The Lancashire Mounted Police Troop recently celebrated its centenary and marked the occasion with a gathering of retired “mounties”. PC Adrian Phillps and retired PC Tony Prince delve into the troop’s early history.
In 1880 the horse was the principal means of local conveyance and the general orders of Chief Constable of Lancashire often related to the necessity of using horses for police work.
During 1890 he instructed superintendents to engage mounts from livery stables if scouts or mounted police were required.
In May 1909 the Police Committee expressed the opinion that the maintenance of mounted police was very desirable, and that, in addition to a permanent mounted force, provision might be made for special emergencies by the temporary employment as mounted men of any police officers serving in the force, who possess experience of cavalry or yeomanry work.
Already, Lancashire had available a mounted detachment of two sergeants and 22 constables.
In November 1911 the Police Committee noted that following “recent disturbances” in the county, it found that a small number of cavalry or mounted police “are far more useful to disperse a crowd than a much larger number of foot police”.
At the time, Lancashire had the officers, but not the horses, relying on hired mounts when required. “If horses were required at a time when Territorials were out for training (as happened this last summer), it would probably be very difficult to get them, and, moreover, the County would frequently be in competition with the Borough Authorities for the hire of horses’’.
The result was, that the Committee proposed a scheme to establish a force of 50 or 60 well horsed police costing about £6500 to £7000 per annum for the maintenance of the branch, excluding the initial cost of buying horses and saddlery. The mounted men would ordinarily be used in doing patrol work in the neighborhood of the large centers of population, and in reducing the area of those beats which were really too large for one man.
On December 11 of 1911 the Chief Constable decided a Mounted Troop would be be established in the force to perform regular Mounted patrol duty. “The troop will be distributed throughout the County and grouped and stationed at convenient centers but not in:- Lonsdale North, Garstang, Kirkham, Rossendale, Ashton-u-Lyne, Ormskirk, or Widnes Divisions.
“The horses and equipment will be the property of the County and stabling will be provided. Mounted beats will be formed and daily mounted patrols instituted. The Mounted Troop will feed and groom the horses and clean stables as part of their ordinary duties. The cleaning allowance of 1/-daily will not be paid when performing ordinary patrols.
Duty scales were arranged for mounted police “and it is desirable that where possible the mounted police should patrol in pairs in districts where there are only two mounted police.
“The patrol should be changed from morning to afternoon daily or otherwise at the Superintendents discretion, but for the present must not exceed two hours:”
Stables 6.30am. to 7.30am.
Patrol as required.
Stables 11.30am. to 12.30pm.
Harness cleaning and stables .
3.00pm. to 5.00pm.
Stables 6.30am. to 7.30am.
Harness cleaning and stables
Stables 9.00am. to 12.30pm.
Patrol as required
Stables 4.00pm. to 5.pm.
One man (weekly roster) 9.00pm. to 9.30pm. ‘haying up’ etc. also water and feed etc. on Sunday afternoon. A horse must be sent out on Sundays as required. Horses must be shod at one place (except in urgent cases) and the same Veterinary Officer employed when necessary.
In January of 1912 the Standing Joint Committee appointed horse dealer Mr. J.S. Gaskell to buy 50 suitable horses, with a budget of £2500. Up to that time eight horses had been purchased at an average cost of £45 16s 3d. For his fee, Gaskell was to be paid £2 per horse purchased. Arrangements were also made for the horses to be examined and certified as sound before purchase by an independent Veterinary Surgeon.
The Committee also accepted an offer by Gaskell to keep and try the horses for a fortnight or longer at a charge of £1 per week per horse. In the event of any of horses turning out unsatisfactory for Police work after such a trial they were to be sold off again.
The eight horses purchased first were:
- Diamond, Harry, David, Allan, purchased, 8th January 1912.
- Felix, Charlie, Kitty, Viking, purchased, 17th January 1912.
The Sub-Committee appointed Thomas Blanchard in August 1912 as Superintendent, responsible for recruiting, drilling and management of mounted throughout the County. He was also given responsibility of controlling the recruiting and drilling of constables at Headquarters, Preston. He remained in charge of the branch until his sudden death in 1930 in a car accident.
He had been returning from duty at Aintree Races, where he was in charge of the mounted police detachment. PC Leyland was driving when a collision occurred with a heavy lorry at Burscough.
Supt. Blanchard, 62, whose home was at Cambden Place, Preston was well known in the district and was a fine horseman. Before launching out on his police career, Supt. Blanchard served in the 1st Royal Dragoons, and later joined the West Riding Constabulary. In August 1912 he was transferred to the Lancashire County Constabulary to take charge of the then newly formed mounted troop. His official position was that of Superintendent of the Mounted and Transport Department.
Stables were provided throughout the County with the Headquarters at Preston. The Lancashire Police Authority hired Mrs. Heskin’s Livery Stables, Church Street, Preston, from 1st January to 31st March 1912, at a rental of 15s. per week, with an additional charge of £1 to cover cost of water used during that period as a temporary measure.
These premises were erected for use as a horse repository and could easily be adapted for police purposes. Stabling already existed for over 35 horses, and stabling for 50 could easily be provided.
The stabling and other buildings were two storeys in height, and grouped around three sides of a central court yard, 94 feet long by 27 feet wide, covered with a glass roof. In addition there was an adjoining covered space 64 feet long by 27 feet wide. It was of the opinion that these combined areas would make an excellent place for the exercising of horses and the drilling of mounted recruits. The premises had been used as a riding school for the Territorials.
It was estimated that a sum of between £300 and £350 would be required to cover the cost of necessary repairs. It was also pointed out that there was a spare room on the 1st floor 64 feet 6 inches by 27 feet, which would make an excellent drilling or barrack-room for the foot police. The Headquarters of the Branch remained at Church Street until it was deemed unsuitable during 1937.