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Bob Edmondson

We have two personal accounts with contrasting perspectives from the period in which Lancashire Constabulary were being trained in the Castle.

  • Bob Edmondson, a Lancashire policeman, describes his three months living and training in the Castle.

  • Jean Nicholson lived as a child in the Governor’s Lodgings at the Castle while her father was in charge of police training.

Read Bob’s account below, and go to the next step to read (or watch) Jean’s Nicholson’s account. Then proceed to the discussion in step 4.7 and post a comment. As you meet these two inhabitants of the Castle, consider:

  • What impression do their accounts give of the experience of living in the Castle?

Bob Edmondson’s account

Bob Edmondson, a Lancashire policeman, describes his three months living and training in the Castle.

From Bob Edmondson, Bob’s beat: The Story of a Lancashire Policeman (1934-1963), Manchester: Neil Richardson, 1985. (Extracts taken from pp 6-13)

Training at Lancaster

On Christmas Eve 1934 I travelled to Preston by train and went to the headquarters of the Lancashire Constabulary to enrol as a constable. … Together with several other men I was measured for uniform and then we were taken by a large blue Police van to Lancaster Castle, there to be moulded into efficient police constables. It was a thrilling experience in those days to leave home and travel at the age of twenty-two, even though it was only within Lancashire, and I had never been to Lancaster before. [Bob was born in Hesketh Bank, a small agricultural village in Lancashire.]

Lancaster Castle was owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and had been used as a prison from 1913 until 1930. In that year the then Chief Constable of Lancashire, Wilfred Trulshaw, took a sixty year lease on the prison blocks there, and from 1930 until 1938 all recruits of the Lancashire Constabulary and numerous other Forces in the country were trained in the prison. They slept in the prison cells and dined in the hall of the prison blocks.

The portion of the prison used consisted of four convict blocks, a large dining hall and a kitchen where food was proved by four recruits under the supervision of a senior constable. There was a resident cook but we had to prepare all the vegetables, wash the dishes and act as waiters when the meals were being served. Four other recruits were detailed to do all the cleaning, including the dining area, lecture room, library and the recreation room, where a wireless, snooker table and the card tables were made available for our use. Each recruit was responsible for keeping his own cell clean and we all got a turn at the general kitchen and cleaning duties, since eight of us were employed in this fashion for a week at a time.

A large open square (formerly the prisoners’ exercise area) was used for drill parades. Part of each day was set aside for these and we were taught how to form fours, quick march, slow march and how to salute a senior officer. Each recruit did a few hours’ office duty in the gatehouse to one side of the drill square to allow us to become conversant with the telephone, which was unfamiliar to most of us. It was an instrument of the upright type with a detachable earpiece on a cord, and had to be manned twenty-four hours a day by PC recruits. There was also a large classroom where we received our instruction, which included dictation tests, arithmetic and lessons on how to compile reports on cases to be presented in court. We also had to study Police procedure to enable us to perform outside duties after the training was over, and there was a weekly first aid lecture. …Each week a visit to Lancaster Baths was arranged and all non-swimmers had to be able to swim one width of the baths before the course was completed. Other physical activities included boxing and ju jitsu. A barber visited the Castle soon after we arrived and we were all trimmed very short, so as to look clean and tidy. The course lasted three months and was under the supervision of Chief Inspector Hogg.

Upon arrival, I found that 114 men were taking the course. Owing to the massive unemployment situation at the time, men from all walks of life and from different parts of the country had been attracted to the Police Service as an opportunity to establish a “safe” career. It was very interesting to meet these men and to observe their different interests and attitudes to life. It was amazing how quickly we all settled into our new routine and I made many friendships, some of which lasted the whole of my Police career and into retirement [including his] “cell mate”, Sidney Price, another Lancashire lad. We shared a double cell for the whole of the three months’ training period and became close friends.

I well remember the meal on my first evening in the Castle. It consisted of sausages, bread and butter. Now some of the youths came from very well to do families – solicitors’ and doctors’ sons – and from other professional occupations. This plain fare was unacceptable to them, and they said it was rubbish. But they got no alternative, and no supper that day! It was noticeable that this was the first and last time this occurred – they were very pleased, after a few days, to eat whatever was served up to us.

I well remember my first wages - £2/18/11d (£2.94) per week. The Police, together with civil servants and all government employees, had been given a 10% cut at this time because of the Depression. We had free accommodation but paid for our food, which amounted to 17/11d (0.89p) each week. How the value of money has changed today, compared with the hard times of the 1930s!

During my time at Lancaster it was bitterly cold, even though the Castle had central heating. The early months of the year in North Lancashire can be very trying and we had severe frost and several falls of snow. But we still received our drill instruction on the Castle square and became very fit men. The course had been well arranged and we became proficient in all subjects and passed out from the Castle as qualified Constables.

We were scatted to all parts of Lancashire… there were 19 Divisions in all and friends were posted to every one. Some I made contact with, but others I never met again after leaving the Castle.

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This article is from the free online course:

Lancaster Castle and Northern English History: The View from the Stronghold

Lancaster University