Locking up Criminals

This drawing of the Market Square was done in 1819 and illustrates a very different range of buildings on the Church Street side. The building on the left was a market house, largely open but providing some shelter during market days.At the west end were the stocks and a pillory and a lock-up known as the Cage. According to Markham it measured 20 x 27 feet. It was probably open to the elements and sufficed to lock up troublesome drunks and prisoners who needed to be restrained before being transported to Aylesbury. A couple of those villains are reproduced below.
There was also a pub here known as the Crooked Billet which had a rather dubious clientele.
By the middle of the 19th century the Cage was becoming dilapidated and was no longer a secure lock up. There was a campaign for improved accommodation and a new Police Station was opened in 1862 on the land formerly occupied by the cage and additional land purchased from the Lord of the Manor, Mr Selby Lowndes, for £50. The cage, market house and several slum cottages, known as the Shambles, were demolished.
The new building was typical of the architecture of the period and in some respects resemble the structure of the Science and Art building at Wolverton, built at around the same time. The cottages for policemen were probably later additions.

Policing in the 1950s

50 years ago this house, at 97 Church Street, used to be Wolverton’s Police Station. The front room was the reception/office, protected by a high counter. I am told that there was a lock-up cell in the back and a small court for inquests, although magistrate’s hearings were always at Stony Stratford.
The ranking officer was one Sergeant Gee who I believe had been there since before the war. It was a small detachment of perhaps two or three young constables who would regularly walk their beat around town. What crime they uncovered I cannot imagine. Criminal activity in Wolverton in those days amounted to stealing a few shillings from the gas meter, drunk and disorderly behaviour at weekends and possibly some domestic eruptions. When there was a real crime it was almost comic, like the time some desperado robbed Sigwarts, the jewellers on Stratford Road, and then legged it to the station hoping, apparently, to catch the next train and evade capture.
I know I will not be believed today but the crime rate was very low in those days. Property was respected and because everyone in the town knew one another there was very little you could get away with. People did not lock their doors unless they went away on holiday and even if they did, they would leave the key under the doormat.
In 1960 or thereabouts a new Police Station was built on the Stratford Road at the western edge of the town. Sergeant Gee retired and was replaced by an Inspector Wanstell with a larger detachment. The police now had cars, bobbies no longer walked the beat, and the motorist became a target for police activity.
My father bemoaned the fact that the ordinary citizen was now criminalized and thought that no good would come of it. I suspect he was right.