Knightlow Force

So far as Warwickshire was concerned the magistrates, in their wisdom, decided not to have a police force for the whole of the county but merely for part of it, namely, the district in the north east of the county known as the Hundred of Knightlow. It should be explained here that Warwickshire was divided into four districts known as “Hundreds”, namely “Knightlow” – in the north east, “Hemlingford” in the north west, “Barlichway” in the south west and “Kineton” in the south east.

As a result of this decision, the “Knightlow Hundred” Police Force was formed in the early part of 1840. Its first chief officer was Captain George Baker, late of the Royal Navy, and its area was divided into five Divisions, namely Rugby, Kenilworth, Bedworth, Southam and Milverton. The headquarters of the force was first at Wolston and later at Kenilworth. The first task of Captain Baker was to appoint suitable men as inspectors to be in charge of each of the five divisions. The first inspector to be appointed was James Isaac, who had previously served in the Metropolitan Police Force and who was destined eventually to become the first Chief Constable of Warwickshire and to serve as such until 1875. The next task was to recruit constables and it was the problem of finding suitable men for the job that caused the greatest difficulty, a difficulty that in fact has existed right down to the present day. The pay offered was very poor, 18 – rising to 21 – per week for constables and 28 – for inspectors. There were no sergeants in the Knightlow Force. Even at that time the better pay offered in industry in the Midland towns detracted from any inducement to join the police service. Added to that were the very hard conditions under which policemen had to work at that time.They were on duty nine hours in each twenty-four (most of it during the night time) on every day of the week. Annual leave and weekly rest days were unknown and the most they could hope for was one day’s leave in each three months.The difficulties of manning the force are reflected very clearly in the records of the personnel of the Knightlow Force, still preserved at County Police Headquarters. In the seventeen years of its existence, some 176 men joined. Of these 74 were dismissed, 70 resigned and 10 died in the service, thus leaving a balance of 22 who were apparently absorbed into the county force in 1857.

Despite all the various difficulties, however, the force soon got under way and was a very great improvement on the previous methods of law enforcement in the Knightlow Hundred. After a year or so the chief officer, Captain Baker, left and Inspector James Isaac was appointed in his place. There is no doubt that Isaac was a very able and efficient officer. The general orders he issued show a very sound grasp of the requirements of an efficient police force and it was largely due to him that the Knightlow Force, and later the Warwickshire Constabulary, was built on a sound foundation.