The Devon Heritage Centre now holds a large collection of records relating to the policing of Devon and neighbouring areas. These are in the process of being organised and catalogued by an archivist and a group of volunteers, under the aegis of the South West Police Heritage Trust. Archivist, Alistair Stone, writes:
Professional Police Forces
The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 introduced the idea of professional police forces. Before that, law and order were upheld in several different ways including unpaid watchmen, parish constables, and Justices of the Peace. Devon and Cornwall Constabulary as we know it today was amalgamated in 1967 from Devon Constabulary, Cornwall Constabulary, Exeter City Constabulary and Plymouth City Constabulary. These forces were also created from 23 city and borough forces between 1856 and 1947. The large areas of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have a rich history and regional identity with many different police forces in the past combining together to form what we have today.
Police Archive Records
The Police Archive records are part of the MPDC (Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall) registered under the SWPHT (South West Police Heritage Trust). These make up three main collections of documents and records, photographs, and objects. The documents, records and photographs are all being properly relocated and catalogued to recognised standards at the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter. One archivist and a large team of enthusiastic volunteers have been working tirelessly to sort, organise and then catalogue the records so that they are publicly accessible to order to view on the Devon Archives and Local Studies Service online catalogue.
We hold great records for family history, including personnel files, police personnel registers, conduct book registers, pension pay registers, general orders beat books and pocket books. We also hold many records related to criminal activity and police work in the form of multiple reports, building plans, criminal reports and files, investigation reports, general policing duties records, orders and circulars.
The thousands of records we hold also cover various areas of research and historical interest, such as World Wars One & Two, Civil Defence, Police Personnel, Police Animals, Police Equipment, Police Technology, Police Uniform, Women Police, Crime and Criminal Investigation, Murders, Legislation, Orders and Organisation, Executive Support and Administration, Road Traffic Department, Police Vehicles, Police Social Activities and Sports, Licenced Premises (mostly Plymouth), Security Operations, Major Incidents, Police Maps and Police Buildings and building plans.
Some interesting records and stories include the organisation of women police and the collection of Evelyn Edna Watton gives a view on female officers’ experiences in the police. There are also many murder files that shed light on police investigations. Collections of photographs of bomb damage in Plymouth, together with statistics on the damage, also feature. There is also a small collection of records taken from arrested British fascists in the 1930s. There are many stories waiting to be found in our large collection of pocket notebooks of officers.