Ray Herrington

In the History Group we were fortunate to be able to record the memories of Ray Herrington as part of our "Oral History" project. Ray was Yapton village's policeman from 1950-1955. It's interesting to compare policing from 60 years ago with what we have today. Here's a few excerpts from Ray's memories.

"I joined the police force on the 1st of May 1939 and did a short period of training at Maidstone in Kent, then came back to West Sussex where I was posted to Littlehampton, where I served for a couple of years prior to going into the Air Force and later on to the Navy. On discharge from the Navy I came back into the police and back to Littlehampton. In February 1950 I was posted to Yapton as the village constable.

"Now today we have neighbourhood policing but it doesn't even resemble what was known as 'detachments' pre-war. In all detachments the constable lived on his beat. In those days there were police houses that were owned by the police authority and you'd be moved from one to the other. There's a couple of detached houses right opposite the present village hall and I lived in the right hand one as you look at it. From the end of war Yapton had been without a permanent constable as there was no house available, so as soon as the Parish Council realised that this house was becoming vacant they asked the Chief Constable to post a new constable. In some cases the houses were rented but more often than not they were owned by the police authority. In fact shortly after I left Yapton, they built a new police house next to the Barnham mill for the Yapton constable.

"My beat at that time started along the Ferry Road, Littlehampton until the Rope Walk where you turn off to the boatyards, then through to Climping, as far as Middleton, and then back to Yapton, as far as the bridge at Barnham, and as far as the North End at Yapton, and the railway crossing at Ford. I had to cycle round the whole beat every day and it was a large area to cover, as well as cycle to Arundel or Littlehampton on occasion. Later I got a silent little water-cooled Velocette, beautiful little bike, no great speed but I had miles and miles to do so it made it easier." 

What was the role of the police in those days?

"You were giving advice as as much as anything really. You'd get people who'd call at your house because you had a police sign outside, and really and truly, in many ways, your wife was as much a policeman as you were, 'cause she would answer any enquiries whilst I was out, which happened quite often.

"You were involved in the general running of the village life. To know what's going on you just chat to people. Not necessarily to deal with police matters but what's generally going on in the village. I mean, you'd probably know the movements of practically everyone in the village, just so you knew what was going on.

"It's the thing with a country beat; you've got to keep in touch with your population. But I think the police lost their contact with the public when they introduced the Panda car. You used to cycle round your beat every day and meet and chat with people, but the Panda car stopped all that.

"There was a very good relationship with youngsters (teenagers) in those days. You had one or two tearaways, and, you know, you used to square 'em up now and again but, on the whole, there was pranksters more than villains. Alright they used to perhaps go into Bognor at the weekend and be a bit noisy coming home at midnight but as a rule if you just told them to shut-up they would... they were alright about it.

"We were all well accepted; my wife was a member of the W.I..  I used to use local pub if I thought I would. I used to go into the Black Dog, a very efficient little landlady in there; Mrs. Bryant. She's just high enough to see over the bar but she was top-notch landlord.

"My wife and I would both say it was a very happy time in Yapton, and I really didn't want to go when I was promoted to Sergeant at Worthing."

It seemed Ray really enjoyed his time working at Yapton and didn't want to leave when the time came for him to be posted elsewhere. Maybe some of you remember him - if you do and you have any stories of that time, I'd love to hear them.

Geoff Westcott
Yapton & Ford Local History Group

(Originally published in Yapton News, January 2015)

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