Here we have an original guidance handbook given to Police Constable 53 of the Birkenhead Police. Research has discovered that it was once the property of George Iball, who would have been 36 years of age at the time that this was issued.
He was born in Hawarden, Flintshire and had moved to a small side street (near to what was to later become the Willamson Art Gallery) No. 11 Enfield Terrace, by 1891. By that time he was living with his wife Ann, three young children and a fellow police constable, Robert Boyd, who was lodging with them.
As of yet I can only find one reference to Constable Iball in local newspapers, and that was in August 1895. It was in that year that PC Iball arrested a foreman of the Birkenhead Tramways Company who had stolen a large sum of money that was meant for staff wages. His name was Lancelot Purcell and he had paid three of his men their due but soon absconded with the rest, £55 2s 1d - approximately £9000 in today’s money. Four months passed until PC Iball located the man hiding in shame at a relative’s house. It was there that Purcell admitted that he had been drunk at the time of the theft and was extremely regretful of his actions. Magistrates heard that up until that point the man had been the best of characters but this was no excuse. The Tramways Company cancelled Purcell’s right to a pension whilst the Court imposed a sentence of three months imprisonment with hard labour.
The guidebook itself is dated 1895 and was printed by Mr E. Griffith of Hamilton Street. It is just one that would have been issued to each and every constable of the time and is a rare survivor of Merseyside’s early policing History
. It is slightly frayed with some pages rather lose, but considering PC 53 would have consulted this book quite often, it is still in a remarkable condition. It is also adorned with the constable’s own alterations with updates to law and procedure; a testament to the ever varied and challenging conditions faced by a Victorian law enforcer.
The Chief Constable of the day was John Barnett Barker, a former Major in the 5th Fusiliers who in his powerful introduction states,
“undeviating truthfulness, irreproachable morality of life, sub ordination, sobriety, good temper, civility and punctuality [were] the chief qualifications essential in a constable.”
The handbook covers many topics ranging from Fire Prevention to Dying Declarations, to Liquor Laws and Vagrants. It certainly makes fascinating reading and is an unusual document giving us a new and detailed perception as to the very real conditions and expectations of a working policeman of the past. www.facebook.com/danielklongman