My introduction to Chipping Campden came when an uncle (Uncle Bert) by marriage to my father’s sister, was promoted to superintendant to Campden Police Station and moved from the Central Police Station in Clarence Street, Cheltenham – my home town – in 1924 when I was ten years old.
My parents had never heard of Chipping Campden and had to find it on a Gloucestershire map – but, strangely enough, Albert Bunker’s father had been a police sergeant there in the late 1800’s though he had been born in Chipping Sodbury where old Sgt. Bunker was serving at the time.
Original layout of the building
Living quarters at Campden must have seemed quite spacious after cramped conditions at Cheltenham Central. The current main entrance was their front door leading on to a wide entrance hall with the sitting room on the right where the ‘Glass Shop’ is now. The “super’s” small office was on the left – now an open space with a door and wall demolished – the living room was at the back of the hall – now an office – and where the lift is now operating, steps led down to a rather dark and damp larder and kitchen with an “outhouse”.
There were stairs leading up from the present lift area to a wide landing and two bedrooms. A door and passage led on to the magistrate’s retiring room and toilet at the end of this landing – with more stairs at the opposite end leading to two large attic bedrooms. (This was my sleeping area when I visited and at that time the Town Hall clock chimed through the night and I remember it as a very comforting sound, though I believe it was eventually stopped after complaints!!)
Magistrates attending sessions would use this landing entrance to the Court Room (which thankfully has been retained in its original state) but the public entrance was through the double doors on the left of the building and up the stone steps in the courtyard. A regular Campden threat used by mothers to unruly offspring was a clip round the ear and – “I’ll send you up the steps” – and all the guilty knew what that meant!!
The main side door was the entrance to the sergeant’s quarters, the guard room which the constables used and the cells which lay under the court room. The cells were seldom used, occasionally for a drunk and disorderly, but most cases were for poaching, abuse of licensing laws, or paternity cases. There were a few “regulars” such as Slap Blakeman, who enjoyed his pint, and whose fine was usually paid by the sitting magistrate with the comment – “Don’t let me see you here again, Blakeman”!
In later years the double doors at the far end of the building led to the sergeant’s quarters with the living room where the Tourist Information office is now and with bedrooms on the upper floors.
Any constables serving – there was normally only one – would board in town and in two cases married local girls.
Travelling around the ‘patch’ by car
In the early days, when visiting the Campden relatives, we would travel by train from St. James Station in Cheltenham and be picked up at Weston-sub-Edge Station by Tommy Edwards, the batman-cum-chauffeur allocated to the ‘Super’ as his division was a widespread one stretching from Stanway to Stow-in- the-Wold. His first car was a Ford ‘Tin Lizzie’ – canvas top and leaking side screens and later a mustard-coloured Morris Oxford – very stylish!! It was as well that “Uncle Bert” had a driver as he hated driving and traffic and on reaching home his remark was always “Safe home, thank God”!! He was quite an austere person and chose his companions carefully – only wore uniform on official occasions as did his driver. He kept a diary of events and would cover it up when you took his cup of tea to the office. On the day of his retirement in 1937, he took the diary into the garden and had a bonfire – what a pity!! They retired to a house in Cheltenham and called it “Campden”.
The Police Station was built in 1887 – although the original station was located in a house at the corner of Leysbourne and Cider Mill Lane – the story goes that early policemen were very tolerant of local schoolboys and would have street games with – “Tippy, tippy show the light” using their ‘bull’s-eye’ oil lights to chase the lads round the streets but still keeping control with an ash cane!
Memories of holidays spent at the Police Station
Being a widespread police section meant that once-a-month pay day meant a gathering at the station for local news, although after the first war most stations were connected by telephone. Most would come by bicycle or motor-bike – Sgt. King, who I remember particularly (probably because he was the only one who spoke to me) would cycle up from Stanway – up Broadway Hill and Campden Hole! – with his shiny black rain cape if it was wet and his bicycle clips and they would all gather in the guard room. I was taken in there once by one of the constables when he caught me coming down the stable ladder with an apple that I had ‘pinched’ from the loft – and he locked me in the cells for all of three minutes ( not my idea of fun).
Christmas in Campden
My chief memory of the “guard room” was at Christmastime, on our usual visit to Campden. “Auntie Em” was a very good cook and hostess as she had been employed as a housekeeper in one of the big Cheltenham houses where she probably met her policeman. At these Christmas festivities the Campden Mummers would be invited into the guard room at the Station to perform their traditional seasonal play with refreshments as a reward – a memorable treat!! Up to W.W.I. the main problem of the North Cotswold Division was monitoring outbreaks of foot and mouth and anthrax disease in a mainly agricultural area. One case of anthrax occurred on Horace Badger’s farm adjacent to the Police Station.
If the three bedrooms were occupied with family at Christmastime, my brother and sister and I would sleep on mattreses in the Courtroom, which was quite spooky, especially when my brother covered himself with a sheet and persuaded the constable in charge to let him up to the Court Room by the back stairs!!and cattle were burned in the field behind the police garden.
Some Police Officers who served at Campden
From the time of Supt. Bunker’s retirement, Inspectors were appointed to the Campden area – these included Insps. Joe Hallam, Baker, Wyatt, Golding, Burfoot and Mike Bundy. They were ultimately housed in property purchased on the Aston Road and the High Street Station was altered into downstairs offices and an upstairs flat for a sergeant – when Sgt. Desmond Gay was appointed in l966. Other officers were P.Cs. Ian Doody and Paul Sunderland.
The present day
The Police Station was closed a few years ago and Insp. Bundy transferred to Moreton-in-Marsh. When the property came on to the market, the Peelers Trust was formed to purchase it for community use under the chairmanship of Supt. Bunker’s grandson, John Ellis, and so I can still wander round my old haunts.