The Denbighshire Constabulary came into existence in 1840 following the County Police Act of 1839 which enabled counties to create a paid Police Force. Prior to this the duties of Constables were carried out by Parish Constables who were generally unpaid, and their authority was usually limited to the parishes in which they lived.
Previously the idea of having a paid rural Police Force had gained little support, but opposition weakened following the Reform Act of 1832, which brought public unrest and disquiet culminating in the Chartist Riots of the late 1830’s and early 1840’s.
The first Chief Constable was Mr John Denman a native of Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd and the fledgling Police Force was made up of:
Wrexham “A” Division headed by Supt. Thomas Mostyn, 8 Constables, and 1 horse.
Wrexham “B” Division Supt. R. K. Nicholls, 8 Constables, and 1 horse.
Llanrwst Division headed by Supt. Kyffin, 6 Constables and no horse.
Ruthin and Yale Division had 4 Constables no Superintendent and no horse.
The area the fledgling Police Force covered extended from the valleys of the Dee and Ceiriog in the East, across the Clwydian Range and the Hiraethog to the Vale of Conway and the seaboards.
The qualifications needed to join the new Police Force were, to be under 40 years of age, to stand 5’7’’ without shoes, to be able to read and write and keep accounts, to have a strong constitution and generally intelligent.
In 1850 the post of Chief Constable was disposed of, and the county was divided into two Divisions with a Superintendent for both. Superintendent G. M. King based at Wrexham and Supt J. Bradshaw based at Denbigh.
In 1856 another Act of Parliament made it compulsory for counties to establish their own Police Forces. It was this Act which caused the creation of Police Forces for the counties of Flintshire and Caernarfonshire and reinstated the position of Chief Constable in Denbighshire.
The Chief Constable was, once again, Mr John Denman who held the post until 1877 when Captain Augustus W Price of Llanfair succeeded him. His tenure was to last only 19 months and he in turn was succeeded by Major T.J. Leadbetter who headed the force for thirty-three years until 1911, when he was 72 years of age. He had presided over the force during times of crisis and great progress and oversaw many changes in his 33 years.
During the Tithe Wars of the 1880’s the Denbighshire Constabulary’s impartiality was sorely tested when the Constabulary, whose backgrounds, were in the main working class and agricultural, faced threatening mobs’ intent on preventing the collection of tithes.
It was apparent that the Constable’s sympathies lay in the main, with the demonstrators, as the Chief Constable found it necessary to issue instructions to the force ordering, that during confrontation, they were not to be seen in contact with the anti tithe league or any of the crowd.
The next few years were times of continuing progress for the Denbighshire Constabulary. In May 1897 intelligence tests for probationers were introduced which included police knowledge, dictation, and arithmetic, and were quickly followed by promotion examinations to the rank of Sergeant with the format of the examination being not unlike the intelligence test for Probationers.
In 1913 rest days for Officers were introduced where every man was to have one day’s leave in every fourteen days.
Progress continued to affect the way communities were policed, and the increase in motor traffic on the roads made it necessary for the Constabulary to move forward to carry their duties effectively. Hence in 1921 the force gained their first Motor Car. The growth of motor transport meant that they were dealing, on top of poaching and petty theft, criminals who were travelling from outside to perpetrate their crimes.
During the Second World War, as in the First, manpower was depleted, and Special Constables became extremely important. It was also during the war years that they appointed their first Police Woman.
The 1950’s saw great technological advances for Police Forces in general, introduction of traffic departments, improvements of radio communications meant that Officers were able to attend incidents far quicker.
At a time of rising population, and increased mobility, criminal activity increased and the polices of the government of the day were leaning towards larger police forces. Between the years of 1958 and 1965 crime more than tripled with 532 crimes being reported within the Division.
Denbighshire’s last Chief Constable was Mr Walter Stansfield, who took up the post in Dec 1964. Three years later in Oct 1967, Denbighshire Constabulary ceased to exist as an autonomous County Police Force when it amalgamated with Gwynedd Constabulary and in 1974 merged into larger administrative areas of Clwyd and Gwynedd to become North Wales Police.
Information taken from:
‘The History of Policing in Denbighshire’, P.S.387 Kevin Griffiths, Denbighshire Task Team. Denbighshire Archives: NTD/1714
George G. Lerry, ’The Policemen of Denbighshire’, Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions, VOL, 2
Scope and content: Constables' Branch Board minute book, 1919-1950; Chief Constable's papers, 1849-1967; correspondence and papers of Major Leadbetter, 1858-[c. 1890]; papers and photographs of G. T. Guest, 1904-1947; divisional records of the 'A' Division (Wrexham), 1874-[c. 1971]; policeman's day book of the 'B' Division (Denbigh), 1867-1962; photographs of the 'C' Division (Colwyn Bay), [c. 1900]-1958, and other miscellanea, 1935-1940; photograph books of convicted criminals, 1850-1896, and records, 1902-1967, from the Constabulary Headquarters; service registers of officers, 1851-1948; description books of police officers, 1849-1946; Home Office circulars, 1885-1912; book of declaration of police constables, 1898-1946; photographs, 1908-1956; medals of John Sheehan, Chief Clerk at Wrexham, 1851-1855; newspaper cuttings relating to armorial bearings, 1890-1967; Wrexham division papers, [c. 1912]-1971, and Joint Branch Board minute books, 1963-1967.