Stanstead Abbotts Police Houses


By


John Weeks


 In 1946 the Hertfordshire Constabulary commenced a house building programme.  Over the next 23 years 771 new police houses were constructed with just 53 pre-war houses still in use.  The earlier properties, and later more modern ones, were of standard designs and my wife and I lived in two of the earlier ones, both on the right hand side of a semi-detached pair, which meant that on moving almost all of the furniture and fittings could be moved easily.  There was a pair of police houses at 101 and 103 Cappell Lane, Stanstead Abbotts and we moved into the right hand one, No. 101, in July 1966, just eleven months after our marriage.  On entering by the front door there was a door on the left into the living room behind which was the dining room, complete with a French window and a door into the kitchen.  From the front door a passageway gave access to the kitchen which included an airer suspended from the ceiling.  Most houses had the back door on the side of the house where there was an outside toilet, coal store and storage space with doors to the front and rear.  The stairs were immediatly opposite the front door and with a small bedroom and airing cupboard above the stairs.  The two main bedrooms were to the left side of the house.  Left hand houses were the exact opposite.


    No. 101 differed from the majority in that just inside the front door on the right was a door which gave access to the office which was probably about 25 feet square.  The brick walls were painted cream (I don't recall the walls being plastered) and there was an electric fire mounted below the only window which was on the side wall.  (There was no electricity meter so any charges must have been added to my bill!). Office fittings were minimal: a table and two chairs, a small switchboard, and a shelf for official publications including Standing Orders and the weekly "Supplement A" which was a summary published by the Metropolitan Police.  This had brief entries about serioous offences or wanted persons which had already been mentioned in the famous daily publication, the Police Gazette.  Behind the office was a larger than normal outhouse for storage plus a toilet and coal store.  The public door into the office was adjacent to the house door and this had a blue glass panel with POLICE on it as well as a separate bell.


    There was one other item of equipment in the office cupboard which was enclosed in a wooden crate: an air raid siren.  This had to be taken out every now and then and hand cranked to make sure it was in working order so it could sound a warning as this was still at the time of the Cold War.  When I moved with my parents to Great Amwell in 1954 I have vague recollections of an air raid siren being located somewhere near the top of Gallows Hill, Hertford and this would sound the "All Clear" - one continuous note - to summon retained firemen if they were required, but this fell out of use once those concerned were issued with a personal bleeper to alert them.


    The telephone switchboard must have been the smallest size available as the only "extensions" were the two houses, so it was easier to leave both houses permanently connected so that both Alan Richardson and myself could answer the 'phone or make calls.


    Another difference was that, in the back garden, there was an extra long concrete garage.  The front area was for the occupier's car but there was a double door towards the rear so that two Velocette "noddy" bikes could be garaged, although there was only one when we arrived, and a gate gave access to next door's back garden for convenience.

    The house was sold off long after we moved to Somerset in December 1970 and has since been considerably extended.  Most police houses were sold off, 375 alone in 1997, and by 2017 only twelve police houses remained occupied by serving officers.

Index

The nuclear early warning equipment which was on the desk in the office.  When switched on, as it had to be quite regularly, it gave out a warning "pip" every few seconds and, in the event of an imminent attack this changed to a "warble" before a spoken message was received.  I don't recall ever hearing anything other than the pips, not even in test mode.  Had this been used in earnest then the siren would have been used to warn the village to take cover.  Each police station and village house in Hertfordshire, and probably the country, had one of these.