A Respected Sussex Policeman

A few weeks ago, Dr June Goodfield, the President of the Alfriston & Cuckmere Valley Historical Society had an unexpected visitor with an interesting item.  John Enever called in with his great-grandfathers watch.  His ancestor was a policeman who was so respected by the good people of Alfriston that they presented him with the watch in 1869.

John’s mother Zora Nellie Richardson was born in Alfriston on 18th February 1907 and attended Alfriston School.  When she was 5 years old the family moved to live in one of the cottages just north of Berwick Station.  She continued to go to school at Alfriston, walking nearly 6 miles a day to get there and back.  Zora sang in the Congregational Church Choir at Alfriston accompanied by her best friend Edith Laker (known as Edie)  The Laker family ran the brickworks which were just to the north of Berwick Station.   Zora married George Enever at St Andrew’s Church Alfriston in 1930 and the couple moved to Surrey.

One of Zora’s prized possessions was the watch presented to her grandfather William Richardson the Alfriston village policeman.

William was born in Chiddingly in 1826.  He married Sarah Cottingham who was from Mayfield. Sarah was six years his junior and was just 16 when she became pregnant with their daughter Sally.    In 1860 William and Sarah moved to Alfriston where he had been posted by the East Sussex Constabulary.

The family lived at the Police House at 20, High Street, Alfriston.  This is situated next to the village shop on the corner of the High Street and what is now Rope Walk.  (Occupied by Diana Kelly today)  The house faced Market Square although it was called Cross Square in the early census records.

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The Police House in Alfriston (left)

It is clear PC Richardson was well liked by the local inhabitants. Just a year after his posting to Alfriston he was involved in the annual Bonfire Celebrations. The Sussex Express of November 1861 reported on the Guy Fawkes procession, the bonfire built in the middle of the road outside the Star Inn and the large amount of Stingo consumed. ( Stingo was a beer brewed in Newhaven )  The reported ended:  “We must not forget the kindness shown by PC Richardson, our much respected office, who won the esteem of all by making all things as pleasant as possible”

In 1867 PC Richardson was was involved in two arrests.  In May 1867 a lady put a handkerchief on the hedge outside her cottage to dry.  It was stolen by one William Stubberfield who, when searched by our local constable was found to be in possession of the stolen item.  The prisoner was taken to Hailsham Police Station to be locked up and later appeared at Eastbourne Magistrates Court where Superintendent Waghorne told the court that Stubberfield had several convictions. He was therefore remanded in custody for trial.  This seems a huge amount of effort for a stolen handkerchief!

A few months later William made a more substantial arrest. Mr Comfort’s shop next to him was burgled and the following was stolen:  60 pairs of trousers, 40 vests, 3 overcoats, 20 cloth coats, 12 stable jackets, 20 pairs of dog-skin gloves, 8 pairs of leather leggings, 2 table cloths, 8 scarfs , 5 pairs of boots, a number of cheap aprons and £2 in copper coins.  A good haul compared to the previous incident!

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The shop that was burgled (William lived in the house on the left)

The people of Alfriston obviously appreciated their local constable as, in 1869, over fifty residents clubs together to buy him a silver watch.  Amongst the subscribers were members of the local clergy and shopkeepers. The presentation was made to thank the good police officer for nine years of good service and also his “untiring activity , ingenuity and perseverance when called into action”   The paper said that they hoped that the reward  would be an inducement to other members of the East Sussex Constabulary to follow his good example.

William thanked everyone who had subscribed to his gift and said that he was determined to continue to do his duty to the best of his ability and, if ever he should be posted away from Alfriston, that he would remember his friends in the village.

PC William Richardson  served in Alfriston for many years. William and Sarah are shown on the 1881 census although it appears he had shaved a couple of years off his age! He retired in the late 1880s and moved to Heathfield.  The 1891 census shows his occupation as an ‘attendance officer’ 

William died at Maynards Green near Heathfield in February 1907. He left his life savings (£242) to his wife. 

PC William Richardson may have been forgotten in Alfriston today but thanks to that silver watch he will be remembered by his family for many years to come.

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