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Devon's 'special' police force was among biggest

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: November 27, 2012

By Tina Penberthy

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WITH newly-elected police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Tony Hogg now setting priorities for the police force, the Gazette takes a look at The Book of Cullompton, and discovers a time when the town's police station was a divisional headquarters.

On June 30, 1857, the then police committee arranged to rent a police station in Cullompton and 11-13 High Street, the red brick building that today accommodates estate agent Thorne and Carter, became the base for the constabulary.

With accommodation for three cells, living quarters for three constables, a superintendent's office and a petty session courtroom, the station was well-equipped and was known as a station of significance.

A vast area stretching from Bampton to East Budleigh and Sidmouth was under the control of the superintendent and just five sergeants with 28 constables established in the area.

Reports from the chief constable in 1878 commented on the strength and disposition of his force adding that superintendent Richard Collins was in charge of 'C' Division Cullompton, with assistance from a first-class sergeant from Bampton, a second-class sergeant at Cullompton and 20 constables.

By 1921 the special constabulary had gone through a period of reorganisation and after attending such events as the bread, chartist and Dartmoor prison riots occurred, they began to properly train and were better equipped to deal with major incidents.

Almost 100 years after the constabulary in Cullompton's High Street was first rented, the police force had all but doubled. In 1956, it was reported that one superintendent, two inspectors, ten sergeants and 48 constables made up the regular force in the area.

At this time, divisional control was relocated to Tiverton, which now had 'C' division status. The special constabulary in Devon was the second largest force outside of London; with 2,500 men and two women making up the force.

In the 1960's, Cullompton saw the arrival of a female special constable and by 1974 a new police station was built on station Road.

The opening of the motorway in 1977 saw Cullompton magistrate's court dubbed 'the motorway court' as the volume of traffic using the new road link brought "extra business" to the court.

Cullompton's police officers later became prominent figures when they came to town events and were also present at a range of sporting league matches, sending out their own teams to play cricket, snooker, skittles and rugby and football in the town.

Today, officers at Cullompton Police Station patrol the villages of Uffculme, Hemyock, Culmstock, Clayhidon, Willand and Halberton, as well as the town areas of Bradninch and outer Cullompton.

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