180 years of police in Thornbury
A look back into history with Thornbury & District Museum.
IT was 180 years ago this year that Gloucestershire Constabulary became only the second county police force to be established.
Thornbury was one of the 30 towns and villages to which police officers were posted, with the 1841 census placing the police station in the area near the junction of St John Street and St Mary Street, near where the Mumtaz restaurant now stands. We don’t know exactly where, but one building, which later became 2 St John Street, was known as the Courthouse.
By 1851the police station had moved to Pullins Green, to a house now occupied by the Hing Tai takeaway.
But by 1859 the Bristol Mercury newspaper reported that the Gloucester Quarter Session had discussed the “miserable state” of Thornbury’smagistrates court and police station, with court sessions having to be held “at a public house” due to lack of space.
After being offeredthe old Market Hall, which still has a cell built to hold criminals in earlier times, instead the former Tavern inn, in the middle of the High Street, was bought for £750 and opened in 1860, as a police station with a court room above.
The photograph shows the side view of the police station on the corner of Silver Street and High Street, with the famous steps up to the court room from where a proclamation is being made. Given the date on the photo, May 1910, it is likely to be the proclamation of King George V. Because they led to the court room and in a sense to summary justice, they also gave rise locally to a threat to naughty children from their parents: “I’ll send you up the steps!”
Apart from the occasional murder, most of Thornbury crimes were associated with drunkenness, petty thieving and domestic violence.
In July 1921, the Gazette reported on the town council’s concern about the increased traffic congestion, with a motion agreed to ask the divisional superintendent of police “to arrange for a constable to be stationed on The Plain at Thornbury for point duty”.
After more than 120 years in their High Street premises, the police moved to a new station in Rock Street in 1973. The court continued at 35 High Street until around 1986, when it moved to Yate. The town council moved in in 1994.
Rock Street closed in 2011, leaving the town without a police station, and the building was demolished in 2015.