A policeman’s life – Samuel Hicklin (1858-1924) Part 1

A (very) young constable

Part 2 – Climbing the ladder  – from Sergeant to Superintendent 

Part 3 – Chief Superintendent Hicklin 

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The church of Hilton, St Mary’s (from https://stmaryshilton.org

Arthur Samuel Hicklin was born in Hilton near Marston-upon-Dove in Derbyshire in late March or early April 1858, to John and Ann Hicklin. John was a farm labourer in the area, but there are no further details available of where or for whom he worked. Arthur Samuel was baptized at Hilton church on 25thApril 1858 and was the couple’s fourth child. Of his siblings, Eliza was born in 1852, John in 1854 and Samuel in around July 1856. The latter died the next year in May 1857. They were to have a further child, William, in 1860 before John himself died in that year, leaving Ann a widow. Ann married again in the mid-1860s to William Long, another farm labourer from Hilton, and had two further children, Ann and Harriett. In the 1861 census, Arthur Samuel was referred to using his first name. After that he always seems to have been known as Samuel, or, one suspects, Sam. I will in general use either “Sam” or “Hicklin” in what follows. In 1871 he was no longer with his family, but was a thirteen-year-old general servant on William Loverock’s farm in Horninglow near Burton upon Trent.  Loverock was a major landowner in the area, and employed a number of men and boys on his farm of nearly 300 acres, as well as a number of domestic servants. Sam seems to have lived in a house adjacent to the farm (possibly Hodgkin’s Farmhouse although the census return is difficult to read), with a number of other servants, both male and female.  He thus probably only received the most rudimentary of educations, which makes his rise through he Staffordshire Constabulary that we will see in what follows the more remarkable. 

Possible location of Loverock’s Yard and Hodgkin’s Farmhouse in Horninglow (from Edina Digimap 1880) 

The Staffordshire Constabulary at that time was divided into three districts – the Mining district of the Black Country; the Potteries district around Stoke; and the Rural District for the rest of the county. This organization persisted, with some alterations of boundaries, throughout Hicklin’s career. At the head of the organization was the Chief Constable, based in Stafford. Each district was headed by a Chief Superintendent, one of whom served as Deputy Chief Constable. At times however the latter role was taken by a fourth Chief Superintendent. Each District was divided into Divisions headed by a Superintendent or Inspector, and each division into Sub-divisions, which included two or more police stations.

Sam joined the Staffordshire Constabulary in November 1875, when his age is given as 18 years and 7 months, implying a birth date of April 1857 – i.e. a year earlier than the actual date. There must therefore be a suspicion that he exaggerated his age in order to join the police. On entry to the force, he was described as being 5’ 8 5/8” tall, with brown eyes, dark brown hair and a fair complexion. His previous trade was given as labourer. He seems to have initially served in the Rural District, presumably in a training situation, possibly close to his home. In January 1876, he was the subject of a disciplinary charge for being drunk at the time he was meant to be on duty – and thus seems to have been aa fairly normal 17 year old. He was fined one shilling. He was then stationed at Tividale in the Black Country and thus continued his career in the Tividale station in the Blackheath Sub-division of the Brierley Hill Division in the Mining District.

His life at Tividale would have mirrored that of young constables anywhere. His first appearance in the press seems to have been in the County Advertiser of April 1st1876 which contains the following report of the proceedings of the Rowley Regis Magistrate’s court. 

Isaac Fisher was charged with being drunk on the 25thult., and pleaded guilty. Police Constable Hicklin proved the case, and the defendant was fined 5s with costs.”

Dozens of similar mentions appeared over the months and years that followed, mainly in the County Advertiser and County Express, as he rose from Constable 3rd class on appointment, to Constable 2ndclass on 1stAugust 1876 and Constable 1stclass on 1stAugust 1877. So he was clearly well regarded for his dealings with drunkards. To add a little variety, we also read of him apprehending carters driving too quickly or not exercising proper control over their horses; children stealing coal; bringing publicans to court for selling out of hours or for encouraging drunkenness; and (perhaps the highlight of his time in Tividale) bringing Joseph Evans and Benjamin Baker to trial for shooting ducks on the canal at Brades Village. Not all went totally smoothly however, and in May 1876 he faced another disciplinary charge for being absent from a “conference”. Again he was fined one shilling. But this clearly did not impede his progress.

Brades Hall locks (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gower_Branch_Canal#/media/File:Brades_staircase_locks,_Gower_Branch.jpg)

During his time at Tividale, his private life was probably more interesting than his professional life. In that period Sam met and married Eliza Taylor, the daughter of the boat builder John Taylor at Brades Hall locks on the Gower Branch of the BCN. They were married at Christchurch, Oldbury on 10thFebruary 1878.  Here, for what seems to be the last time, the name Arthur Samuel was used in the registers. Both he and Eliza were recorded as being 20 at the time, which at least for Samuel, was not the case. Eliza was baptized in August 1858, so should only have been 20 at the time if there had been a significant delay between her birth and baptism, but she could well have been born in late 1857 or early 1858.  Perhaps at this point Sam was finding it necessary to continue the minor deceit concerning his age.  The couple were to return to Oldbury for the baptisms of their children John in 1880, William in 1883 and Samuel in 1991. 

Christchurch Oldbury  (from http://www.historyofoldbury.co.uk/2story.htm)

In late 1879, Hicklin moved to a new posting in Pensnett – still in the Brierley Hill Division, but also in the Brierley Hill Sub-division. The head of the Division, Superintendent John Wollaston was based at Brierley Hill police station. The census record indicates that in 1881 Samuel and Eliza lived on Commonside (almost certainly in a police house) with their baby son John, and Police Constable Edward Wynn as a lodger. Their age inflation continued, with Samuel giving his age (in early April 1881) as 24, which implies a birth year of 1856/1857, and Eliza being 23, with a birth year of 1857/58. The move also coincided with a “merit” award on 1stJanuary 1880.

Brierley Hill Police Station and Magistrates Court (from http://www.brierleyhill.org/blog/2014/08/04/brierley-hill-on-the-day-war-broke-out-and-the-departing-of-the-first-tropps/and Edina Digimap 1880)

In many ways, Hicklin’s life in Pensnett was very similar to his life Tividale – the large majority of the cases he took to court were charges of being drunk and disorderly, with the next most common being coal stealing, other petty theft, “furious” wagon driving and so on. But there were a number of other notable events. On the 26thof October 1880, Hicklin and another policeman, concealed themselves at a pit in the Wallows area, and watched a large crowd of mainly women and children picking coal from that stored at the pit. When the constables emerged from their hiding place, all the coal pickers ran away, but most were apprehended later, having been identified. In total 26 were brought to caught with ages ranging from 11 to 61. All were fined between 2s 6d and 5s, or 7 to 14 days in prison. The report ends with the rather sad note that “the charge against May Angel (13) a deaf and dumb girl, was withdrawn”.  

He also continued to come into conflict with publicans for failing to keep hours. Almost as soon as he arrived at Pensnett, on Christmas Day 1879, he visited the Sampson and Lion and found them still serving at 3.00 in the afternoon – half an hour later than should have been the case.  The whole case hinged upon whether or not his watch was correct, or whether the landlord’s clock was correct. After much discussion the bench dismissed the case, on the grounds of the landlord’s respectability and the fact that there seemed to be no intention to remain open. Hicklin’s zealousness probably did little to endear him to his local pub landlords. In a similar way, he charged the landlord of the Rifle in March 1881 with selling beer after hours, Hicklin and a colleague having concealed themselves behind the pub to observe. This time the case was proven and the landlord fined. 

There were further instances. Early one Sunday morning in October 1881, he heard voices from a house close to the High Oak public house at 2.00 on a Sunday morning, and (after secreting himself in the door of the post office) saw a group of women coming from that house to collect ale from the High Oak to take back to the house. After they had entered and then left the pub, he confronted them and found ale in their possession. Despite a raft of excuses made to the bench, the landlord of the pub, William Evans, was found guilty of keeping his house open during prohibited hours. On another occasion in December 1881, Hicklin and the main witness to drunken behavior at the Fish Inn (Cornelius Chambers, one of the leaders of the teetotaler movement in Pensnett) were challenged in the court by the defense solicitor Mr. Waldren as to whether or not he was teetotaler, in such a way that implied they had an animosity towards the sale of alcohol in any form. Hicklin admitted he was a teetotaler, but denied that he had signed any pledge, and had no intent to do so. A similar challenge by Mr. Waldren was made in a case in 1883 concerning drunken behavior at the Crown Inn on Commonside, which was bluntly rebutted by Superintendent Woollaston on Hicklin’s behalf.He had clearly changed his ways somewhat since his initial charge for drunkenness in 1876.

The local animosity came out into the open in the middle of December 1981. Hicklin and a colleague, PC Lafford, assisted in throwing out four people from the Crown Inn on Commonside. He then went to the King’s Head Inn along the road to see the landlord there to ask him to serve on a Jury. As he entered, a man on a bench behind the door hit him a nu. mber of times with a stick, and a second man assaulted him with a poker with a blow across the shoulders. Lafford left to find assistance. When Hicklin recovered from being stunned he found his assailants and two of their friends had disappeared. Eventually Noah Bate, a miner from Commonside was arrested and brought to trial in March 1882. It would appear that Bate and the other three were those who had been thrown out of the Crown earlier. He was sentenced to jail with hard labour for two months. At that time, Hicklin was still suffering to some extent from the injuries he received. The story did not end there. On his way to the prison in Stafford, Bate was heard to say (by the accompanying Police Constable) that he would “do for that _____ Hicklin” when he came out. He was further charged with using threatening behaviour and bound over to keep the peace

Kings Head 1997 (from https://www.longpull.co.uk/downloads.html)

 Finally the last case that is worthy of note is an instance of forgery from 1882.  Hicklin was asked to check that the signatures on testimonials provided by an applicant to be a constable were valid, and he showed that two of them were forged. One suspects that this must have been a slightly uncomfortable experience for one who did not tell the whole truth on his application to the police force!

Part 2 – Climbing the ladder  – from Sergeant to Superintendent 

Part 3 – Chief Superintendent Hicklin 

2 thoughts on “A policeman’s life – Samuel Hicklin (1858-1924) Part 1

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