I joined the British Transport Police as a Cadet in 1973 a few days after my 16th birthday. Although I was from Eastbourne I was posted to Brighton but I would regularly visit the Eastbourne office which was manned by an old officer, PC Jack Carter. Jack was a friendly chap who seemed to be well liked at the station. I would often accompany him on his patrols, walking around the station car-park or occasionally patrolling trains out to Bexhill. To be honest he didn’t seem to do much.
His office at Eastbourne station was tiny and was on an upstairs corridor. I remember it had a desk, a telephone, a kettle and an old tea-chest filled with official documents such as copies of the ‘Police Gazette and Confidential Information.’ This large box seemed to be the only method of filing papers and occasionally Jack would task me with taking armfuls of the documents down the tracks to the goods-shed where there was a metal incinerator and I would throw them all in and set fire to them. The heat of the fire would send burning documents high into the sky and I worried for weeks afterwards that someone would find a half-burned official document in their back garden and I would get the blame.
The police work at Eastbourne Station seemed to be sedentary and pleasant – just the job for me (!) and I made it clear to all my colleagues at Brighton that that was where I wanted to be stationed. It was not to be. On my eighteen and a half birthday I was appointed a constable and posted to Victoria Station in London. Shortly afterwards PC Carter retired and the British Transport Police post at Eastbourne closed for good.
It appears that Eastbourne Station had had a railway police post for many years. When the railway arrived in Eastbourne in 1849 the station would have been policed from an office at Falmer (later Lewes). The officer in charge of several railway constables was Superintendent Action who I have written about previously.
The first mention of a railway policeman in Eastbourne I can find in the local papers dates from 1878 when James Baker who is described as a ‘railway constable and night-watchman’ was found unconscious near the station goods yard. He had been on patrol at 2am when he had disturbed two men breaking into the offices of Bradford & Son the coal merchant. When he had tried to arrest them he had been knocked to the ground and kicked. Luckily his groans were heard by a patrolling Eastbourne Borough Officer, PC George Avis who helped him and called a doctor. The railway officer was prescribed ‘hot formentations’ for his injuries.
Interestingly when PC Avis retired from the Borough Police he worked for several years as a railway policeman at Eastbourne. In July 1890 he was himself subject to a ‘savage assault’ when he was punched in the face whilst arresting a man for trying to steal some strawberries from one of the platforms.
It seems one of the longer serving railway constables at Eastbourne was Sidney Joyes.
Sidney was born in Billingshurst, West Sussex in 1864 and joined the London Brighton & South Coast Railway at the age of 15 in January 1879. The 1891 census shows he was working as a Signalman at Ford in West Sussex living at the local Ship & Anchor pub but shortly afterwards joined the company police force.
In November 1896 PC Joyes was assaulted whilst on duty at the taxi rank of Eastbourne Station. He witnessed Edward Smith (described as elderly and of no fixed abode) working as an unlicensed porter. When he challenged Smith his ‘cab-book’ was knocked out of his hands and he was punched in the face causing bleeding to his eye and nose. Giving evidence at court PC Joyes said “We policemen at the railway station are treated with a lot of abuse” The Chief Constable of the Borough Police read out a list of previous convictions and Smith was sentenced to 7 days imprisonment with hard labour.
In 1898 Sidney married Susan Fry in Eastbourne. That same year PC Joyes was himself convicted of assault. I have not been able to find any details however the conviction was bought up at a later trial when he admitted that he had previously been fined for assault. Sidney and his wife lived at 32, St Marys Road in Old Town. They were singers and I have read several reports of them giving recitals around the town.
On 28th April 1900 a man named Goddard was arrested by an Eastbourne Borough Officer outside the Gildridge Hotel in Terminus Road – just across the way from the railway station. A large crowd of youths, said to number nearly 200, crowded around in an attempt to release the prisoner and the officer was assaulted. PC Joyes heard the disturbance and ran out to assist the officer. When extra officers arrived several men were arrested. PC Joyes actions must have greatly assisted the local police as the following month he attended the Town Hall where the Chief Constable Mr Plumb presented him with an ivory walking stick engraved “Presented to Sidney Joyes by the Eastbourne Borough Police in recognition of assistance rendered. April 1900.”
In June 1900 PC Joyes arrested George Marden, a betting agent of ‘Sandown’ Gore Park Road. He was at the ticket barrier assisting the ticket collecting staff when Marden had tried to push his way past the officer without a ticket. During the resulting fracas PC Joyes was pushed in the face. At court Marden defended himself. (which in my experience is never a good idea) Although Marden admitted the assault he tried to discredit the police officer. He said that the officer had once approached him in the street and asked to borrow money to buy a drink. PC Joyes retorted that this was untrue as he was an abstainer. Marden then told the court that PC Joyes was not liked at the railway station because he had summoned over 20 cab drivers. PC Joyes replied that he had reported the cabmen for offences but it was not his job to summons them. The Chief Constable of the Borough force Mr Plumb gave evidence that PC Joyes had been sworn in as a special constable with the Eastbourne Borough Force. The chairman of the magistrates found Marden guilty and said the railway policeman was a man of considerable self-control and had behaved exceedingly well. Marden was fined 10 shillings and 13 shillings costs.
1900 was a busy summer for Sidney in July he attended the scene of an accident. A young railwayman Edwin Stevenson, was shunting when he fell against the train and was injured. Sidney gave him first-aid and later assisted with conveying him to Princess Alice Hospital where the poor man’s leg was amputated.
In 1901 Queen Victoria died and it is interesting that her death necessitated the whole of the Eastbourne Borough Force being re-sworn in to “well and truly serve the sovereign King in the office of constable”. The chief constable Major E.J.J. Teale was sworn in first followed by two Inspectors, one Detective Inspector, 12 Sergeants, one Sergeant-clerk and 40 Constables. Afterwards PCs Joyes and Poate of the Railway Police and an RSPCA Inspector were re-sworn in as Special Constables. The police would have been issued with new helmet plates topped by the King’s crown as shown below.
In May 1902 Sidney was being paid £1 and 3 shillings a week but this was increased by a shilling the following year.
In April 1903 PC Joyes assisted PC Holden of the Borough force in restraining a violent prisoner (a suspected army deserter) in Terminus Road. At the subsequent court hearing he was commended by the magistrates for his good work. In October 1905 he gave evidence in the case of Florence Yeo who was charged with abandoning her children at Eastbourne Station.
By 1912 Sidney was one of three constables at Eastbourne Station. The others were Sydney Poate (who joined in 1899) and newly recruited Philip Sullivan who was an ex-serviceman.
PC Poate was later transferred to work from Eastbourne Goods Yard. His duties there would be mainly to prevent theft and checking the seals on the many goods wagons in the yard. He would have not had much contact with the general public so does not feature much in local news reports however in March 1904 he appeared before Eastbourne Magistrates charged with allowing his chimney to catch on fire!
PC Sidney Joyes died on 25th July 1923. He was visiting his sister on Hayling Island in Hampshire when he walked into the path of a railway train and was killed. He was 58 years old. An inquest heard that the railway constable had completed 45 years service but at the time of his death had been on sick leave for three months. His wife said he had been suffering very badly with nerves and depression, he had had a breakdown and was highly-strung. He was buried on Hayling Island. The coroner returned the verdict that Sidney had taken his own life whilst of unsound mind. He left over £700 to his widow which at that time was a considerable sum.
A sad ending for a railway constable.