Tring's second police station (1866-1914)

Vestry Hall, Church Lane.

By ANDY WISEMAN

Having previously been based at the town’s Market house, the officers and functions of Tring police station moved into fresh accommodation, within the ground floor of a new Civil Amenities building on Church Lane, in 1866. Amongst its various functions, the building also housed the town’s horse-drawn fire engine. It is likely that the aspect of the building afforded to the police was very small as in 1884, the entire policing of Tring and its surrounding villages was being undertaken by just one permanent Constable.

It can be reasonably assumed that the police station was equipped with some form of kennel, as on 8th February 1896 PC Fay of Tring seized a dog belonging to Thomas Price. Price was charged with failing to keep the animal muzzled, in accordance with regulations pertaining to rabies and was fined 6 shillings. The dog itself was incarcerated at the police station for two days. Unfortunately, it would appear that whatever facility was employed to secure dogs was far from adequate. On New Year’s Eve 1894, PC Fleming cornered a lost German Boarhound in a local front garden and walked it back to the police station. The dog subsequently escaped and roamed around the town for several days.

On Thursday 5th August 1897, PCs Waller, Hull and Sullivan set off from the police station with instructions to patrol the Tring fair. In an early example of undercover policing, Sullivan had been authorised to wear plain-clothes. Before long PC Waller noticed the furtive movements of a man named John Edwards. Suspecting he might be a pickpocket, Waller and his colleagues detained Edwards and conveyed him back to the police station for a search. Upon doing so, Sullivan found an unusually large amount of money in Edwards’ pockets. Meanwhile back at the fair, several bystanders had discovered that they were missing cash. The matter was duly reported to Superintendent Frogley at Hemel Hempstead and Edwards was charged with larceny. He subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two months hard labour.

By the 1900’s at least, the police station was equipped with a telephone. In 1908, the officer in charge of the station was Sergeant Baldock, who in turn was supervised by Inspector Peck, based at Berkhamsted. On 1st June that year, Sergeant Baldock received a ‘telegraphic call’ from the station master at Tring railway station, reporting a train crash. Baldock immediately cycled to the station, roughly a mile out of town and discovered a trail of destruction. Twenty-seven coal trucks had been sent into the wrong siding and had slammed into a stationary goods train. A 17-year-old labourer from Akeman Street, Tring was killed and another man was badly injured. Tragically, in the same month, Sergeant Baldock was required to investigate another death; this time of former Tring policeman, E. A. Church. The subsequent inquest was held above the police station in Vestry Hall and returned a verdict of suicide.

By the turn of the century, the police station within Vestry Hall was considered inadequate and new premises were built on the High Street. The building still stands and is the only one to have survived from Church Lane. The remainder of the street was demolished, along with two others named Stratton Place and Westwood Lane, to make way for a shopping precinct named Dolphin Square. Despite being converted into private apartments, Vestry Hall has retained much of its Victorian veneer.

This page was added on 06/11/2014.

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  • Hi Mark, unfortunately the archive of the Hertfordshire Police Historical Society does not appear to have any record of Ernest Albert Church. However, I have located and transcribed a report on the Inquest from the Bucks Herald dated Saturday 06 June 1908:

    The Sad Case Of Suicide – Inquest.

    The suicide of the ex-policeman, E. A. Church which briefly recorded in our last issue, has created a painful sensation in the town. The evidence given at the inquest did not disclose any special motive for the rash and altogether unexpected act. In reply to questions by the Coroner, the widow declared that relations between herself and deceased were quite friendly, that her husband had no monetary or other troubles as far as she knew, and that there was nothing in their domestic circumstances to cause him to take his life. The jury were therefore compelled to adopt the view of the medical witness that deceased committed suicide during mental aberration, the result of the great depression which frequently follows severe attacks of influenza. Mr. Lovel Smeathman, coroner for the district, held the inquiry on Friday afternoon 29th ult., at the Vestry Hall. Mr E. Houchen was chosen foreman the jury. PC J. Gregory was Coroner’s Officer and acting PS Baldock was also present.

    Mrs. Isabella Church, the widow, said she lived at 29, Park Road, Tring. Her husband was a Gardener, 38 years of age. He had not enjoyed good health recently. He had a bad attack of influenza in November 1906, and since that time had been rather delicate. They came to Tring about 18 months ago from Chiswick and her husband’s health had recently been better than when they first came into the district. He had been in regular work since five weeks before Christmas until the previous Saturday, when he left to do the chapel ground. On Saturday evening deceased had a kind of fainting fit. Witness was not at home the time, but wus fetched between seven and eight o’clock, and when she got home, he said he was feeling better. He seemed pretty well on Sunday. He went to work on Monday at the chapel ground, and also Tuesday and Wednesday. He had no further attack after Saturday, only he seemed a bit weak. On Thursday morning deceased left home between seven and eight to go to his work and had good breakfast before starting. In reply to a question, he said he felt very different – very much better that morning. The chapel yard was about ten minutes’ walk from where they lived. Deceased usually came home to dinner and she waited till half-past one for him. As he had not come in then she went down to where he was working. She did not see him, but saw his tools lying about, and thought perhaps he had gone take some grass somewhere. She returned home. As deceased was a little off his appetite, witness thought he did not care to come home through the heat but had gone somewhere near to get something. The next witness heard was in the evening, when her cousin, Mrs. Fardell told her that her husband had made away with himself. When deceased did not come home to tea, she got anxious, and went round to her mothers to see if he had been there. In reply to the Coroner, witness said she and husband were good friends, and had had no quarrel. She had never heard him threaten to take his life and had no money or other troubles as far as she knew. They had been married nearly nine years. Her husband had been rather depressed and low-spirited lately, especially Saturday. She asked him if he had any trouble, and he replied that he did not know that he had. There was no insanity in his family as far as she was aware. Her husband was native of Biggleswade. They came hack to Tring because the doctor said he would better in the country after his attack of influenza.

    Charles Unwin, of 28, Park Road, said he knew deceased through living next door to him. He had never heard him threaten to take his life. He had never said anything to lead witness to suppose he was in any trouble. The previous Saturday night deceased came round to witness’s back door and asked him to fetch his wife and to tell her to bring a drop of brandy with her, as he felt very ill. He looked bad and was trembling as he stood at the door. Witness asked him what was the matter with him and he said he did not know, but that he felt trembling, as if he should fall. Witness fetched Mrs. Church, who was round at her mother’s. Deceased always seemed a cheerful man, but since Saturday he had seemed rather “down.” The last time witness saw deceased alive was on Thursday morning, about seven o’clock. He said, in reply to witness’s question, that he felt about the same. Later on, he said he reckoned someone had been trying to drug him the night before, and if he knew who it was, he would make him “sit up,” Witness did not attach much importance to what deceased said, or ask him any questions, as was just off to work. Deceased and his wife were good friends as far as witness knew. He had never heard any quarrelling between them.

    Arthur Bradding, a lad living at 8, Harrow Yard, said on Thursday evening went to the chapel yard with two other boys – Poulton and French – about seven o’clock, to get a ladder. The ladder was not its proper place, they went to the tool shed for it Poulton opened the door, and witness saw a man hanging. Poulton at once went to inform the police, and witness stayed by the shed until the police came. He noticed deceased’s jacket outside the door. He did not know deceased. The door of the shed was open a little way when they first got there. Nothing was touched till the police arrived.

    PC Gregory, stationed at Tring, said at seven the previous evening he was on duty in the High Street, when the lad Poulton came to him and said a man had hung himself in the chapel yard. He at once went the to the spot and in the tool house at the rear of the Baptist Chapel saw deceased suspended by the rope produced from a beam. He was in a kneeling position, the height of the shed being only a little over six feet. Witness at once cut him down, and found he was dead. He then sent for the doctor. There were about seven cuts on the left side the neck, and three on the right side a cut on the left forearm and one on the left wrist. The knife produced was lying just inside the shed, and the coat just outside the door. With the assistance of PS Baldock and two men they removed the body to a stable at the George Hotel. He searched the body, and found sixpence in silver and sixpence in bronze, a few ordinary articles, such as a tobacco box, match box, etc., but nothing relating to the crime. He also searched the graveyard and shed but found nothing throwing any light upon the matter. Deceased had evidently been at work Thursday, as there were heaps of freshly cut grass lying about, as well as a barrow and tools. Witness only knew deceased by sight, but understood he was an ex-Herts Police Constable who was at one time stationed at Tring. He always appeared to be a very steady fellow.

    Dr. Stephen Clarke said he was seat for at 7.30 on Thursday evening to the chapel yard. The body was cut down when he arrived and was resting on its back. He examined it and found seven wounds on the left side of the neck. There was also a wound across the front of the left arm. The upper portion of the body was cold, but the lower portion had some heat in it. Rigor Mortis had set in in the upper limbs. Round the neck he found a deep constriction, evidently caused during life. The wounds were only skin deep and were made by a blunt knife. The cause death was asphyxia, the result of strangulation. Deceased had probably been dead seven or eight hours. There was no evidence of a struggle. The injuries were self-inflicted. Suicide during depression following on influenza was a common occurrence where the nervous system was affected. A bottle found in the shed had nothing do with the case. It had contained common lubricating oil.

    The jury returned a verdict in accordance with medical evidence that the cause of death was suffocation the result hanging, the act of deceased whilst in an unsound state of mind. The jury, through the foreman, expressed their sympathy with Mrs. Church.

    By Paul Watts (26/05/2021)
  • I am related to EA Church (who was my great grandfather) who sadly died in 1908. If anyone has any more information about him and his suicide in Tring it would be greatly appreciated.
    He was born near Bedford and lived in Acton, London where he married Isabella Randall who was from Charles St, Tring.

    By Mark Church (24/05/2021)