By and large a policeman’s “lot” in Oulton and Woodlesford seems to have been a fairly happy and peaceful one down through the years. That’s not to say that crime didn’t exist, but apart from a few rare examples little of it was serious enough to find its way to the higher courts or into the pages of the national newspapers.
Up until the advent of “panda” cars in the 1960s and a decline in police numbers there were about three police constables at any one time who lived and worked locally. They did their patrolling on foot or by bicycle. Before the advent of handheld radios and the mobile phone they they made regular contact with their superiors by taking calls at public telephone boxes at pre-arranged times, what they called “points”.
Another feature of police life was a requirement that they didn’t get too close to the communities they were enforcing the law in, so it was regular practice for them to be moved to a new area after just a few years.
Much of the crime was “petty” and the coppers met their “targets” with regular arrests for such offences as “drunk and disorderley” or “riding a bicycle without lights”.
Here are just a few examples from the pages of the Wakefield Express for 1926, a year which included the General Strike in May in support of the miners who stayed out for a further six months.
January 2: Two schoolboys were taken to the Leeds West Riding Court for stealing a tame rabbit belonging to Horace William Jowsey of 6 Clement Street. They took the rabbit from a hutch on his allotment and sold it in Kippax for 3 shillings, agreeing to be paid in installments of 8 pence a week. P.C. Clayton gave evidence. After a warning from the magistrates and a word to their parents the boys were bound over for 6 months and had to pay costs.
January 23: Farmer Robert Wilson was fined 12/- for allowing 20 head of cattle to “go for a stroll”. P.C. Ernest Finbow was told by a motorist that there were beasts in Wakefield Road. He found them and drove them back to the farm discovering a gap in the fence and a farm gate open. The defendant said it was “an accident.”
February 6: Miner Samuel Cook was charged with a breach of a swine movement order. In court Sergeant Greenwood said he called at Cook’s home and asked if two pigs had been moved. “Yes. I could not afford to keep them any longer,” he was told. The pigs had been taken to the auction market at Whitkirk. An inspector from the Ministry of Agriculture said he had given the defendant notice prohibiting any movement of swine except under licence. Cook said he did not realise the seriousness of the offence and was fined 10/-.
February 20: Miners William Hogg and Walter Parker were charged with using obscene language by P. C. Teale on Calverley Road. He said he could hear them from 30 yards away. They were each fined 20/-.
February 21: Eight Woodlesford youths were caught playing football on a Sunday afternoon in a field off Aberford Road. When they were challenged by P.C. Finbow they ran away but he managed to track them down. Clifford Henshall, Frank Morton, Leon Fawcett, William Blair, William Blackhouse, James Dennison, Dick Killlingbeck and Bernard Webdale were charged with damaging the grass. The famer, John Nichols, said it cost 4/- to repair the bare patches. One of the defendants said there was no noticeboard and a footpath across the field. They offered to settle out of court. Nichols said that everytime he put up a noticeboard it was pulled down. The defendants had to pay 5/- each.
March 13: Six men aged between 20 and 40 were charged by P.C. Finbow and P.C. Clayton with playing football on Alma Street. They told the court there had been many complaints and the police had been asked to put a stop to it. None of the defendants appeared in court and they were each fined 6/-. P.C. Finbow lived at 40 Alma Street with his wife Elizabeth so he probably knew all the culprits by sight and would have easily been able to identify them.
April 17: Fred Allison, the manager of the Ritz picture house was fined 15/- for leaving his car running. P.C. Clare said he had observed it for 5 minutes. Allison said he had gone inside to fetch a pail of water for the radiator and was never out of sight of the car.
August 28: Three Hunslet schoolboys werc caught by P.C. Finbow stealing turnips from a field in Oulton cultivated by John Greaves. They were loading them onto a handcart and they had also been picking coal from the muck heaps at Woodlesford. P.C. Finbow told the court there had been numerous complaints about damage to crops in the district. They were bound over for 6 months and had to pay 4s 6d for the damage.
Policeman Robert Dixon, and his wife Grace, arrived in the area in 1961 after he was moved from Settle. At first they lived in a police house on Wakefield Road near the Coal Board estate or “Cardboard City” as it was known. He spent 15 years in the community before moving to a desk job at police headquarters in Wakefield. Click on the links below to hear Robert talking about life on the local beat, and the banter he had to put up, bearing the same surname as a famous television copper of the time .
I seemed to fit in like a glove