A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

City of Gloucester Police

1. Policing in the City of Gloucester 1483 – 1988

by Pc 509 Richard Barton, Community Services Department, 1988 


Gloucester was incorporated by Richard III in 1483, the town being made a county in itself. This charter was confirmed in 1489 and 1510, and other charters of incorporation were received by Gloucester from Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. The 1483 Charter, granted by King Richard III, made provision for the appointment of a Mayor and Sheriffs. Many of the new Corporation officials were City Magistrates and they were primarily responsible for local justice. Corporation officers were appointed to assist them and they included four Sergeants-at-Mace (two to wait upon the Mayor and two to wait upon the sheriffs), a Night Bellman, a Crier or Day Bellman, a Water Bailiff, four Porters, a Gaoler and aBbeadle. Twelve Constables were also appointed. These were unpaid citizens who wore no official uniform except, perhaps, for an official staff. They were responsible for bringing offenders before the Courts and, in some cases, punishing them as well.


From early medieval times Assize Courts were held in the City. These were sometimes infrequent and in 1221, for instance, no court had been held for seven years and during that time there had been 250 murders in the County – twenty-four having taken place in the City or its suburbs. There had also been two rapes in the City during those years. There were no official police officers so suspects often ran away and were subsequently outlawed by the Judge and Jury. If a suspect was apprehended and if it were considered to be a serious offence, then he/she might be imprisoned in one of the City’s gatehouses to await trial. Wealthier suspects were released on bail.

In 1606 the Booth Hall was re-erected in Westgate Street on the present site of Shire Hall and this was used as The County Assize Court. This remained as the main court for the County until the year 1816 when Sir Robert Smirke designed a new Shire Hall and Court House. The Magistrates’ Courts, which dealt with petty crime, were held in the Tolsey House which was situated on The Cross from at least the sixteenth century until its demolition in 1892. The site is now occupied by Burton Tailoring. The Tolsey was, at various times, extended and enlarged and it contained the Sheriff’s Court Room where petty offences were tried until the petty sessional courts were moved to Shire Hall in 1837. New courts were built at Bearlands and these were used up until the early 1960’s when new courts were erected in Barbican Way. In 1971 the Assize Courts in Shire Hall became Crown Courts.



From the late sixteenth century a City Bridewell or gaol for local petty offenders was established and for some years it occupied the New Bear, next to the Booth Hall. The Bridewell started off as more of a workhouse or house of correction rather than as a prison. During the 1600’s the City Bridewell moved to the Eastgate, which stood near to the site now occupied by Boots the Chemists. The City Prison was housed in the Northgate. Gradually both of these buildings became unfit for purpose and so in 1784 a new City Prison or Bridewell was opened outside of the old Southgate, near to the present junction of Southgate Street and Kimbrose Way. The former Southgate was, in fact, demolished at about this time. This prison building catered for about twenty inmates and it was used until 1859 when it was closed and finally demolished in 1862. After that inmates were sent instead to the County Gaol.

The County Prison has occupied the same site since medieval times as prisoners were often held in the old Castle which then existed. In 1791 the present prison building was opened to cater for 207 inmates. This model prison was the result of campaigning by the reformer, Sir George Onesiphorus Paul. This state of the art gaol was enlarged in 1844 and again in 1987/8. Between the years 1872 and 1939 seventeen murderers were executed there.

Returning to late medieval times, a familiar feature of City life was the old pillory and stocks which was situated near to the junction of Southgate Street and Cross Keys Lane. This structure was renewed in the middle of the sixteenth century. At this time there was also a scolding cart in which were placed quarrelsome women who were then driven around the City. The Corporation also had a ducking stool. Thieves were branded on the hand and serious offenders were imprisoned or executed. The wealthier burgesses who offended were locked in the Booth Hall during the reign of King James I which would have offered them much more comfort.



During the early nineteenth century there were still twelve Constables – four serving each of the west and north wards and two serving each of the south and east wards of the City. In 1769 one of the Sergeants-at-Mace was placed in-charge of the Constables and, during the year 1786, the Constables were called upon to provide duty as night watchmen. In the early years of the nineteenth century there were fifteen Night Watchmen in the City, working for half the year and costing the City £150 per annum. They were led by John Marsh who was described in 1826 as being, ‘our efficient police officer.’ The first Night Watchmen were appointed in London during the reign of King Charles II and over the years they had gained a reputation for being elderly, unsuitable and ineffective. In 1833 two street keepers were appointed by the City Magistrates to enforce bye-laws in respect of street nuisances, refuse and wheeled traffic. The Constables and Watchmen had diverse duties, for instance, John Marsh was also responsible for the City’s fire engine. Respectable tradesmen were averse to serving as Constables and, in general, policing was regarded as inadequate.



The Municipal Corporation Act of 1835 led to the formation of the Gloucester Watch Committee which established a City Police Force ready for duty on 26th February 1836. The first Superintendent was John Marsh who had previously been one of the Sergeants-at-Mace, and for the previous nine years, a City Constable. He had effectively acted as leader of the old force and, in his new role, he was assisted by three Sergeants. George Williams became responsible for the City Prison and Bridewell and he received the same salary as his Superintendent – £1-7-0d per week. Besides the three Sergeants there were twelve Constables and they each received the sum of fifteen shillings per week. Recruitment for the new Constabulary was from ex-military personnel and they were aged between twenty-six and forty-one years. The jobs that they came from included gardener, tailor, hairdresser, plasterer and shoemaker. At this time the City’s population was between 11,000 and 15,000 inhabitants.

The City Police Station was situated at the City Gaol in Southgate Street, in a small office approached from Kimbrose Alley. The Constables and Sergeants wore uniform and followed regulations similar to those of the Metropolitan police (founded 1829). The new Constables had jurisdiction which extended over a radius of seven miles from the actual City and they were assisted in their duties by the four Watchmen of the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal Company who were also sworn-in as Constables. Supernumeraries were also appointed which meant that the effective establishment of the Gloucester City Force was put at twenty-one in the 1847 Constabulary return.

In 1841 a City Directory gave the exact routes of the patrols by the Police Officers and, it would seem, four of them patrolled during the day and eight of them at night. The detection of crime was almost completely unscientific and Gloucester’s first detective, named Meaton, was a private individual, who had a keen eye for spotting pickpockets.



John Marsh 1836 – 1838 died

         Bunning 1838 – 1840 dismissed

George Williams 1840 – 1846

Edmund Estcourt 1846 – 1859


In the year 1839 the County Constabulary was established with its first Chief Constable, Mr. Anthony Lefroy. Gloucestershire was only the second county in the country to form a County constabulary. The new force made its headquarters at Cheltenham where it incorporated the old town force which had been established in 1831. In 1839 Mr. Lefroy allocated ten officers to serve the suburbs of Gloucester, areas which were not served by the City Police Force. In 1840 the establishment was one Superintendent and eight Constables. In 1847 a City Directory refers to the City Police Station in Kimbrose Alley and the County Station at Barton Terrace, this was headed by Superintendent Charles Griffin. In 1859 the County Station was situated at Wotton and Mr. J. Taylor was Superintendent. The staff in 1853 included a Sergeant, Corporal and two Constables. Other stations within the Gloucester District included Ashleworth, Newent, Dymock and Whitminster.


On 1st June 1859, as a result of the County and Borough Police Act of 1856, the City and County Constabularies were amalgamated in spite of some opposition from the City of Gloucester Corporation. The old City Bridewell and Police Station were closed and the Police Station was moved to Marybone House, Bearland. The new policing arrangements for the City included thirty-two Constables of which twenty were paid by the City Council, four of whom were to fulfil Mayoral and Court duties. The new force was led by a Superintendent and two Sergeants and included only a few of the former City of Gloucester Police Officers. Edmund Estcourt, the old City Superintendent, retired at the age of forty-six years on ill health having sustained injuries on duty.


In 1874 the number of Constables for the City was increased to forty so as to allow for the increase in the population and the size of the city boundaries. In 1906 this number rose to seventy-six. In 1902 the Gloucester Police area included the police stations at Cheltenham Road, Churcham, Churchdown, Corse, Dymock, Fretherne, Hardwicke, Hartpury, Tuffley, Upton St. Leonards and Whitminster. By the year 1937 stations had also been opened in Hopewell Street and Bristol Road. In 1954 the Hopewell Street Station was moved to the old All Saints’ Vicarage in Barton Street where it remains open today. Further stations were opened at Hucclecote in 1942 and in later years at Cheltenham Road East, Longford, Brockworth, Matson and Coney Hill. Bristol Road Station was closed and new buildings were provided at Hardwicke, Tuffley, Hucclecote and Churchdown Village.

In 1910 Gloucester was one of eleven territorial divisions and, in 1962, these were re-organized making Gloucester Division one of seven. In 1968 the Divisions were reduced to four and, as a result of local government changes in 1974, to just three. In 1988 Gloucester will be the Divisional Headquarters for half of the County, Cheltenham being the other Division. The Commander at Gloucester was a Superintendent until 1919 when Mr. Arthur Hopkins was appointed as the first Chief Superintendent. From 1867 until 1935 the Superintendent or Chief Superintendent was also Deputy Chief Constable of the County.

In 1958 the old police Station at Bearland became so unsuitable and inadequate that it was decided to demolish it and to build a new station on the site. The Police Station moved to the old College of domestic Science in the Barrack Square at the rear of the old station where it survived until the present Police Station, which was designed as a wing of Shire Hall, was opened in 1963. The present station occupies the site of the old Magistrates’ Courts, Inspector’s House and police Station. The old Roman Road ran close to the building and back in the eighteenth century, between thepresent station and the prison, were once beautiful ornamental gardens, Marybone Park.


Bryan Jerrard, ‘Policing in Nineteenth Century Gloucestershire’, Thesis for M.Lit.

Harry Thomas, ‘History of the Gloucestershire Constabulary 1839-1985’

Signal Pack – ‘Crime and Punishment in Gloucestershire 1700-1880’

S.O. White, ‘The Murderers of Gloucestershire.’

Caroline Heighway, ‘Gloucester – A History and Guide’

  1. Waters, ‘King Richard’s Gloucester’

Jill Voyce, ‘Gloucester in Old Photographs’

T.D. Fosbrooke, ‘An Original History of the City of Gloucester’

Richard Whitmore, ‘Crime and Punishment’

Fullbrook-Leggatt, ‘Roman Gloucester’

1937 Gloucester City Guide

1859 Gloucester Journal

Brian Frith, ‘When the Police went on Patrol in Fours’, Citizen, 1976

Hunts’ Directory of Gloucester, 1847, 1849

‘Story of the Police’, Home Office Pack

Police 2


Pre 1902 Police Station in Malvern Road, Staunton. Now called ‘The Cottage’

Later Police Station at Staunton Cross

1954 New Police Station and two Police Houses in Prince Crescent, Corse

For a little more about the history of this Police Station see ’A Forest Beat – The Forest of Dean police 1839 – 2000’ by Geoff Sindrey and Ted Heath, 2000.

Officers-in-Charge at Staunton

Pc Knight

Pc Newman

Pc Dobbs                                           -1948

Pc Wilf (Joe) Fardon               1948-1954

Pc S. Packer                              1954-1968

Pc Harold Eley                         1963-1965

Pc R.G. Burgess                       1965-1970

Pc Raymer                                1970-1972

Pc Ian Oakes                             1972-1975

Pc Richard J. Page                    1975-1976

Pc Anthony M. Russ                 1976-1978

Pc Robert B. Keeble                 1978-1981

Pc Edgar W. Hanna                  1981-1982

Pc Richard John Barton            1982-1985

Pc Bob Lloyd                            1985-


Pre 1939 Police Station in Sandfield Road, Churchdown

Police Station opened in Albemarle Road, Churchdown

Citizen or Gloucestershire Echo, February 1976:

Police 1

‘New Churchdown Police Office

Churchdown’s new poiice Office, in Albemarle-rd, was officially handed over by the building contractors to the Gloucestershire Constabulary yesterday and will be open to the public in the near future. The office will replace the Old Police House in Sandfield-rd, which is sub-standard and surplus to requirements since Churchdown became part of the unit beat policing system. This system enables the area to be covered by officers using panda cars with a constable working from a base office. Church down’s present constable, Pc Slade, will shortly be moving into the new office, but it will not be manned 24 hours a day. This purpose-built office will give the constable better working conditions and will be more easily accessible to the public than the present police house. The building was handed over by representatives of Cheltenham contractors, R.L. Frewing Ltd. To Supt. H. Lodge, Chief Administrative Officer, representing the Chief Constable.’

Officers-in-Charge at Churchdown Village

 Pc Graham Slade                       1971-1986

Pc Richard John Barton             1986-1988

Pc Freyer                                    1988-

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