this well. It was always damp, it was a poor old property and we rented it. It belonged to Bayes, the builders at that time, and the sanitary inspector condemned it and we were given a house up Irchester Road. One of the new council houses, that were built right up towards The Spinneys. I spent the rest of my time until I went into the Army living there up Irchester Road. During that time I went to Alfred Street School. I failed my 11 plus because I was ill at the time they taught certain subjects and I never did catch up on them. So I completely missed out on the 11 plus and after then I had to educate myself. The exam I passed to get into the Police was a complete A level exam then.

I went to St. Mary’s Church and Sunday School. In latter years, when I lived up Irchester Road, we went to St. Peter’s but I was christened in and St. Mary’s was my normal church because my mother was a Sunday School teacher. My aunt, who sort of semi adopted me, you know she always favoured me and took me everywhere. She used to take me to church, take me to Sunday School. Sunday School was in the schools in Newton Road then and they were taken by a man named Mr. Vorley. He was the head of the Sunday School and wore a big white, stiff, starched, celluloid collar. I always remember him, a big tall man, very Victorian.

           


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