Cameron Floate recounted his
experiences of Policing the Village at the September meeting of the Wargrave
Local History Society.
Cameron had joined the Oxfordshire Constabulary
in 1951, being too short for his home county, Hampshire. Due to housing
problems, he transferred to Berkshire in August 1956, and was posted to Didcot.
On the 26th November 1956, he moved to the Police House in Wargrave,
where the family were greeted by Wilf, Clifford and Joan Maidment with tea and
cake. That first night will never be forgotten. Up to that point they had not
had a telephone in the home. Tired from the move, they went to bed only for the
telephone, beside the bed, to ring about 1 am. It was Paddington Police Station,
an au pair from the Chota Hubra Dog Kennels, Crazies Hill/Warren Row, had missed
the last train and wanted Cameron to advise the proprietor of her whereabouts.
Luckily, with the aid of the telephone directory and the manual telephone
exchange, the message was passed on.
The Police House was built in 1905
By 1956 the gas lights had been replaced with electricity and a bathroom added.
With no central heating or hot water, it was a cold house. The bathroom had a
gas geyser. The house had a dining room, sitting room, kitchen, larder, three
double bedrooms, an office, with a heavy wooden door to an outer cell, complete
with a coke tortoise stove. Leading from the outer cell, there was a proper cell
complete with low wooden bed and toilet pan. The cell was never approved,
although it was said that a previous Constable had put a prisoner in there
overnight and was chastised for doing so.
It took a month or two to
acclimatise to the area and learn the road names - none of the roads having name
plates! The duties were normally 4 hours in the morning and 4 in the evening
/afternoon and occasional nights. Transport was a motor cycle at Twyford and the
Sergeant had his own car. We cycled every where; if a vehicle was required, it
came from Sonning or Wokingham. There were no radios as such, except for a few
traffic cars. Contact was made to P.C.s by making pre-arranged "points" for 15
minutes at telephone kiosks or public places. Good points, especially in the
winter, were the Railway Station Booking Office, a farm office at Scarletts
Farm, Scarletts Lane at night time only. Crazies Hill did not have a telephone
kiosk, so Cameron used to stand outside The Horns public house. Wargrave Beat
was Wargrave, A4, Hare Hatch, Knowl Hill up to the Seven Stars public house,
Crazies Hill, Bowsey Hill, Loddon Drive / Borough Marsh, A321 to Twyford
Roundabout and to Johnson's Hill / Conways Bridge, which had a board each side -
"At Conway's Bridge, Mind the Ridge, Single File, For Just a while". There were
telephone kiosks at Wargrave crossroads; St George and Dragon; Queen Victoria
public house; Victoria Road, outside number 165 (Highfield Park side of the
garage) - which was then the Upper Post Office; an AA box on the A4 in the lay
by just on the Maidenhead side of the Twyford roundabout and the A4 Bath Road at
Knowl Hill by the lane leading to Knowl Hill Common.
Life at the Police
House was 24 hours 7 days a week, including rest days. When Cameron was out on
patrol, it was expected that Georgia would answer the telephone, answer the
door, issue Receipts for Found Property, and be a second (unpaid) policeman!
In the early years Cameron cycled everywhere, come rain or shine and I
walked and cycled the village, talked to people and was seen. The duties were
varied, some happy, some sad, but mainly mundane day to day. The local lads used
to call him "Old Floatie". He had to supply his own typewriter and cycle, but
was paid an allowance for ribbons, pen, ink, batteries, cycle and boots. On the
whole, the allowance covered most of the items, but certainly not for the cycle.
Tyres were torn to pieces on the stone roads of Loddon Drive, Borough Marsh,
Crazies Hill up to Bowsey Hill and Braybrooke Road - the whole length.
One lunchtime some boys came up the front path with a very large brindle
coloured dog. Georgia advised them that it had to be taken to Twyford as the
kennels were there. Further examination of the dog revealed it was a Shetland
pony, so it was tethered to the apple tree in the garden, until claimed by the
people at The Red Cottage.
||In the 1950s, Twyford was issued with
an Austin A35 van (with windows), but no radio, which was used mainly by
the Sergeant. Then at the end of 1959, Cameron was issued with a Velocette
200cc motor cycle, UMO 30. Much to the amusement of the local lads in
particular, he had to display 'L' plates as he had not passed the test,
and had to ride it around, on duty, for the statutory 'L' plate period, 3
or 6 months. He was mortified. Eventually a radio was fitted (callsign
HA40) but it was not very efficient, and he still had to make the 15 min
points! The snag with the motor cycle was that Cameron was more mobile,
could travel further afield and in some ways lost some of the parochial
ambience. In the late 1960's, the Velocette was replaced by a Morris Mini
Following fatal accidents, sudden deaths and
drownings, Cameron had to arrange the Inquest, held in the Sansom Room.
The rule was, the Inquest was held in the Parish where the person was
certified dead. H.M. Coroner required the typewritten report of the Death
by the next day!
Every year, the Superintendent, two
Sergeants and the County Architect inspected the house and garden, whilst
on another day, they would visit to inspect the uniform. Each time, every
thing had to be neat, tidy, garden cultivated and hedges neatly
In April 1975 Cameron was promoted to Sergeant
at Maidenhead and the family left the Police House in August 1975 - he retired
from the Police Force in 1981, having completed 30 years service. He revealed
that there are many other 'incidents', which he could not quote, as the people
involved are still alive or in the village.