The history of policing in Cheshire


Pre 19th century – Parish Constables and Watchmen in larger towns were employed locally.

1829: Cheshire Constabulary Act gave Justices authority to appoint paid officers. Each of the seven Cheshire Hundreds appointed a Special High Constable and several Assistant Petty Constables but this lacked co-ordination and did not provide a comprehensive police force for the whole County.

1835: Municipal Corporations Act permitted towns with a population of more than 5,000 to form a police force. In Cheshire this resulted in the establishment in 1836 of the Chester City, Birkenhead, Macclesfield and Congleton Borough forces. Separate arrangements were made for the policing of the towns of Stockport and Stalybridge.

1847: Warrington Borough Police established.

1856: County & Borough Police Act made it mandatory for each county to form a police force.  As a result, the Cheshire Constabulary was established on 20th April 1857. The first Chief Constable Captain Joannes Smith set up his Headquarters at Chester with nine divisions each headed by a Superintendent. The initial establishment totalled 170 officers.

1865–66 : Outbreak of what was known as ‘The great cattle plague’ was the first crisis to confront the new force, all sergeants were trained in the use of disinfectants to be used to help combat the outbreak.

1867 : Fenian plot to capture the small arms kept at Chester Garrison was foiled, police and troops dispersed a large gathering of Fenians in and around Chester.

1868 : Industrial disturbances by workers in the North East of the county required large numbers of officers from other areas of Cheshire to be drafted in.

1873 : Constable James Green stationed at Bradwell near Sandbach was murdered in the line of duty. James Buckley a local farm worker was arrested following Green’s battered body being recovered from the Trent & Mersey canal. Buckley was charged on the basis of circumstantial evidence and was later acquitted following his trial at Chester Assizes.

1877 : Captain Smith died in service and Captain John William Arrowsmith was appointed Chief Constable. He initiated several rigorous reforms to the force and introduced some drastic methods regarding disciplining members of the force resulting in a large increase in dismissals.

1881 : Captain Arrowsmith died in service and Major later Colonel John Henry Hammersley was appointed Chief Constable.

1886 : New police Headquarters at 142 Foregate Street, Chester opened.

1889 : Establishment of Cheshire County Council, the Standing Joint Committee took over as the authority of the force from the County Justices. The Committee comprised an equal number of Justices and elected members of the council.

1890 : The strength of the force exceeded 400 officers, bicycles were introduced, First Aid Training commenced, and telephones were installed in police stations.  At national level the Police Pensions Act was enacted.

1892 : The Winsford Waterman’s strike developed into serious disorder, 250 members of the force were deployed plus a contingent from Lancashire Constabulary and a force of military Hussars were on standby in Winsford.

1899 : Seventeen police officers who were Army Reservists were recalled to serve in the Boer War.

1904 : The Warrington force acquired the use of a Sunbeam motor car for police use.

1908 : 14 h.p. Siddeley car was purchased for use by the Chief Constable.

1909 :   Murder of George Henry Storrs a wealthy businessman at his home at Gorse Hall near Stalybridge, first use of bloodhounds to search grounds. Despite two separate trials of two men both were acquitted and the offence was never detected.

1910 :  Colonel Hammersley retired and was succeeded as Chief Constable by Colonel Pulteney Malcolm. The Weekly Rest Day Act replaced previous arrangements where officers were only permitted one day off a month.

1912 : 400 Special Constables recruited.

1913 : Wallasey created its own police force and 57 Cheshire officers who were stationed in the town transferred to the new force.

1914 : First World War declared. Special Constables replaced regular officers recalled for military service. Disturbances occurred in Crewe directed at several German pork butchers who owned shops in the town. During the war 145 Cheshire officers served in the armed forces and 14 lost their lives.

1914 – 1918 : Warrington Borough mounted branch was disbanded and the horses taken for military service. 46 Warrington officers served in the armed forces and 6 lost their lives.

1919 : Police Act passed which created the Police Federation. Police pay increased dramatically, constables pay increased by 160% from the rate in 1914.

1920 : The Chief Constable was authorised to purchase ex War Department motorcycles with one being allocated to each division.

1923 : Selected officers were sent for training to the Metropolitan Police Detective Training School.

1926 : General Strike, 1,284 men were sworn in as Special Constables.

1930 : Road Traffic Act was enacted. One Sergeant and twelve Constables were allocated to road patrol duties. Over the next four years the force had acquired four Alvis cars, two MG Magnette sports cars and eight motorcycle combinations for road patrol duties.

1933 : Colonel Malcolm retired and was succeeded by Captain Archibald Hordern AFC who immediately set about creating an adequate criminal investigation department including the setting up of a photographic department.

1934 : First Assistant Chief Constable John R Dodd was appointed.

1935 : Captain Hordern was appointed Chief Constable of Lancashire and was succeeded by Major Jack Becke, later Knighted. Major Becke shortly after his appointment abolished the Shako which had been the headgear of the force since 1880 and made several further changes.

1937 : A courtesy cop scheme was launched to combat an increase in road accidents. The strength of the force was increased by 100 men to enable the scheme to be effective. Officers were sent to the Metropolitan Police Driving School for training. A police wireless scheme was initiated.

1939 : The Crewe Divisional Headquarters in Edleston Road closed and moved to the former Convent at Nantwich Road which later also became the force training school, vehicle maintenance workshops and driving school. On the outbreak of war a total of 104 officers with reserve obligations were recalled to the armed forces several of whom were later killed in action.

1940 – 1941 : Cheshire was subjected to numerous air raids with severe devastation caused in the Wirral, Altrincham and Crewe areas. Constable Frank Marshall was killed on duty in an air raid on Crewe in April, 1941. 200 First Police Reserve (retired officers) 500 War Reserve Constables and 300 Special Constables were equipped to supplement the depleted regular force. A Women’s Auxiliary Police Corp was created by the Government and females were allocated to each force.

1946 : Eight females were appointed as Cheshire’s first regular policewomen. The Home Office District Police Training Centres were established thereby replacing the previous system of in force recruit training. All recruits from North West Forces were trained at No 1 District Training School, Bruche, Warrington. Chief Constable Sir Jack Becke retired and was succeeded by Mr Godwin E Banwell OBE, MC.

1947 : The Borough forces of Macclesfield, Congleton, Stalybridge and Hyde were merged with the Cheshire Constabulary. Police Cadet scheme introduced.

1949 : Chester City Police was merged with Cheshire Constabulary. Police canteens were established at Crewe, Altrincham, Macclesfield and Chester and the following year these were supplement by two specially adapted mobile canteen vehicles.

1951 : Police dog section was formed initially with two handlers based at Broxton.

1953 : A contingent of 100 officers were drafted to London for duty at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth and performed duty on the Mall.

1957 : The centenary of the Cheshire Constabulary celebrated.

1963 : M6 Motorway opened, experimental traffic unit formed involving Staffordshire, Cheshire & Lancashire forces to police the motorway, helicopter used to monitor traffic during experiment. Chief Constable Banwell retired and succeeded by Mr Henry Watson.

1964 : Helmets introduced for Sergeants & Constables to replace peaked caps in use since 1935.

1965 : Ian Brady & Myra Hindley arrested following murder of Edward Evans at their home in Hattersley, Hyde. Investigation lead to the linking of four children abducted from the Manchester area since 1963 who had been murdered by Brady & Hindley and buried on Saddleworth Moor. Case became known as the ‘Moors Murders’.

1967 : New Cheshire Police Headquarters at Nuns Road was opened by H.R.H The Duchess of Gloucester. : : Borough forces of Birkenhead, Wallasey and Stockport merged with Cheshire Constabulary which brought total size of force to over 3,000. Stockport Air Disaster left 72 persons dead when a commercial airliner suffered engine failure and crashed close to town centre.

1967–1968 : Unit Beat Police Scheme commonly known as Panda scheme introduced throughout the force which replaced the traditional police foot patrols.  Outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease in the county required extra police resources to regulate entry to affected farm premises and supervise slaughter of many thousands of cattle, sheep and pigs.

1969 : Warrington Borough Police were merged with Lancashire Constabulary

1970 :  H.R.H The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Cheshire Constabulary spending time In the Stockport Division, the Force Training Centre at Crewe, Headquarters Chester and Ellesmere Port seeing at first hand the work of the force.

1974 : Boundary changes effective from 1st April meant loss of large area of North East Cheshire to new Greater Manchester Police and part of Wirral area to new Merseyside Police. Warrington & Widnes previously in Lancashire became part of Cheshire. Size of force reduced to under 2000 officers and the new force comprised of five Divisions namely Chester, Widnes (including Warrington) Northwich, Crewe and Macclesfield.