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Law and Order

Benjamin Inkpen's Diary

A policeman's lot...

Benjamin Inkpen was one of Poole's first official policemen, who helped the magistrates keep public order in the first half of the 19th century.  A local historian imagines his musings towards the end of a long and sometimes dangerous career:

August 1862

This past summer Mary-Anne - my wife that is - she’s been staring more and more at the scar on my forehead. What she’ll do is, she’ll stare and then a second later she’ll sigh and say, “Ben, isn’t it time you let someone else take over?”  Someone younger is what she means.

I know what she’s thinking of - that election in 1835, after the Reform Act, when me and the Coroner were set upon by a crowd as we left the Guildhall.  They thought the Tories had rigged the election, see, so they pelted us with rocks and ice.  That’s what she’s thinking of - the fact I got hurt: not the fact that I managed to bring some of the mob to court after.

Never mind the more successful times, like 1850, when the seamen struck for higher wages.  Some of them settled for the £3 that the ship-owners offered.  The rest of them, still on strike, didn’t like that.  Not at all.  I had to station a body of policemen on the Quay in the midst of all that shouting and all those threats.  It worked though - I kept the peace.

Mary-Anne certainly isn’t thinking of my time as Inspector for Weights and Measures.  I was fond of that post, and of making sure that men like Thomas Lee - that rogue up in Longfleet - soon learnt that they couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes. I fined him in the end, old Lee - 2s and 6d after he kept using those dodgy scales to weigh his butter.

No, Mary-Anne’s just looking at the scar on my head, seeing me hurt all over again and, well… it could be that she’s got the right idea.  Maybe it is time for someone younger to be High Constable.  Maybe...

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