About Me

Since joining Essex Police as a constable in 2018, most of my service has been spent in the north of the county. Following a gruelling eighteen weeks at Essex Police College, I was stationed first at Saffron Walden, where I completed my tutorship, and subsequently posted to Braintree, where I completed my probation, spending just under three years responding to incidents on the Local Policing Team.

I’d joined the police late in life, having spent the previous fifteen years of my full-time career as a heritage-management professional, historical researcher and university tutor. During my time in the heritage arena, I had dealt with numerous incidents of theft and vandalism at historic sites and decided I could develop this interest and tackle this type of crime as a full-time police officer.

My passion for historical research has never abated and I quickly became fascinated and intrigued by the history of the police service and the lives of my predecessors. I’d been editing pages of the British Newspaper Archives online for some time and I soon set to work reading the newspaper reports of police incidents from the Essex force’s early years. The aims of this research are to explore of the character of the men who policed the area before me, the nature of the incidents they attended and the crimes they investigated.

Correcting the newspaper copy for the archives, I began to print out the reports and share them in the office at Braintree police station for colleagues to read on their (albeit very rare) tea breaks. I soon realised that the history of our historical colleagues would be of interest to a much wider audience.

Historical Essex Custodians

The Incidents

The incidents these officers dealt with weren't dissimilar to those with which we deal in 2023. There was the same gamut of mental-health incidents, burglaries, assaults, thefts and domestic violence. Our predecessors were, however, confronted with a much greater degree of personal violence on a far more regular basis.

In the force's early history, there were massive differences in the resources at the disposal of the officers - they had a very limited range of personal defensive equipment in contrast to today's officers. They were equipped with a wooden truncheon, a lamp for night duty and the nature of the partner agencies differed greatly. For example, constables between 1840 and 1930 could rely on workhouses and asylums to accommodate some of their vulnerable subjects. Arrests for minor crimes were far more common than they are today - these were days long before PACE!

The Officers

The officers themselves were also little different to those who join today. Contrary to popular belief, constables serving between 1840 and 1940 were not toughened-up ex-military personnel or former night-watchmen. As is the case today, constables were recruited from a plethora of different civilian backgrounds. Some came from the services but others from whole variety vocations such as butcher, baker, bicycle-repair, footman, engineer, cobbler, grocer, carman and gardener. 

I soon realised there was a wider audience for the results of my research so I set about developing an online database that would not only produce the newspaper reports online but would link the incidents to those officers who attended and investigated. Pivotal to this research is my voluntary involvement with the Essex Police Museum, which holds a plethora of interesting artefacts along with the records of service for many of the historical officers involved.

My interest in built-heritage persisting, I decided there would also be room on the website for information about the historical police stations in which those early constables worked.

The Website

The result of all of this is www.thecamplingfiles.co.uk.

The website is in its early stages of development and it has the potential to grow into a substantial online resource, not only for those with a casual interest in crimes of the past but for those researching the history of the service along with the biographies of those who served. I am grateful for the assistance of the Essex Police Museum, without whom this website would not have been able to develop. I am also seeking those who might be able to help with its development in the future.