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Police

 Police Badges the civil police system as we know it was not set up until the middle of the 19th century when Sir Robert Peel set up the metropolitan police in 1829. Before that, the military were used to restore law and orderif the locals could not do it themselves.The badges on the left show the various phases of the development of the local police force.Copies of these badges wer supplied by Jerry Brice, the last ‘local bobby’.
 The Saxon tithing system was based on a group of ten families who were responsible for providing ten fighting men for the king and their own protection. Every free ‘man’ over the age of 12 was required to swear an oath to uphold the peace and to join a ‘hue and cry’ if required to aprehend or chase criminals.  Ten tithings, in theory, were grouped to form a hundred and Chewton Mendip was the centre of a hundred. There were a number of hundreds in a county or shire and a shire reeve  (sherriff) had overall responsibility in the shire.  The Saxon system was relativly democratic and fair. Fines were imposed for many crimes including murder to prevent ‘tit for tat’ killings in endless blood feuds which extended to slaves but it was a time of rough justice.
The Normans altrd the simple Saxon system  Assize of Clarendon in 1166  defined the concept of frankpledge where the sheriff was required to  hold courts in each hundred twice a year to ensure that everyone was accounted for and made their pledge of allegiance. These courts could be held in the open but the site of Manor Farm is the most likely place for a ‘court house’. The Norman were still more concerned about imposing order on the Saxons than than any concept of freedom for the individuel. This was the same year that Henry II conceded that the clergy could not be tried by the common law courts for felonies so they avoided the death penalty. This became known as ‘benefit of clergy’ and applied to anyone who could read who probably were clergy at that time.
 Knights of the shire were commissioned by Richard I  in 1195 to take over the responsibility from the sheriff for ensuring that everybody complied with their duty of frankpledge or compliance with the law. The Normanscntinued with the move away from the relativly democratic Saxon system to an autocratic system based on the manor court or leet.
 The origions of the word ‘constable’ comes from ‘comes stabul’ or master of the stable and was the name of the highest ranking military man in the district. He was responsible for the castel, if there was one, and military matters in general. Mainting lawa and order was a secondary function.
 The Statue of Winchester in 1285 reaffirmed the principle of local responsibility for policing a district. It was the responsibility for everyone to arrest somebody committing a crime but the constable had special responsibility to do so. The system of wath and ward was introduced in towns but rural communities were still reliant on the vigilance of individuels.
 The Justice of the Peace Act of 1361 made the shire knights responsible for security in the shire so they became the superiors of the constables.
The medeival system of trial was barabaric in itself. Trial by combat was open to anyone but a poorly armed serf had little chance against a well trainied knight. Trials by ordeal were worse than most modern punishmnts. Death was a common sanction and punishment for lesser crimes odten involved pain or humilation, often both.
 The legal profession started to develop its own identity and the disolution of the monastries put greater power in the parish. The Tudor poor laws defined the vestry committee would include a number of roles including that of parish constable. Many records have been lost through fire or decay but a large selection still exists that describe the criminal behaviour of the inhabitances of Chewton Mendip. The system of parish constables persisted in Somerset until the 19th century.
 There were several disputes between the lead miners and the famers and some cases of near riot.
Cities had various kinds of police forces and the establishment of the metropolitan police in 1829 is usually seen as the beginning of modern policing in England. An act was passed in 1831 that allowed for the recruitment of special constables following the its in the 1830’s. It was not until the County and Borough  Police Act was passed in 1856 that  the Somerset Police Constabulary was established.
The old tithing system was still in place and one of the police districts was  original named Chewton but was late renamed Temple Cloud.
 Cellar under the shopThere is a row of houses in the High Street between the shop and the Waldegrave arms that was used as a police station. The cellar sed to run from the shop to what is now the middle cottage. It is believed that these used to be the cells. Most of the cella has been either filled in or converted to living space but some of the original structure remains. What is not shown in this photograph is well and window, both of which are now blocked up. A new police station and house was built in Bathway in 1937.
 Police 1911This is a picture of the Somerset Constabulary, Frome division, taken on 22nd June 191 to celebrate the coronation of King George V. The policeman on the back row, second from the right  was A Brice, the grandfather of Gerry Brice.The borough police forces were merged with the county force in 1940 to form the Somerset Constabulary.
Police Training 1960 This is taken at a district police training centre in Dorset called ‘Chantmarle’. Gerry Brice is on the far left of the back row.

The Somerset force was merged with the Bristol and some of the Gloucestershire force when the newly formed Avon county was formed on 1st April 1974 to form the Avon & Somerset constabulary. A name that has outlived the short lived county of Avon. Gerry Brice retired in 1990 and that ended the full time police presence in Chewton Mendip.

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