Sergeant Henry Payne of the West Bromwich Police 1861-1864

Sergeant Henry Payne of the West Bromwich Police Force
by Brett Payne, of Tauranga, New Zealand
When his mother died in the Ashby Workhouse in 1857, Henry Payne (1842-1907) was on his own, as his father had died when he was only three years old.  Now he was fiften, and no doubt quite capable of taking care of himself, having been working in the clay pits and farms of South Derbyshire since he was nine.  He had no siblings, his grandparents had all died before or soon after he was born, and his aunt Harriett Bagnall - who was also his godmother - had died in 1850.  Cousins on his father's side had scattered - some were in Burton-upon-Trent, some in Yorkshire, some even in America.  Whatever the reason, it appears that none of them were in a position to take on another dependant, and Henry instead went to Princes End, near Birmingham, where a cousin on his mother's side, Thomas Benfield (1823-1898), had recently set up in business as a blacksmith.

According to family folklore, Henry went into partnership with Thomas.  However, it appears that either the job did not suit Henry or there was insufficient demand for his services, because on the 18th February 1861 he joined the West Bromwich Police Force.  Entries relating to Henry's police service were very kindly found in two documents at the Stafford Record Office by Barbara Bown:

Description Main Police Register Descriptive Registry of Constabulary
No. 253 748
Name Payne Henry Payne Henry
Date of Appointment 18th February 1861 18th February 1861
Native County Stafford Stafford
Parish Tipton Tipton
Age 18 18
Height 5ft 8in 5ft 8in
Eyes Grey Grey
Hair Lt Brown Lt Brown
Complexion Light Light
Trade or Occupation Blacksmith Blacksmith
Married or Single Single Single
No. of Children   -
If in Service Before & Where   No
By Whom Recommended   Mr. Sam’l Evans & 5 Others
3rd Constable April 1861  
2nd Constable Aug 1861  
1st Constable Feb 1862  
3rd Sergeant June 1863  
Taken off Strength from Date 7th July 1864  
Cause Resigned  
Observations   Resigned 7th July 1864
Barbara, whose ancestor also served with this force, also found this image which gives a good impression of what policemen looked like in the 19th Century

The 1861 census for West Bromwich, taken on the night of 7th April, shows Henry living at the Police Station on the High Street, along with the Deputy Chief Constable and his family, two sergeants, twelve other constables, and thirteen prisoners, including a young woman and her one year-old baby.  (Click here for a transcript of the inhabitants of the West Bromwich Police Station on census night 1861)

Henry's second son Hallam Payne claimed that, at the age of 19, Henry was the youngest sergeant on the force.  It may have been what he was told by his father, but in fact Henry joined up when he was eighteen, and he had just turned 21 when he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.  The Ellison family still has a hip flask of his, with a pewter cover inscribed ‘Sergt H Payne - West Bromwich - 1863’, almost certainly presented to him on this occasion.  He had risen through the ranks very quickly, and it seems that a promising career must have lay ahead.  It is not clear why Henry resigned from the force, but he did so on the 7th July 1864.  Perhaps the police force did not allow such young members of the force to be married, and Henry probably did have marriage on his mind.  He married his cousin Henrietta Christina Benfield (1843-1914) at Burton-upon-Trent, exactly five months later.

19th Century Police Sergeant (left) & Constable (right) Image courtesy of Barbara Bown
Hallam claims that, after resigning from the police force, Henry then went to work as a ‘nightwatch’ at Ind Coope & Co., a firm of brewers with premises at 120 Station Street in Burton-upon-Trent.  However, by the time of his marriage, he was working as a bookkeeper, perhaps at the same company.  Afterwards, he did not return to the Birmingham-West Bromwich area, but went looking for greener pastures in the form of a job with Midland Railways in Derby.

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This page last updated 2 August 2003 © Brett Payne All Rights Reserved