DOWN MEMORY LANE An arresting glimpse of the past
Malcolm Barrett joined the West Sussex Constabulary in Chichester in 1950 and remained with the police '“ barring a break for national service '“ until his retirement in 1983.
For many years he ran a police museum in Chichester – the perfect qualification for compiling his new book, West Sussex Constabulary: 110 Years Of History.
The book goes from the creation of the constabulary in 1857 through to the amalgamations which replaced it with Sussex Police from 1968.
“I joined in Chichester at the police headquarters,” recalls Malcolm, who lives in Tangmere. “At the time I was lodging with my aunt and uncle. He was in the force.
“I formed a museum as a bit of a hobby. I got lots of stuff up together from various sources, all the material from when the force was formed. I also used to take photographs of various units for publicity purposes. We then had a force magazine called The Parade.”
Looking back, it was all very much a family affair: “Everybody knew each other. The Parade had articles from each division. You had somebody writing it up, welcoming people, saying cheerio to people, all sorts of stories – and that’s where I was able to get a lot of information from.
“I put this book together as a hobby and also to get used to using a computer!”
And still the information comes in. Malcolm, 76, has hundreds of photographs available – all part of the force’s rich history.
There was a Chichester police force in the 1830s, but it wasn’t until 1857 that all the county forces were brought together as the West Sussex Constabulary, created following an act of parliament the previous year: “Until then it was parish constables in most of the villages.”
The West Sussex Constabulary continued until December 1967. From January 1968, it became part of what became Sussex Police – a move some still lament,
“I played cricket for Chichester. We played against all the local teams,” recalls Malcolm, all part of more inclusive times, when retired officers were looked after and made to feel part of it all. Days when – Malcolm feels – the police were more visible.
“You would see them walking about. Everyone would know them. In the old days, there used to be a policeman at the Cross in Chichester. If you wanted something, you would know where to find them. Each beat used to have a policeman walking around.”
Malcolm’s book is available from him directly on email at [email protected]