THIS Tuesday will mark the 45th anniversary of a highly significant event in Southend’s history, the end of the town’s own police force.
In 1969, Southend Constabulary, as it was called, became part of Essex and Southend Joint Constabulary. Five years later it was renamed, simply, Essex Police.
Proud coppers of the original Southend force didn’t approve the Government-imposed change, not that they had a say in such things.
Neither did the town’s then two MPs, Sir Stephen McAdden, in the East, and Paul Channon, in the West, who joined Southend Council in strong opposition.
But protests and petitions and public pleas were rejected.
Southend’s own police force, with roots back into the previous century, was no more.
There had been a police presence in the town since 1873, when the police station opened in Alexandra Street – its site is now a car park.
Southend Constabulary was formed when the town won county borough status on April 1, 1914.
The picture above, taken from the rail bridge and looking toward the lower half of Southend High Street – long before it was pedestrianised – dates from just ahead of the 1969 merger with Essex.
The huge turnout to see the marchpast by orderly rows of whitehelmeted men of the town’s admired Southend Police, clearly underlines the depth of public interest and appreciation.
The boys in blue, as many knew them, were heading for their headquarters in Victoria Avenue, which had opened in 1962.
Prisoners facing charges appeared before Justices of the Peace in any of three courts behind the Alexandra Street police station.
Policemen of the distant past, survivors of a Southend of yesteryear, may feel that the price of “progress” is sometimes very high indeed, as police stations are closed, costs are cut and new-style Crime Commissioners are in charge, at the top.