A policeman’s life – Samuel Hicklin (1858-1924) Part 3

Part 1 – A (very) young constable 

Part 2 – Climbing the ladder  – from Sergeant to Superintendent

Chief Superintendent Hicklin

Burslem Police Station (from Edina Digimap 1920 and https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/burslem-police-station-18678)

Hicklin became Chief Superintendent in late 1906 in charge of the Potteries District (District C) with its four Divisions of Burslem, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall, and was based at Burslem Police station. He also seems to have more local responsibility for the Burslem Division with its 16 police stations, although this was no doubt delegated to some extent. As a Chief Superintendent Hicklin was even more a public figure than before and attended many civic and community functions. The Staffordshire Sentinel reported on his involvement in St John’s Ambulance exam awards, civic church services and church parades, charity football matches, formal dinners, funerals, council events and so on.

The range of crimes and offences dealt with by Hicklin and his men was similar to that at Burton, with licensing issues and traffic offences forming the majority of cases. The one that drew most public attention however was again a murder – that of Sarah Ann Price, aged 51, the wife of George Price, a colliery labourer. It would appear that the couple had been drinking heavily together, and had then quarreled. During the quarrel, Price had poured paraffin over his wife and set her on fire. She died from her burns, “burnt to a cinder”. Hicklin arrested Price and was involved in his prosecution for murder. Not surprisingly the incident created much interest in the press, both locally and nationally.

The other major challenge that presented itself was the policing of elections and, with more difficulty, strikes and industrial action. The major incident during Hicklin’s time at Burslem was a widespread strike amongst miners in early July 1909, aiming to increase the length of the lunch break and to increase pay for Saturday working. This not only involved walk outs, but also large crowds of striking miners moved around the area, aiming to force miners at non-striking pits to join them, and closing other industries. There was much violence and intimidation, and the police stood between the strikers on one hand and the non-strikers and mine owners on the other. The whole police force in the area was stretched very thinly, and Hicklin himself, whilst trying to persuade a crowd of 300 to 400 miners to disperse to enable non-striking miners to go home, was himself “assailed with a volley of stones”. The strikes were settled after a few days, with some small concessions from the employers on the length of the “snapping time” – or lunch break, but the trials for riot and affray occupied the Magistrate’s courts and Assizes for many months after. 

In 1910 Stoke on Trent City Police was formed with a merger of Hanley Borough Police and that part of the County Force area then within the Potteries Federation. This included significant parts of the then District C of the Staffordshire Constabulary, and a major re-organisation of the County force took place. A new District C was formed, spanning both parts of the Potteries and also more rural areas of the county, of which Hicklin took charge. The Divisions of this District were Leek, Newcastle, Stone and Uttoxeter.  The District covered a very wide geographical area in the north of the county. Hicklin and his family moved to the police station at Leek, where the District headquarters were located, in early 1910.

Leek police station (from Edina Digimap 1920 and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leek_-_Police_Station_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1937202.jpg)

The 1911 census gives us a further snapshot of the family – Samuel aged 56 with a birth year of 1854/5, Eliza aged 55 with a birth year of 1855/56, young Samuel aged 20, now a tailor running his own business and shop; Flora, aged 18, helping with the domestic work; and Reginald, aged 11 still at school. Their accommodation, in the police station, had seven rooms 

Samuel Hicklin’s signature from the 1911 census

At Leek, Hicklin’s life seems to have continued in much the same way as at Burslem, no doubt the majority of the time being taken up by the administrative roles necessary in any large organization – appointments and promotions, finance and reporting and so on. It is likely that, as one of the four Chief Superintendents, he also played a role in the determination of strategy and plans for the whole constabulary under the direction of the Chief Constable. He continued to deal with much the same range of crimes and incidents as before, although it seems that the war years were rather quieter than previously, in part because licensing hours were restricted.  His first involvement with motor vehicle transgressions is recorded– a taxicab colliding with a horse and cart in 1918; and the death of a pedestrian after being knocked down by a car whilst disembarking from a tram. The war also caused a significant decrease in the number of public functions. One that did occur after the war in 1923, was the presentation of certificates to the 219 special constables who were in post in the Leek Division between 1914 and 1919, replacing those who had volunteered to enlist. 

During his time at Leek, two major honours came his way – the King George V Coronation Medal in 1912, and the MBE in 1919.

 The final mention of Hicklin in the press was on the 9thFebruary 1924 when he reported at the Annual Licensing Sessions of the Leek Division.

Chief Superintendent Hicklin reported that the number of licenses in the Division was 142, no license holders had been proceeded against under the licensing laws; 52 males and 10 females were proceeded against for drunkenness, all except 6 males and 4 females being convicted. 

As he began his career with drunken behavior, so he ended it.

Samuel Hicklin died on Thursday March 27th1924, having made his last court appearance on the Monday before, when he was in good health. This suggests that death was due to a heart attack or something similar. The obituaries were fulsome and generous. From the Staffordshire Sentinel of 31stMarch 1924.

…..During his 14 years at Leek, Chief Inspector Hicklin has made himself extremely popular with all classes but the courteous and tactful way in which he has carried out the important and various duties attached to his office. Of a quiet and unassuming disposition, and a man seeking little publicity, he was nevertheless a strict disciplinarian and his organization of the police in the large and important Leek Division was as complete and as efficient as anywhere in the county……. He was a zealous and efficient police official carrying out his work with conspicuous ability and whilst ever mindful of the responsibilities of his position, he was always fair and impartial in the preparation of prosecutions… 

He was also described as being in his 69thyear, implying birth years of 1855/1856. The tributes from magistrates and court officials were equally fulsome. In his obituary in the Staffordshire Constabulary Monthly Budget of April 1924 we read

The Chief Constable wishes to express his deep and sincere appreciation of the very valuable and loyal work of this officer during his long service of 48 years in the force.

In the same obituary his birth date is given, for the first time in the historical record, as 28th March 1857, which was probably one year earlier than his actual birth date.

Leek Parish Church (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Edward_the_Confessor%27s_Church,_Leek#/media/File:Leek,_church_of_St_Edward_the_Confessor.JPG)

His funeral took place on the afternoon of Monday 31stMarch. There was a procession of 100 officers, including many ex-officers who had served with him across the county from the Police Station to Leek Parish Church, led by six mounted constables. Chief Constable Anson also attended. At the service there were representatives from the two Freemasons lodges of which he was a member, many magistrates and court officials, representatives off the Licensed Victuallers Association (which seems wholly appropriate) and many others. The coffin was carried into church by six constables. After the funeral service led by the vicar, his body was laid to rest in Leek Cemetry. The mourners were recorded as 

Mr Reginald Hicklin (son), Miss Flora Hicklin (daughter), Mr and Mrs A Tipper (sister and brother in law) , Mr and Mrs T E Harper, Mr J Goode (nephew) and ex-Inspector George Oulton of Leek, formerly of Burton”. 

Sam Hicklin, the eldest son was stated to be in Canada. Mrs Tipper was actaully his half-sister Harriet. It is notable that Eliza was not present. In the pre-second world war register of 1939, she is registered as still living in Leek, with her unmarried daughter Flora, and as being incapacitated. Perhaps that was already the case in 1924. The Staffordshire Advertiser who reported on this event, also contained the only picture I can trace of Sam Hicklin – it is shown below.

Samuel Hicklin 1858-1924

Samuel Hicklin’s life was in some ways quite exceptional – that a farm labourer’s child should rise to perhaps the highest police rank that was available to him (as Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable ranks were largely restricted to “gentlemen” or retired military officers) must be viewed as remarkable, and a tribute to his abilities, hard work and diligence. From press reports it is not really possible to form a view of his character and personality, but he does seem to have been genuinely well liked and respected by his peers. The number of colleagues and acquaintances his funeral alone is testimony to that. 

Throughout these posts I have mentioned the rather variable birth dates that he assigned to himself through the years. This might have been in part due his own uncertainty about his age, but I find this explanation not wholly convincing in view of his precision in other areas (not least his pedantic interactions with landlords who keep their pubs open somewhat later than they should) and I would wonder if throughout his career he was careful to ensure that nobody came to realize that he gave a wrong age at the very start of it. A very small blot on the copybook of a remarkable man!

Part 1 – A (very) young constable 

Part 2 – Climbing the ladder  – from Sergeant to Superintendent 

2 thoughts on “A policeman’s life – Samuel Hicklin (1858-1924) Part 3

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