In December 1955, I was promoted to Sergeant and posted to Chester-le-Street. The house was a ‘standard police house’. This meant  a house was  standard A, B, C or D and either left or right hand of a pair - and very cold in the winter. None of them were ever ‘standard’. Ours was sited next to the main railway line from Newcastle to London and the house used to shake as the express went past.  However we soon got used to it and it had a well cared for garden that was a joy to grow things in.

Chester-le-Street was one of the smaller Divisions with only two sergeants to cover the town, working, between them 10am – 10pm and 10pm – 6am. This assumed nothing was happening at 6am, which was rare. If there was activity at 6 am, we would inevitably work through until 10am.

There were two Sections on the outskirts, a local town Inspector and a Chief Superintendant. There was a fish and chip shop in the town centre, well patronised after the closing of the pubs and needing constant attention as a trouble spot. I was there one night when the Chief Superintendant turned up in full regalia of silver braid cap etc. A woman came over to me to tell me some information and he chimed in. She said ‘You shut up; I am talking to the boss’. The public did not know police ranks above Sergeant.

It was decided, at county level at this time, that insufficient officers were passing the exam for promotion. It was, therefore, mooted that each Division would provide a tuition class once a week with the Detective Sergeant teaching crime, with Traffic dealing with their subject and so on. I was detailed to do general police law which meant that I went off duty at 6am and come back at 2pm to take the class, then back on duty at 10pm for night shift. As it turned out, the Detective Sergeant was suddenly ‘busy’ and I was asked to do his lecture for him. Similarly with the Traffic etc.

It finished up by me doing all the lectures and preparing them in my supposed free time.

Towards the end of the lectures, just before the examination, the Chief Superintendant responsible for training came from Headquarters and sent for me. ‘Why is your class the only Division still running?’ This was news to me, but I knew that it had been hard work and at least some were successful. Whilst he was there I said to him ‘I have been doing this mostly in my own time, could I do it in police time?’ He said ‘What do you mean?’ I asked him to post me to Harperley Hall, the Force Training Centre’. He was rather shocked as no one had ever asked to go to Harperley Hall for what was then a three week refresher course or had applied to go as staff. He said ‘Put in an application’ which I duly did.

 After nine months in the house next to the railway, and just as the garden was most productive, I was moved to a group of new ‘standard’ houses in the town centre, with a clay pit for a garden. Early in 1958 a vacancy occurred at Harperley Hall and I was posted there. This was my seventh accommodation in about ten years.

Harperley Hall was a delightful place to live, especially for the twins. There were large grounds and many rhododendrons, a ménage to train the police horses and the dog training section was also placed there. The twins went to a local village school and they still remember everything with affection.

There was a Commandant and two sergeants who shared the lectures between them, together with cooking and cleaning staff. The two sergeants took turns to man the small bar every night.

In addition to the regular refresher courses, on occasions there were week-end visits from groups of special constables who were given tuition and brought up to date on the aspects of law and procedure.

The Chief Constable, who was ex-Metropolitan police and a keen rugby fan, would invite the Metropolitan police team to stay and play some of the local teams like Hartlepool. They would get drunk on Newcastle Brown Ale and one of them once took a shower with his clothes on. The Home Office would send police officers from Tanzania, Ghana, Baghdad and Chile there to study British police methods and all these officers were interesting to meet.














Metropolitan Police Rugby Team – Harperley Hall 1959