SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE
Situated in the Consecrated/West Section of Jesmond Old Cemetery.
Robert was born in Corbridge in 1817 and, according to the 1841 Census, he was working as an Agricultural Labourer on Hedley Mill Farm, near Stocksfield. By 1851, Robert had moved on and was now a Police Officer, living in accommodation on Wesley Street in Shieldfield, Newcastle, along with many other Police colleagues – perhaps it was a hostel, of sorts, for the local bobbies? There is a House Keeper recorded, which would indicate this view. Interestingly, none of the Police Officers recorded as living there were born in Newcastle, with the vast majority hailing from Northumberland.
In the 1861 Census, Robert is recorded as living in 5, Albert Street, Shieldfield, along with his wife, Catharine (43), their daughters, Suzannah (19), Catharine (17), Grace (15) and their son, John (11). A House Servant, Jane Armstrong, is also recorded as living in the household. Interestingly, Robert is identified as being an Inspector of Police at this time.
From reviewing various newspaper reports about Robert, he seems to have been mainly based at Manors Police Station – a time when there appears to have been a multitude of local police stations within the town of Newcastle. The police station is long gone now, of course, but the map below informs us of where it was situated. On a wider, historical note, Charleton’s ‘Newcastle Town’, published in 1885, describes the “Manors Police Station occupying the site of the quadrangle (of the Austin Friars monastery), its door faced the Arcade stairs, and to the right, a covered flight of stairs led up to the Police Court. On the right hand side as you approached the quadrangle, was the window of the lock up, beneath which groups of friends used to congregate and hold converse with the prisoners, until a high wall was built round it to prevent such intercourse”. In Middlebrook’s ‘Newcastle upon Tyne – Its Growth and Achievement’, published in 1950, he writes that “The Police Station remained in the Manors from 1831 until 1874 when, after repeated complaint to the corporation by the magistrates that the premises were inadequate, a new Police Headquarters and Police Court were opened at the junction of Worswick Street and Pilgrim Street, on a portion of the site now occupied by the Fire Station”. Many thanks to Steve Elwood for his help with the history of the Police Station.
Looking through the newspaper archives, it is clear that Robert was a very busy and prodigious Police Officer, who was involved in all manner of crime related activity. The following extracts give a flavour of what Robert got involved in and, just as importantly, provide insight into the daily lives of those unfortunates living in and around his beat.
In 1862, the Newcastle Courant tell us an interesting tale involving diseased meat and assault, as follows: “Robert Harris, an extensive manufacturer of sausages and saveloys, appeared in court charged with being in possession of a beast unfit for human food. Inspectors Amos and Scott visited the premises at Denton Lane and sought admittance but were told that the doors were fastened and the defendant was at the Butcher Market. Thither they proceeded, but the defendant said he had not the keys, they being in possession of the shop boy, who had gone out for an uncertain period of time to deliver sausages. Amos returned to the Denton Lane premises , and, having placed an officer in charge left, with the intention of returning. Shortly after he left, the defendant and his brother (William Harris) made their appearance, and entered the place, followed by the policeman in charge. When the Inspectors arrived back at the premises, they saw, through an aperture in the door, portions of a beast, appearing to be in a diseased state and these pieces the defendant and his brother began to chop into smaller portions, throwing amongst the sawdust in the corner those pieces in which the disease was most apparent. During the whole of the proceedings they used very bad and threatening language towards the policeman…. after they had been at work a short time, they went towards the door with the intention of leaving the place, and locking it up; the policeman’s protestations against the re-fastening of the door were of no avail, for not only was that security taken against intrusion, but the policeman was locked in for some time. On the arrival of the Inspectors, the defendant and his brother again made their appearance and after the party had been admitted to the room, asserted that the meat should not be removed as it was not bad. Mr. Rayne, surgeon, had, in the meantime, been sent for and upon his arrival, he examined the meat. He was of the opinion that the animal, of which the meat shown to him was a portion, had been labouring under lung disease when killed – if killed at all…. Yikes!! The defendant then, in an excited manner, handed him a piece of meat, and asked him if that was diseased; he replied that that was not the part in which to look for disease. The conduct of the defendant and his companion had now grown violent; they threatened to chop off the hands of any person who attempted to remove the meat and William Harris two or three times pushed Inspector Amos towards the door. Mr. Rayne expressed his alarm at this conduct, and advised the officers to leave but, as they were aware that if such a course was followed, the meat would quickly disappear, they remained until a body of police arrived, and assisted in removing the garbage. The meat was safely conveyed to the Manors’ Police Station. The Bench expressed their determination to put down such practices and fined the defendant £5 and costs. William Harris was then charged with assaulting Inspector Amos in the execution of his duty and fined 5s. and costs.”
In November 1867, again in the Newcastle Courant, it is reported that “Jane McCall (22) was charged with being drunk and assaulting a policeman, and also Charles Richardson, a waiter at the Turk’s Head, Quayside. On the previous night, prisoner went to the public house intoxicated, and requested Richardson to fill her some drink, and on his refusal, she threw over him a glass of beer which was standing on the counter. On being handed over to a policeman, she struck him and spat in his face. Inspector Amos said that this was McCall’s 25th appearance, that she had just got out of gaol on Wednesday, and that she had gone nine months’ imprisonment since the 2nd of February. The magistrates committed her for two months.”
Also in November 1867, the Newcastle Courant writes on a heartbreaking case, particularly as seen through modern day eyes, involving Robert and a “William Brown, a boy about nine years of age, charged with begging in the street. On Friday night, about 9 o’clock, an officer on duty in plain clothes met the boy, who asked him for a halfpenny. In reply to questions put by the policeman, he said that his mother sent him out to beg; that he was not to go home until he obtained 6d.; and that he dare not return until he had the requisite sum. The magistrates sent the little fellow to the Ragged Schools, and ordered the police to bring his mother. After the lapse of a few minutes, she was brought, and without hesitation admitted that she sent her son to beg. She had a large family, was unmarried, and found it necessary to make the boy beg. -Ald. Hunter: How do you get your living? – Witness: The best way I can. Inspector Amos said that she had been on the town for many years. Sent to gaol for one and a half days.”
On a lighter note, the Newcastle Courant, in October 1867, provide a classic headline, A man without legs getting drunk!, “Jonathan Brown, a man who had by some accident been deprived of his legs, crawled into the dock to answer a charge of being ‘drunk and disorderly’. Inspector Amos said that on Saturday afternoon the prisoner was under the influence of drink, and was creating a disturbance in Dean Street. He endeavoured to get him away, but defendent refused, and he was brought to the station. Mr. Amos further said that Brown was a complete nuisance when he came into the town, as he always became intoxicated. The magistrates fined the defendent 5s. and costs.”
In another sad case involving Robert, the Newcastle Courant, in August 1868 report that, “four boys were brought before the magistrates – three of them having been found on the streets destitute, and one having come to the Manors Station and said that he wished to be sent on board the training ship. One of the boys, aged six years, was found late on Tuesday might, by Superintendent Amos, sitting in a doorway in Sandgate. He was singing, and when asked his name, he said, “Jack Smith”, and that he lived in Tuthill Stairs. Superintendent Amos said he knew the boy’s name was Ward, and Captain Sylvester stated that the boy’s father was now undergoing penal servitude, and that his mother had been thirty times convicted. The boy was sent to the Workhouse. Another of the lads, whose parents were dead, was sent to the training ship. Captain Sylvester requested that the magistrates give an order to haver the other two boys sent to the Workhouse, pending enquiries with a view of having them sent to the training ship. Mr. Hamond suggested to Captain Sylvester that such inquiries ought to be made carefully, as an inducement was held out to disreputable parents to turn their children out of doors – Captain Sylvester said he was doing his best and he would, as a member of the committee of the training ship, take care that no boys should be sent by this bench who were not deserving objects.”
As well as fighting crime, Robert was also involved in fighting fires, with the newspapers of the time carrying plenty of reports of such incidents. For example, on 6th August 1866, “Inspector Amos, of Manors Police Station, with a number of his men got out the hose and reel of the A division and ran it up to the hydrant at the end of the Arcade….. to put out a fire in a small alley in Pilgrim Street, known as the Fox and Lamb Yard…..with the Manors men playing upon the burning premises from the Old Pack Horse Yard.” Some great place names, long lost now!!
Some how, Robert found the time to establish the Newcastle Police Band, with the Newcastle Daily Chronicle reporting in October 1865 that, “the members of our local police force, stimulated by the example of the Sunderland men, are making arrangements to establish a brass band. Mr. Inspector Amos is actively employed in the accomplishment of the object. A substantial amount of money has been subscribed, and there is apparently no reason why the Newcastle police force should not have this useful and pleasant provision made, and so be placed on an equality with other towns.” The report goes on, and I love the language used here…. “the men are as a working body harmonious, and the band would be just the embodiment or expression of their agreeable character. The playing upon brazen instruments or upon drums would be to our sound lunged men a finer process of physical development than the dumb bells or calisthenics.”
In December 1865, the same paper reports that, “the efforts of Mr. Inspector Amos towards the establishing of a brass band in connection with the police force of Newcastle have so far been attended with success that the whole of the instruments have been purchased, and a room in the Manor’s police station neatly furnished and fit up for the purpose of practice. The instruments have been procured by Mr. T.S. Watson, of this town – who is to be the director and conductor of the band – from the house of A. Lecomte & Co., of Paris and consist of 7 cornets, 2 B flat ventril horns, 3 E flat ditto, one tenor trombone, one bass trombone, one uphonium, 3 E flat bomberdons, one opheiclide, and one Herculean B flat contrabass: one big drum, 2 side drums, and a pair of cymbals – in all, 25 instruments. The whole are of the best manufacture, and combine all the latest improvements, – the drums more especially being of a somewhat novel character in this district.”
What a wonderful sound and sight they must have been.
Twelve months later, the same newspaper writes that, “It is now twelve months since this band was originated by Mr. Inspector Amos, of the A division, and to celebrate the first anniversary the members were entertained to supper last night by Mr. Ralph Thompson and other friends at the house of Mr. James Weightman, George the Fourth Inn, Manors, Newcastle. A substantial repast was provided on the occasion, and to its forty gentlemen, comprising the musicians and a few friends, sat down. After the removal of the cloth, the chair was taken by Mr. Chief Constable Sabbage, who is president of the band, stating…. on Wednesday night twelve months, the members of the band commenced playing in the Manors…. the band had made considerable progress since that time. It was his (the chairman’s) wish that such a thing should be established in Newcastle. The experiment had been tried in other large towns, and had been attended with success; and he could not see why they should not have a band in Newcastle. He thereupon consulted with Mr. Inspector Amos, and of the great work which that gentleman had accomplished, those present knew the result…. the Chairman, in proposing the health of Inspector Amos, said, in speaking of that gentleman’s labours in connection with the band, no one knew the work he had gone through but himself. He had worked and striven hard, and tried to get the members into a state of efficiency, and how well he had succeeded was easily to be seen. Mr. Amos returned his thanks. He might mention that from the first they had received great encouragement from the public. The manner in which the men had laboured to become perfect had afforded him every satisfaction…. he hoped the men would continue to persevere in their musical studies…. if all went well, the band intended to give a concert in aid of the funds of the Newcastle Infirmary.”
As well as contributing funds to the Newcastle Infirmary, a year later, in 1867, The Newcastle Daily Chronicle report that “The Newcastle Shoeblack Brigade benefitted from the Watch Committee, the Mayor of Newcastle, Mr. Sabbage, Chief Constable, Mr. Amos and the members of the band of the police force, through whose united services the funds of the institution were increased by £20 0s 1d.” By way of a reward for their efforts, the same newspaper announced that “last evening, the members of the Newcastle Police Band received complimentary invitations to attend Mr. Rea’s concert in the New Town Hall. Mr. Inspector Amos, who continues to take the liveliest interest in the success of this corps of musicians, and Mr. T.S. Watson, the instructor, were present with the men. This mark of kindness on the part of a master of music, like Mr. Rea, to those who are young in the art, is exceedingly gratifying.“
The Newcastle Daily Chronicle of Wednesday March 31st 1869 reports that,
“We regret to announce the death of Mr. Robert Amos, late superintendent of the Manors division of the Newcastle police force, which took place at his residence, No. 5, Albert Terrace, Shieldfield, yesterday afternoon about three o’clock. He had been ailing for some time but latterly it was thought he was in a fair way of recovery, so that his death was somewhat sudden and unexpected. He was 52 years of age, and was a member of the force pretty nearly a quarter of a century. He was appointed acting sub-inspector in 1854; two years afterwards sub-inspector; and in 1861 took the rank of inspector. In the early part of 1868, when a change was made and the inspectors received the the title of superintendents, he was made superintendent of the Manors division, which office he resigned about six months ago. During the vacancy occasioned by the death of Mr. Sabbage, chief constable, Mr. Amos had charge of the force until the appointment of Captain Sylvester. He was very assiduous in the discharge of his duties, and, as is generally known was the originator of the police band, in which he always manifested a deep interest.”
Three days later, the same newspaper writes:
“Yesterday afternoon, the remains of the late Mr. Superintendent Amos, of the Newcastle Police Force, were interred in Jesmond Old Cemetery. About a hundred members of the force, including the sergeants, superintendents, and Captain Sylvester, Chief Constable, attended. The funeral cortege was headed by the police band playing the Dead March in Saul. Then came the hearse, which was followed by four coaches containing the relations and friends of the deceased: the men belonging to the force walking behind, four abreast. A large number of spectators accompanied the funeral from the residence of the deceased in Albert Terrace, Shieldfield, along New Bridge Street, up to Northumberland Street, and Jesmond Road to the cemetery. The remains of the deceased were interred by the side of the grave of the late Chief Constable, Mr. Sabbage. The service was conducted by Rev. W.L. Kay, of Christ Church, Shieldfield.”
Robert was buried next to his colleague, Chief Constable John Hooper Sabbage.
In his will, Robert had assets worth just under £800, which would be worth about £66,000 now, using the UK inflation calculator.