RETRO: How Sheffield’s first ever police force was started

Geoff Thorp, Woodseats Community Officer - 1982''Police South Yorkshire - Sheffield Division
Geoff Thorp, Woodseats Community Officer - 1982''Police South Yorkshire - Sheffield Division
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Our Retro A to Z trawl through careers takes us to a policeman’s lot, whether a happy one or not.

The Sheffield police force is said to date from 1818 when an Improvement Act was passed in Parliament which transferred the lighting, watching and cleansing of Sheffield from the Town Trustees to a body of Commissioners.

Hyde Park Community Policemen, Pete Dean and Keith Levick - 1st March 1984'''Police South Yorkshire - Sheffield Division

Hyde Park Community Policemen, Pete Dean and Keith Levick - 1st March 1984'''Police South Yorkshire - Sheffield Division

Colonel Fenton was appointed as first superintendent of the police and on his death in 1835 he was succeeded by Thomas Raynor. In 1836 the first day policemen were appointed.

In April 1844 responsibility for the police force was transferred from the Improvement Commissioners to Sheffield Town Council, under the supervision of the Watch Committee, and in June that year the area covered was extended outwards from the centre of the town.

At first the force was housed in the town hall and it was not until 1864-1865 that a police station was built in Castle Green.

The force grew steadily. By 1900 there were eight police stations in addition to the central station and by 1921 this number had risen again to 13.

In 1967 Sheffield and Rotherham Joint Force was formed and in 1974 South Yorkshire Police Force was set up.

Martyn Johnson has written three books on his time as a Sheffield policeman in the 1960s and 70s..

They are called What’s Tha Up To?, What’s Tha Up To Nah? and What’s Tha Up To This Time?, which was published by Pen and Sword Books last year.

When his third book came out, Martyn talked about why he thinks they have such a popular appeal.

“You’re talking about 50 years ago and there is nostalgia about a totally different way of policing.

“Things are totally different now and they have lost the personal touch.

“I came from Darfield, which is a little pit village. I hit the big city as a 19-year-old thicko. In a short space of time I got to know a lot of people and they knew me.

“I used to work hard with the kids. If you get to know them as kids, they will come to you when they’re in trouble.

“I was proud to be an everyday working bobby.”

Although Martyn’s books look nostalgically back to a Dixon of Dock Green world, he pointed that he also faced a gun once and knives several times.

One time he arrested three men and detained them on his own in a police box at Grimesthorpe.