Watford's first Police Station 1841-1870's

193, High Street

By ANDY WISEMAN

Despite laying claim to a population of roughly three and a half thousand, the market town of Watford was initially allocated just two men of the newly formed Constabulary.  A small house on the High Street, with two storeys above ground level and at least one below, was adopted for use as the town’s first police station. The chosen location was hardly surprising. In 1841 the majority of the town stood on this one road; then named Watford Street. The building itself comprised a medieval timber frame structure and had probably been built between 1480 and 1500. It was one of four terrace properties, flanked by Chapman’s yard to the north and Neal’s (later renamed Woodman’s) yard to the south. Virtually opposite was the large, 18th century home of the Dyson family -famed for local brewing- which would later house Watford’s museum.

Initially, the town’s most senior officer was inspector Edward Samuel Evans; aided by just one constable. The Constabulary’s early choice of white uniform trousers and frock coat prompted derision amongst some of the town’s people, who promptly nicknamed Evans’ constable “Ducky”. It is likely that the two men resided in their police station, as deeds from 1914 reveal that the building had numerous bedrooms. The first confirmed resident was a Superintendent named Waldron Kelly in 1851. He in turn was replaced by another Superintendent, named George Cocksedge, who remained at the station until the mid-1860s’. Meanwhile, prisoners taken to the station were reputedly housed in the building’s cellar, where passers-by were able to freely converse with them from the street above.

The last recorded use of the building for police purposes is dated 1874, when it was occupied by an Inspector named Stephen Chapman. It was vacated soon afterwards. In the same decade, buildings on the High Street were given street numbers and the former police station became number 193. By the turn of the 19th century, the building’s frontage had been modernised to provide a shop front and it became an outlet for leather goods named Swanns. It remained in this guise until the late 1970’s when it was earmarked for demolition. Such was the historical significance of some of the timber-framed structures on the Lower High Street, that the adjoining premise of 195 was carefully dismantled and transferred to the Chiltern open-air Museum in Buckinghamshire. Sadly, nothing of 193 was salvaged and the building was demolished in 1979. A new block of residential properties, named Woodmans House now stands on the site.

This page was added on 25/07/2014.

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