The old Police Cells are in the basement of Brighton Town Hall in Bartholomew Square. Brighton Police existed from 1830 to 1967, a total of 137 years as a separate force before becoming part of the Sussex Police force.
The town hall was built in 1830 on the site of a former Grange. St. Bartholomew's Grange was founded by St. Pancras Priory, Lewes, in the 13th Century and burned down in 1514 as a result of French raiders during a war between England and France along with the rest of Brighton, known at the time as Brighthelmstone. The Grange would have been a farm belonging to the priory, from which the monks drew their supplies of provisions.
The town rebuilt itself as a fishing village and in the 18th century it became a health resort as Dr Russell of Lewes started prescribing the seawater. By 1780, development of the Georgian terraces had started and the fishing village became the fashionable resort of Brighton. Growth of the town was further encouraged by the patronage of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) after his first visit in 1783.
As a result, Comissioners were appointed in 1773 to provide for pavements and the cleansing of the streets. Watchman were also appointed and by 1822 two head constables were appointed called James Feldwicke and Samuel Simms. They were controlled by two Superintendents. The uniform then was a top hat, black tail coat, white trousers with a baton for protection and a rattle for communicating. By the time the townhall was built in 1830 there were 25 watchman under the direction of a Mr Willam Pilbeam.
Below is a timeline of Brighton Police:
· In 1832, Henry Solomon was promoted from Inspector of Nuisances to be the joint Chief Police Officer with William Pilbeam.
- In 1838, the force consisted of a Chief Constable, two superintendents, three inspectors, 24 constables and a night constable - a total of 31 officers for a population of 47,000.
- In 1854, Brighton Borough Council was incorporated and the police came under the control of the Council's Watch Committee. By 1854, the force had increased to 10 officers and 51 constables. They now wore frock coats instead of tail coats.
- By 1868, helmets had replaced top hats and the force had increased to 100 men.
- By 1901, there were 150 officers to police a population of almost 124,000.
- The year 1918 saw the first woman constable appointed in Brighton Police.
- In 1930, there were 216 officers for a population of 147,000. On 14th September 1933, Brighton Police became the first force to have police radios. Also at this time white helmets were adopted. They were suspended in wartime and brought back between 1952 and 1967.
- In 1939, the basement of the Town Hall housing the police station was extended to accommodate CID.
- In 1951, there were 256 officers and constables for a population of 156,000. In 1965, John Street Police Station was opened. In 1967, there were 424 officers for a population of 169,000 and the force was amalgamated into Sussex Police Force.
A few years after the opening of the Town Hall, the police station became immediately infamous as the only station in the UK where the Chief Constable was murdered in his own office - a fact which remains to this day.
In 1836, Henry Solomon was made Chief Constable of Brighton police. He was a Jewish man, which makes his appointment a notable one for the period. In 1844, 23 year old John Lawrence was arrested with another man in St James' Street for stealing a roll of carpet from a shop. Chief Constable Solomon interviewed Lawrence at the police station but Lawrence, when left for a moment in his agitated state, crossed to the open fire, grabbed a poker and struck Solomon on the side of the head causing a deep wound and also bending the poker. There were three witnesses to the attack and Lawrence was charged, found guilty at Lewes Assize Court and publicly hanged at Horsham.
ew years after the opening of the Town Hall, the police station bereportedly haunts the basement to this day.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Town Hall also housed the Fire Station and the Magistrates Court along with a live in caretaker who would have lived upstairs. Young children have been heard upstairs and it is rumoured that these are the children of the caretaker.
Below is a list of the Chief Constables of Brighton Police from when it was established to when it moved to John Street and became part of Sussex Police in 1967.
Name: Date of Appointment
- Henry Soloman 18th May 1838
- Thomas Hayter Chase 22nd May 1844
- George White 21st December 1853
- Owen Crowhurst 7th December 1876
- Isaiah Barnden 8th August 1877
- James Terry 6th April 1881
- Thomas Carter 27th January 1894
- Sir William Gentle 26th September 1901
- Charles Griffin 5th June 1920
- William James Hutchinson 1st December 1933
- Charles Field Williams Ridge 1st July 1956
- Albert Edgar Rowsell 28th October 1957
- William Thomas Cavey 8th October 1963
The building now belongs to Brighton and Hove City Council and is used as offices for housing enquiries, a registry office for weddings and a place to register births and deaths.