Since I have several relatives who have been on the wrong side of the law, it is a relief to know that I also had people on the right side too!
My grandfather Jeuel Jabez Gray, was too short to be a policeman, but he had five brothers that were and yet another brother that remained in Norfolk.
London was long considered unhealthy and the Metropolitan Police had often recruited from outside the area, believing that men brought up in the countryside would be healthier and stronger. From the recruit’s point of view, joining the Met offered better pay and prospects than remaining in the Norfolk marshes, where work was either hard physical labouring on farms or dangerous fishing off Yarmouth. Neither of these occupations offered security, being seasonal. My great-grandmother Ruth was also opposed to any of her sons fishing as she had known a family of a father and several sons who had drowned.
Uncle John William joined the City of London police. Information about them can be obtained from the Guildhall. [PO Box 270, Guildhall, London, EC2P 2EJ (Tel: 020 7332 1251)].
I’ve found the original joining documents for the Met uncles at Kew. These are arranged in Warrant number order, but you can find the warrant numbers at Kew relatively easily. They are on microfilm in rough alphabetical order.
The application forms give date and place of birth which is great if you don’t want to pay £7 for a birth certificate .
The eldest uncle, Samuel Henry Gray, joined first and did the best, achieving the rank of sergeant in 1900 when he was transferred to Portsmouth to police the docks. My father told me that Sam’s family nickname was “the Portsmouth solicitor” because he was a bit of a know-all! He also worked in the docks at Chatham, but his first posting as a constable was at Smedley Street in Clapham, South London. The biggest surprise for me was to find that his employment before joining was at a munitions factory in Newcastle-upon Tyne. I had no idea any of the Grays had travelled so far from Norfolk.
The next brother was Frederick Barnes Gray, who had previously been in the Norfolk Militia [you can get Militia papers from Kew too]. His joining-up papers told me that he had a scar on the right side of his nose and that despite the regulations stating that applicants needed to be 21, Fred was in fact just 19. He didn’t stay long, having joined in July 1890 at W division (Clapham) like his brother, he left in August, the story being that he “couldn’t serve God and the devil at the same time”. Fred became an insurance agent.
Uncle Walter Randel Gray was the tallest of the brothers at 5’ 11 ½” and it was interesting for me to note his address and employer. He was working at the Cannon Brewery, in St John Street Clerkenwell, which is where my grandfather was employed for a time. In 1901, two years after he joined up, Walter was on the census stationed at Lewisham. He resigned unfit in 1915 and later, like many ex-policemen, ran a pub in Suffolk.
The youngest brother, Harry George, joined in 1907 and retired in 1932, again to run a pub.
The eldest brother, Sam, is the only one whose pension records I’ve found at Kew. He retired on 28.1.1918, aged 48. His hair was now grey. His final salary was £2.7s. per week, plus 4d for coal, 1s.6d for rent aid, a special duty allowance of 7s. and a war bonus of 12s. and 7s. and 6d child allowance [3 children at 2/6d] ie: a total of £3. 15s. 4p
He was based at “4th or Chatham div, employed on Water Police Duty under the Admiralty at Sheerness”. The address for his pension was c/o Mr G Smith, HM Magazines, Marchwood, near Southampton, Hants. His length of service was 28 years and 1 day and his pension amount was £81.15s. per annum.
His pension address puzzled me. I had wondered if Mr Smith was a prospective employer, HM Magazines would fit with Sam’s previous employment at a munitions factory, and I speculated that he might have been involved in security. However one of the kind FTF members did some lookups in the summer and located Sam’s marriage cert. Mr G Smith was his father-in-law.
© Little Nell