Bring back the bobbies

It is said that the men responsible for smashing the windows of a neighbour’s vintage car did so in frustration that they could not remove the car from the shed in which it was stored. It is said that the same men were responsible for burning a nearby hay barn at the end of the summer of 2017, a barn that was filled with three hundred tons of hay bales that were for winter fodder. The men are not outsiders, they are not strangers, their names are recognisably ones from the local community; people know their families and their backgrounds.

Have we become a lawless place? Were we more honest in times past?

I doubt it. Why would there have been police station at Langport and Somerton and a police house in Long Sutton if there had been no work for the officers to do?

Police Constables Pearce and Sparkes were based in Langport station. They were household names. They were men who spent time out in the neighbourhoods, calling at farms, known for responding directly to situations. They seemed to possess almost divine qualities in their omniscience and omnipresence. Their networks must have been very effective, for there seemed little that they did not know. Perhaps the compact area they were expected to cover enabled them to be familiar figures.

In memory, PC Sparkes is like a policeman from the television series Heartbeat. He wore a black peaked crash helmet with goggles, a leather coat and big gauntlets and he rode a big motorbike which went down the road with a throaty roar.

It seems remarkable now, but the local police force felt able to be entirely open about their activities. The FM waveband was used for their radio communication; the radiogram in our house included FM in its wavebands and it was possible to sit and listen to stories as they unfolded, or, sometimes, to the idle chatter of officers working the hours of a quiet shift.

A police presence has all but disappeared from our community. No policeman has lived in Long Sutton for at least forty years. Langport station was closed and sold a generation ago and the site redeveloped. Somerton police station is used as an administration building. If there are police officers assigned to our area, their names are a mystery.

The answer to rural crime is not more security measures; it is not expecting people to phone reporting lines; it is not to blame trends in society; it is to look at what was good practice, what kept crime to minimal levels. The spirit of Pearce and Sparkes needs to be revived.


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3 Responses to Bring back the bobbies

  1. Vince says:

    To answer why you have police in areas with zero crime worth the mention you have to go back before the establishment of the county constabularies.
    A few things occurred, one, the RIC was run as a test case. So you kinda have to ask why the RIC. There it was entirely fiscal, well, mostly anyway. The local big shots were the Militia. The fox hunt was a mirror of the structure of the militia. Now taxes went from the towns to Dublin and the local gentry sent letters to Dublin about the insurgency in their areas. Again mostly imagined from sitting in the bay windows of their houses and with zero real info. But the Hospital and the Castle couldn’t ignore either, remember Wexford. So you had the towns sending tax to the Castle and the Hospital sending that right back to the militia/hunt.
    Now insert the RIC. A force of low men as they saw it. Under the control of the local JP’s and their own quasi military structure. So basically you had a better corporation permanently stationed and at a fifth of the price.
    Did you ever notice when you were here that almost all the big houses had a Police barrack if not right at the gate then very near indeed.
    The powers that be in London simply Ctrl-C’d the RIC and plonked it in every county in GB.
    Now I’m speaking about the County Forces here. There was in many towns a Watch of sorts. Oh and the other reason why they moved so quickly once the concept was proved, Peterloo Massacre. Same group as you’d find in Ireland, and in many cases cousins.

  2. Marie Emler says:

    An old post just found by me! Lovely to read about PC Pearce and Sparkes. PC Don Pearce was my dad and how accurate your little piece is regarding their local knowledge. I have such fond memories of growing up at Long Sutton police station before we moved to Langport around 1967/8.

    • Ian says:

      My Mum is a Crossman from Pibsbury. You would have passed the Crossman farm many times travelling from Long Sutton to Langport.

      I remember there being a break in at my Uncle Jack and Auntie Gus’s bungalow, which was on the Long Sutton side of the farm. The thieves were very quickly apprehended.

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