Policing in Newark – Introduction

Some brief notes

The beginnings of organised policing in Newark may be traced to the year 1821 when, in response to increased overcrowding, vagrancy and social unrest, the Corporation resolved to appoint two salaried police officers.

Originally taking their orders directly from the Mayor and Justices, within a few years (when the force had been enlarged by the addition of 24 petty constables) a chief constable had been appointed to take over day-to-day running.

A gaol was in operation at the old workhouse in Albert Street (on the site of the present Castle Brewery buildings).

But it was the formation of the London Metropolitan Police in 1829 under Sir Robert Peel that pointed the way forward for the re-grouping and formalising of small, provincial forces such as Newark.

Six years later, in accordance with provisions set up by the Municipal Corporation Act of 1835, a Watch Committee was formed with power to appoint a suitable number of paid policemen.

It was from this legislation that the Newark Borough Police Force came into existence.


The Newark Borough Police Force

In fact two forces were initially formed – a night force and a day force – each with two constables (later increased to six), and each under the control of a separate superintendent.

Strangely enough this meant there were actually fewer policemen on the streets of Newark than before the 1835 Act.  The situation was quickly recognised as inadequate and it is thought likely that the pre-existing network of privately funded night watchmen continued for some time as a necessary part of the peace-keeping system.

 A Police Station in the Town Hall

Being controlled by the borough, accommodation for the new police force was found in the Corporation’s principal administrative building, the Town Hall.

Police HQ, together with cells (still visible through shops in today’s Buttermarket), and an exercise yard were located in the north wing of the Town hall with an entrance directly on to the Market Place.

For decades thereafter, countless Newark Mothers warned their disobedient offspring that, unless they behaved, they would “take them up the Town Hall steps”.

 Rules for Guidance

Some insight into the running of the old borough police force is afforded by some “Important Rules… for the guidance of a man just joining the Police Service” issued by the chief constable in 1912.

Alongside strict instructions to guard against gossiping and fraternising with the public are the following precise rules on the use of the police whistle: “One sharp blast is to attract the attention of a colleague; two rather long blasts are intended to convey the intimation that you require assistance; three long blasts notify that you are in distress and danger, and that you require help at once”.

 The Police Station on Appletongate

This was built in 1870 at a cost of about £2,000 to house the county (as opposed to the borough) police force.

The borough police force remained fiercely independent  for as long as possible.

Neighbouring towns such as Mansfield and Retford had consolidated with the county force as soon as the Police Act of 1839 allowed them to do so, but not Newark.

Here, independence was stubbornly maintained right up until 1947 when, in a drive to reduce the number of small separate forces maintained by boroughs of less than 100,000 population, a further Police act finally caused the amalgamation of Newark with the Nottinghamshire Constabulary.

With the passing of control of the Newark force from the borough corporation, the old police station in the Town Hall was closed.

Researched & Written by Tim Warner