Ten officers and fifty-one men 1854

John Street Police Station
Opened in 1965: 'one of the ugliest of the town's public buildings'
This is a wooden Brunswick Square Police truncheon, with a black painted body, decorated with a painted royal crown, VR (for Queen Victoria) and 'Brunswick Square Police Force'. The truncheon was used by Jesse Burchell and was made in c1858.
Reproduced courtesy of Royal Pavilion, & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

b) CORPORATION CONTROL and GROWTH: By 1854 the force comprised ten officers and fifty-one men, and in that year came under the control of the watch committee of the newly-formed Brighton Borough Council ; indeed, the council’s first act was to raise the force’s strength by ten men, and to appoint a police surgeon and a plain-clothes detective. In 1855 the tail-coat uniforms were replaced by frock-coats, and in 1868 top hats were replaced by helmets.
By 1865 the force’s strength had increased to one hundred officers and men. Further increases were made steadily over the next seventy years such that the total strength by 1901 was 150, 200 by 1921, 219 by 1938, 256 by 1956, 327 by 1961, and 424 by 1967; the first women were appointed in 1918. During the Second World War , from 1 April 1943 until 31 March 1947, a single force operated throughout Sussex. On 1 January 1968 the Brighton County Borough Police Force was combined with the East Sussex, West Sussex, Eastbourne and Hastings forces to form the Sussex Constabulary, based at Malling House, Lewes. Brighton is now a sub-division of the Central Division of the Sussex Constabulary.
The Brighton force was distinguished by its use of white helmets each summer from 1933 until 1939, and again between 1952 and 1968. It was also the first force in the world to operate with personal radios, one-way only from the central station to the constable from September 1933. {163,164}

c) CENTRAL POLICE STATION: The watchmen were first based at the old Town Hall in Market Street , which had a primitive lock-up known as the ‘Black Hole’. A new watch station was included when the present Town Hall was erected in 1830-2 in Bartholomews. Although condemned in 1929 by the Inspectorate of Constabulary, Brighton’s main police station remained in a large basement department at the Town Hall until a new station was built in John Street . Designed by borough engineer Percy Billington, the new Brighton police station was opened on 27 September 1965 by the Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, but must be included amongst the ugliest of the town’s public buildings. {112,123,163,164}

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

Comments about this page

  • It’s very interesting to read about the Brighton Constabulary, I can hardly believe that it was 1968 when I last saw a bobby on the beat wearing the white helmet which was so distinctive. Does anyone know what happened to them all when Sussex Force came into being?

    By Linda Keet-Harris (11/06/2010)
  • Hi to Linda, and I have a recollection about the white police helmets. As a kid in Brighton in the 60s I clearly recall a newspaper article (maybe in the Argus?) where the announcement was made regarding the demise of the much loved white helmets. I recall that they were being sent overseas to a sunny British colony for use by the police there, perhaps Gibraltar? I would love to know for sure, as I would like one for my collection of Brighton & Sussex police memorabilia! Cheers to all, Geoff, Perth, Australia.

    By Geoff Burt (11/07/2010)
  • I moved from Brighton in 1952 but I can remember the policemen wore white helmets and gloves; but was this only in the summer?

    By Sandra Waite (07/11/2011)
  • All of the white helmets used by Brighton Police during the summer months, were sold to one of the Carribean police forces when the force was absorbed by Sussex Police in 1968.

    By Alan Phillips (30/12/2011)
  • Hi Sandra. Yes indeed, the helmets were worn during the summer in Brighton and I have always mourned their passing.

    By Linda Keet-Harris (nee Keats) (15/01/2012)
  • The funny thing about the white helmets was that the fast boys (that is the illegal street traders selling from suit cases stockings etc.,) had a spotter who looked out for the policeman because they could be arrested. It was very much easer to spot the white helmets as opposed to the black ones so they could clear off before the copper arrived. I seem to recall the reason for the white one was that it was supposed to be cooler in the summer.

    By Ken Ross (16/01/2012)
  • My father, when a sergeant, was the first policeman to wear the white helmet. Before they came into general use the local paper wanted a photograph of what they would look like. A photograph was taken for the paper of my father directing traffic in East Street. I remember him saying that, when they first came in, various whitening cleaners were used to keep them white, but when the rain came many were left with white streaks down their uniforms.

    By Michael Chick (08/09/2012)
  • Seeing the photo of the truncheon above reminded me about this http://www.britishpathe.com/video/brighton-police-museum/query/Brighton film on the British Pathe Films archive site. I wonder who the dignitaries were – I looked in vain for my grandfather who was on the Watch Committee. When I lived in Brighton I never heard of the Police Museum so I assume it had closed by then – what happened to all the exhibits?

    By Geoff (02/10/2013)
  • Hi Geoff, Just to let you know that the Police Museum is still open and thriving and gaining new exhibits all the time.

    By Tony Mould (03/10/2013)

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