Tring’s Old Nick: Take a Tour
Tring’s High Street Police Station is the oldest in the county – discover its history and take a tour…
Many Tring residents might pass by the blue door on the high street without realising what it is – but behind the heavy door is a historic building, the oldest police station in the county, which is still home to the town’s police officers.
But the history of the town’s police force begins much earlier… in 1847, an inspector and two PCs were stationed here – with the first Constabulary being positioned in the Market House, a large trading house on stilts, which stood in front of St Peter and St Paul Church in the High Street. (This building was demolished later in the century and replaced by the one we know now on the corner of Akeman Street and the High Street).
They left the Market House In 1866 and took up residence in a new civil amenities building – Vestry Hall – on Church Lane, which was also home to the horse-drawn fire engine – the building still stands and is now private apartments. According to Inspector Andy Wiseman’s book The History of Police Stations, it is likely there were kennels positioned here too, but the facilities don’t seem to have been very secure, because in 1894 a PC Fleming found a dog – a German Boarhound (now known as a Great Dane) – in a front garden and took it back to the station – it escaped and wandered the town for a few days before it was caught again!
Once the new century began, the building was no longer considered adequate and in 1912 Herts County Council bought a piece of land for £670, which had previously been a butcher’s and abattoir, next to the Market House. The new station was built during 1913, but the local paper didn’t seem that impressed: ‘Built of dull yellow bricks faced with red, it is a severe and business-like building doubtless admirably adapted for the purpose for which it was erected.’ (Bucks Herald)
The new station officially opened on 30 January 1914. Upstairs was the station’s sergeant accommodation for him and his family, with three large bedrooms and a box-room. Downstairs there was a kitchen, parlour and scullery. In the 1920s, it was occupied by Sergeant 133 Merrifield and his family. Outside, the toilet was built next to a large coal bunker and located in a rear yard. The guardroom on the ground floor led to a small passageway, with a solitary cell. There was also a small, indoor exercise yard with a glass roof.
In 1937, the station was modified to include a first-floor bathroom and inside toilet.
Even a couple of decades later Tring seems to have been a quiet place as far as crime goes: ‘One night I arrested a man on the High Street for being drunk and disorderly. I was really pleased with myself and took him back to the police station to be processed. I fetched the sergeant from his quarters upstairs so that the man could be charged. To my surprise the sergeant was most annoyed that I had bothered him. It was as if he wasn’t used to people being arrested in Tring!’ Gordon Smale, former officer of the Hertfordshire Constabulary, stationed at Tring 1953-1956.
In the 1960s the council had plans to sell the police station on the High Street and build a new one on Mortimer Hill, but those plans never came to fruition. Instead, the station was modified – a front desk installed and dog kennels and a garage block built to the rear. While this happened the police station was situated in a shop next to the Post Office.
Visitors can book a tour of the police station, led by PC Laz Clark.
Laz has compiled an interesting exhibition detailing the history of the station and the Hertfordshire police. You can also see old police equipment including truncheons – and find out what is in the major incident box.
There’s also a chance to find out about some of the major crimes and incidents that happened in the area, including the theft of 3,000 eggs and rare bird skins from Tring’s Natural History Museum, and a burglary in Grove Park, which was linked to The Fox, who terrorised the Home Counties in the 1980s. And don’t forget to ask Laz to tell you how he travelled to Holland to catch a police killer who had spent 13 years on the run.
If you would like to take a tour of the station, email PC Laz Clark at Lazarus.Clark@herts.police.uk.
- Tring Museum has also compiled a display about the history of the town’s police – open on Friday and Saturdays 10am-4pm.