In the following account, I have mentioned a few of the many cases I have found in local newspapers, but I have deliberately withheld certain names, out of respect for their descendants.
The Denbighshire Constabulary was formed in c.1849. The Constabulary was arranged into two divisions, A Division (Wrexham), and B Division (Denbigh); divisions maintained records including crime registers, summons books, registers of charges, accident books and visits books. In the late 19th century, the force’s headquarters were in Wrexham.
In the county of Denbighshire, police officers were expected to be under forty years of age, at least five feet seven inches without shoes, physically fit and generally intelligent and able to read and write and keep accounts.
The earliest crime I could discover occurred in 1853, at Rhos. David Higgins, the deputy inspector of nuisances, and his men were attempting to remove a pile of manure, when they were attacked by a crowd of colliers, one of whom was throwing stones at them. The stone thrower was fined two pounds and ten shillings plus ten shillings and six pence costs. At this time a collier earned approx. eighteen shillings a week.
On Saturday 11th July 1857, PS Stant charged an elderly blind collier of Rhos with bigamy. The collier had married a Ponkey woman at the local registry office in 1854. So that he could marry another woman at Ruabon, the collier had sold his wife to a friend for one shillings and two pence. The collier appeared before the Ruthin Assizes court and when found guilty of the crime of bigamy he was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment.
In October 1862, it was announced that there were to be three additional police constables for the district. One was to be stationed at Minera, one at Rhostyllen and one at Rhosllanerchrugog (henceforth referred to as Rhos). It was mentioned that Llanwrst was experiencing riots that were endangering the lives of the local police force. Captain Panton suggested that if they were to spare one of their three new police constables it would have to be the one designated for Minera as it was more peaceable and well-behaved than Rhostyllen and Rhos.
In 1869, Mr. Benjamin Davies and the guardians reappointed P.C. Jones as Inspector of Nuisances in the Rhos. At that time there were more than seven thousand inhabitants in the Rhos, living in houses without drainage with pig-styes and closets erected close to the roadway and filth spilling onto the highways in a way that endangered health. With the help of the inspector these buildings had previously been kept clean. Standards had dropped in the absence of P.C. Jones, which was why he was being re-appointed.
In March 1871 it was announced that the County Magistrates and County Surveyors had chosen a piece of land opposite the White Horse in Market Street, Rhos as the site for a new police station. It was to have two cells and a policeman’s house and also a magistrate’s room.
In November 1871, Rhos lost P.C. Davies to typhus fever after an illness lasting for two months. He had served as a police constable at Ruthin, Llanrwst, Wrexham and finally at Rhos. Two months previously one of P.C. Davies’ children had died and he had succumbed to the fever after the child’s funeral. P.C. Jones opened a subscription on behalf of the widow and children.
By January 1873 the building work on the new lockup at Rhos was well in progress.
In 1876, Rhos, Ponkey, Street Issa, and Penycae were served by only two policemen. There had previously been four. It was felt that because of the large population and their apparent willingness to break the law, the gap in the police staff should be at once filled.
On the 16th December 1876 the wife of Sergeant Jones died. The sergeant may be the same person as the previously mentioned P.C. Jones.
In 1877, Police Sergeant Jones of Rhos investigated the case of a 23 year old Johnstown man who had apparently died as a result of injuries sustained when he was allegedly pushed downstairs at the Bricklayer’s Arms, Stryt Issa. The man had been taken to a wedding supper but as he hadn’t a ticket, he wasn’t allowed in. He returned home but was stammering and complaining of feeling soreness in his side. He claimed that the ticket-collector had thrown him down the stairs. The Johnstown man became ill and died a few months later. The local doctor who had attended him accused the ticket-collector of causing the man’s death, but the Penycae policeman who was informed of this took no notice. The case was then handed over to P.S. Jones, who charged the ticket-collector with causing Stewart’s death. The accused and a witness both denied that the man had been pushed. A post-mortem conducted by Henry Jones, a surgeon practicing at the Rhos, revealed the deceased’s internal organs to be in a degenerated condition and a verdict was reached of “Died from natural causes”. The accused was entirely exonerated.
In 1879, after twelve years service, Sergeant Vaughan was promoted to Denbigh to take charge of the force. P.C. William Roberts from Llangollen police was promoted to Sergeant at this time and took over the Rhos Police Station. William Roberts had first joined the police force around 1865.
In 1881 two Rhos men were charged with a cowardly attack against the police. P.C. Jarvis had been sent for to calm down a man who was creating a disturbance in a pub. The man struck the constable a violent blow in the face. Acting-Sergeant Roberts managed to separate them and the offender was given the opportunity to go home, but instead he struck Jarvis and kicked him severely. While the officers were trying to remove the man to the lock-up, the man’s friend rounded up 150 men and women and they rescued him from the police, who were roughly handled and abused in the process. The two main offenders were later arrested and the man who assaulted Jarvis was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour and the other offender was given three months.
A common “crime” in days gone by was “drinking on a Sunday.” In 1887, I found an account of five men who were caught by P.C. Jarvis and charged with being at the Australian Arms, Ponkey at ten o’clock on a Sunday night. The men pleaded guilty and were each fined ten shillings and sixpence, including costs.
On Tuesday, 1st May 1888, P.C. Jarvis of Ponkey Police was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He had served the police for ten years, eight and a half of which had been passed in Ponkey. He was described as an energetic and popular officer and his departure to Wrexham Police was regretted.
In 1893, Sergeant William Roberts and P.Cs. Parry and Rees were called to a house in Ponkey where a man had attempted to kill his wife by striking her on the head with an axe. He then attempted suicide. They both survived and the attacker was found to be insane at the time of the attack. He was sentenced to be detained during her Majesty’s pleasure.
After serving at Rhos for fourteen years, Sergeant William Roberts retired on a pension of £48 13s 4d in late 1893. A presentation was made to him in recognition of “his long and valuable services”. A purse containing £18 12s. 6d. was presented to him in recognition of “his long and valuable services”.
On the 1901 census the occupant of the Police Station in Market Street was 30-year-old Sergeant Edward Jones, who was a widower with a 7-year-old son and a 64 year old housekeeper.
A policeman’s life could be humdrum and much of it was taken up dealing with drunkenness and disorderly behaviour. Crime was very similar in nature one hundred years ago, but the terminology differed slightly. In 1905, P.C. Harris charged a Rhos man with “riding a bicycle furiously” at Gutter Hill, Johnstown. The defendant claimed he was riding at a moderate speed only, but was ordered to pay the costs.
In 1907, P.C. H.J. Rees summoned a Cefn Mawr man with having “imbibed too much and been rather noisy”.
Also in 1907 P.C. Harvey charged a Rhos man with “fighting on the highway”. The fine was twelve shillings and sixpence.
In 1911, 42-year-old Acting Police Sergeant William Harris was living at the Police Station with his 39-year-old wife Jane Ann. They had been married less than one year.
Richard Morris told me of a Rhos Sergeant, Neville John Velander Davies. This was in the 1950s and Sgt. Davies was a big teetotaler and a big chapel man. When he did some pub visits there was always some old wag who would say ‘Would you like a pint Sergeant’ but he always decline. One Saturday night he visited the Horse and Jockey which happened to be pretty full and an old lag three times offered the Sergeant a pint in a loud voice drawing everyone’s attention. Sergeant Davies eventually said ‘OK. Seeing you insist I will have a pint of best bitter’. The old wag was shocked to see the licensee pulling the pint. Sergeant Davies made sure the wag paid, and then he looked around the bar, went up to an old gentleman and put the pint on the table in front of him and said ‘the gentleman over there by the bar has bought you this pint’. The whole place erupted in laughter and the old wag crept out embarrassed. Sergeant Davies was not asked again if he wanted a pint.
WRITTEN BY: Dave Edwards. May 2014
SOURCES: North Wales Chronicle, 1853 & 1862; Wrexham Advertiser 1869 & 1871; Llangollen Advertiser 1871, 1876, 1881, 1887, 1888 & 1907; North Wales Chronicle 1873; Aberystwyth Observer 1876; Wrexham Guardian 1877; 1901 census; Denbighshire Constabulary records 1849-1971; Richard Morris;
Picture by Gwilym Griffiths