Click on the links below to see how Law and Order was achieved.
In the AngloSaxon period it was the responsibility of kindred to protect one another; but if one was accused of a crime, his kinsmen were responsible for seeing that he came to the folk moot to answer the charge. Failure to answer a charge could result in outlawry.
In the 10th century the Hundreds were established, with a hundred court meeting in the open every 4 weeks. Appeal could be made from the folk moot, to the hundred court, and thence to the shire moot/court which met twice a year. Cnut (1016-35) ruled that every free adult male (over 12) should be in a tithing (later called frankpledge) - a group of 10 men who acted as surety for one another's behaviour and, if one was accused, responsible for bringing him to court to answer the charge.
The court process was not as now. The plaintiff summoned the defendant to court. If the defendant refused to appear, he could be outlawed. If the defendant answered the charge, he might seek leave to give his oath of innocence. At a later date he had to reappear to give his oath, backed up by a number of compurgators or oathtakers who could also swear to his innocence. The number of oathtakers required to prove his innocence varied according to the severity of the charge. In some cases, where perhaps the defendant had been repeatedly brought before the court (and whose oath was therefore suspect), instead the plaintiff might be required to produce oathtakers willing to swear to his guilt. Occasionally where this did not produce a clear verdict, resort was made to trial by ordeal.
As the manorial system developed, so did the justice system. The unfree tenants/villeins of an estate had to look for justice from the landowner/lord of the manor in his court - the hall moot or halimot. Free peasants or sokemen also had to seek justice from their lord, but they could change to which lord they owed their allegiance; they might also hold land as part of a large estate, whose court was at a distance, not in the same parish. Danelaw villages such as Hoxne often had divided lordships. In Hoxne the tenants of the Bishop's manor, all unfree, were subject to the jurisdiction of that manorial court. But Domesday Book reveals that about half the acreage of the parish was outside that manor. Roughly, the eastern half of the parish, comprising farms and the hamlet of Chickering, was tenanted by a number of freemen and one freewoman who were under the jurisdiction of several other lords.
Over time kings granted major landowners the profits from jurisdiction over their own lands and tenants, i.e. the right to hold a private court in criminal matters. Writs and charters speak of the right to "sake and soke, toll and team and infangenetheof" and "view of frankpledge". This meant among other things the right to exercise jurisdiction over sokemen, and the right to take and execute justice on thieves; and the right to ensure that every adult male was in a tithing or frankpledge, which had previously been exercised by the hundred court. These matters were dealt with in the court leet, whereas the administrative matters of the manor, its customs and rights of tenants were dealt with at the court baron.
Gradually over centuries the powers of the manor court declined until 1842, when the powers of the leet court were transferred to the parish vestry.
The population was also subject to the sanctions of the Church. From the medieval period onward matters of religious conformity, heresy and recusancy, or morality, such as adultery or lewd behaviour, were dealt with by separate church courts, principally the Bishop's Consistory Court.
In 1195 knights were assigned to enforce the oath to keep the King's Peace, which led to the development of "Justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions assembled". Since 1361 JP's for each county have met 4 times a year (Quarter Sessions) to try misdemeanours, enforce bylaws and maintain the King's Peace. (The most serious cases were referred to the royal justices at the Assizes, with commissions for "Oyer et Terminer" and Gaol Delivery.)
Local juries or individual justices might make presentments (informal charges) to Quarter Sessions of nuisances, such as obstruction of the highway, or disorderly alehouses. Formal indictments might be made of more serious offences, such as larceny, assaults, poaching etc. From the 16th century, 1 or 2 justices, or a small group, could act together or alone to deal with petty offences in Petty Sessions.
Tudor legislation imposed a great many administrative duties also on JP's, so that they became the main instrument of local government, until the Local Government Act 1888 set up County Councils. Acts in 1576 and 1598 imposed on them the duty to provide Houses of Correction for reform of vagrants and disorderly persons.
The office of constable or tithing man was manorial in origin, probably with a duty to ensure order during court sessions. Since the 13th century (statutes of 1285) constables were appointed to be responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the parish and arrangements for keeping watch and ward. They were subject to Justices of the Peace (and later the parish vestry), and had powers of arrest. They could take in charge anyone suspected of committing a felony. For minor offences or a breach of the peace they could detain the offender, in the stocks or a roundhouse, until they could take him before a magistrate or Justice of the Peace. The constable supervised amenities such as the stocks, whipping post, pillory, ducking stool or cage. He administered whipping for vagrancy and was responsible for suppression of beggars. In many cases the manor court had the power to appoint the constable until 1842, when the powers of the leet were transferred to the vestry.
Sam. Chilvers for felling, hewing, saweing and getting of ye two whipping posts. 7s
Jo. Powle for irons for ye whipping post at Cross Street. 2s 3d
Tho. Clarke for irons for ye whipping post at Church Street. 2s 6d
Petty sessions for the Hundred of Hoxne were held at The Falcon in Hoxne until it burnt down in 1789. They then moved to the Swan Inn. In 1785 John Pearl and Ez. Backley were the Chief Constables.
The Ipswich Journal of the 15th February 1783 published the following:
Whereas many Persons in the Parish of Hoxne are desirous of entering into an ASSOCIATION for apprehending and prosecuting all persons guilty of felonies, &c. notice is hereby given, That a meeting will be held at the Swan Inn in the parish of Hoxne aforesaid, on THURSDAY next the 20th of this inst. at Three o'clock in the afternoon, where articles will be produced for that purpose.
It appears that the Association was set up and meetings were held quarterly at the Swan. Members, over the years, included representatives from Athlington, Barton, Broome, Dickleborough(Norfolk), Denham, Earl Soham, Eye, Finningham, Gissing(Norfolk), Hoxne, Horham, Harleston (Norfolk), Oakley, Redlingfield, Roydon(Norfolk), Scole(Norfolk), Shimpling (Norfolk), Syleham, Stradbroke, Thrandeston, Wacton Magna(Norfolk), Wetheringsett, Wingfield, Wilby and Yaxley, although the majority were from Hoxne. Thomas Maynard was the Treasurer and John Press his deputy.
The following invitation published in the Ipswich Journal of the 1st January 1785 gives an indication of the rules of the Association:
The fourth Quarterly Meeting of the Subscribers to the said assoociation will be held on Monday the tenth day of January 1785 at the Swan Inn, in Hoxne aforesaid, at two o'clock in the afternoon, at which time and place a dinner will be provided for the members of the said society, who are requested to attend to settle the account, &c.; and that such members who have been at the expense of any prosecution relative to the said society, are desired to bring their bills, that the same may be then discharged; and all those subscribers who have forfeited by not attending the Quarterly Meetings, are requested to pay, or cause to be paid, their respective forfeitures then in arrear, or they will be excluded from any benefit of the said society, and be no longer deemed members thereof; and that such persons who are desirous of being admitted members, are requested to attend that day, the under written being the present members.
In 1785 the local members were:
Below are a few examples of the punishments given to wrong doers.Theft seems to have recieved a harsher penulty than assault or even manslaughter.
It was in 1829 that Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police Force for London, based at Scotland Yard and by 1857 all cities in the UK were obliged to form their own police forces. Before 1829 country parishes and smaller market towns had constables and the local watch and ward. This was the old Tudor system.
Despite the early successes of the Metropolitan police, the expansion of police forces to rural areas was gradual. The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 ordered all incorporated boroughs to set up police forces under the control of a watch committee and in 1839 the Rural Constabularies Act was passed. The 1839 Rural Constabulary Act came as a direct result of the Royal Commission on Constabulary Forces of the same year, caused some boroughs to panic and to reorganise their own police forces to avoid the high expense of being involved with county forces. The Act did not meet the Report's demands for a national police force, with the Metropolitan Police as the controlling power. The Act permitted JPs to appoint Chief Constables for the direction of the police in their areas and allowed for one policeman per 1,000 population. Response was poor. By 1853 only 22 counties of 52 had police forces. Yorkshire was the poorest served. One division of the East Riding had only nine policemen. By about 1855 there were only 12,000 policemen in England and Wales. It was not until 1856 that Parliament mandated that provinces establish police forces.
The East Suffolk police force was formed in 1840 and the West Suffolk in 1844. In the early days of the East Suffolk force there were also Borough forces for Lowestoft, Eye, Beccles, Dunwich, Orford and Southwold. However these soon disappeared. The Ipswich Borough force was formed on the 1st March 1836.
The East and West Suffolk forces combined to become the Suffolk Constabulary on the 2nd June 1869.The chief constable was Major Clement Henry John Heigham, under him were 6 Superintendents, 6 Inspectors, 6 Sergeants and 72 Constables. Mr Heigham died in 1898 and the East and West Suffolk forces came back into being on the 21st February 1899. They continued for the next 68 years until they were reamalgamated, on the 1st April 1967, with Ipswich Borough force, to once again become the Suffolk Constabulary.
Until 1889 the police were the responsibility of the Court of Quarter Sessions, acting through its Police Committee. When County Councils were created in 1889 control of the police was placed in the hands of a joint committee of County Councillors and JPs - the Standing Joint Committee.
The police force was becoming more professional body in the second half of the 19th century. During the 1870's West Suffolk introduced uniform changes, for ranks below Inspector the frock coat and top hat were replaced by a tunic and badgeless helmet along with silver plated buttons carrying the Victorian Crown surrounded by the force title. More senior ranks continued to wear an improved frock coat embroidered with black braid and the headgear was changed to a pill box hat with a small peak. Soon after the re-division of the West Suffolk force a helmet badge was intoduced for the first time. The insignia became a Tudor Crown in 1904-1905 in accordance with Royal wishes.
Police Buttons found in Hoxne
Telephones made a dramatic impact. However, in West Suffolk, only Superintendants were allowed to use them.
The last Hoxne Magistrate's Court was held at the Queen's Head in Stradbroke in March 1974, the last sitting after 200 years.
Hoxne Police Station on the far left
Number 54 Low Street, Hoxne was used as the Police Station from c1871 to c1938, and it's cellar was used to lock up prisoners. The cellar has changed little from those days as can be seen from the pictures below. The steps are very interesting as they are large chunks of wood, and probably date from the 15th century.
In 1861 Easy Bridges was a retired Police Constable, previously in Chelsea, London, living in 54 Low Street which was to become the Police Station.
In c1869 to 1873 Robert Girling was Police Constable.
In 1876 and 1877 PC Simkin(Simpkins) was Police Constable.
From 1879 to at least 1887 George Westrope was Police Constable.
The 1891 census records William Reeve as Police Constable. He arrived here in June 1890 after his marriage to Miss Fanny Norman.
Prior to 1902 William Snell was the Police Constable as recorded on the 1901 census and at least from 1893.
From 1902 to 1914 PC William Thomas Bailey was stationed here. He was a member of the East Suffolk force for 30 years, seeing service at Orford and Trimley before coming to Hoxne. After retiring in 1914 he became the licensee of the Grape Inn in Cross Street. He died on the 3rd April 1929 at the age of 65. He had recently announced his intention of retiring from the Grapes in June. He had been a keen cricketer and bowls player. For a biography of William Bailey click on the link below.
PC Walter Bruce was in Hoxne fom 1914 to at least 1924.
PC William S. Chapman was stationed in Hoxne from 1926 until 1933 when he moved to Yaxley.
PC Valentine B. Brewer was stationed in Hoxne from 1933 until 1942.
No 54 Low Street had ceased to be used as the Police Station by 1939 and a new Police Station was built in Green Street/Stradbroke Road in 1937. This closed in 1977/8 and became a private house in 1980. The new police house was actually in the parish of Syleham, just on the wrong side of the road, near to Gate House Farm. The 1939 Register records Valentine B. Brewer, an East Suffolk Police Constable, and his family, living there.
Joseph Cooper was the Police constable from 1942 until 1951.
PC Alan King was the local constable from 1951 until 1955. Alan wrote a piece for Stephen Govier, in about 1990, which gives a real insight into what a local PC's life was like. Click on the link below for more details:
PC Barker took over in 1956 and remained at Hoxne until 1960 when he was transferred to Halesworth.