Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Crime in Kingsley

Crime in Kingsley was generally rare and, for the most part, confined to the odd fight or assault caused by visiting soldiers from Bordon camp having topped up on fine ales from the Cricketers. It was normal, in those days, for the troops to walk over Fir Hill from the camp to the pub which was not a very long walk. For a period of time there were large numbers of what were known as Junior Leaders. These were aspiring leaders but were quite young and often got drunk and fought, usually amongst themselves, but occasionally with other customers. In those days they would almost certainly end up nicked! No fines, Police cautions, or Restorative Justice then, simply in front of the Beak and weighed off. Military Police would occasionally patrol the local pubs at turning out time especially if there had been a few incidents recently. They didn’t mess about either, any offender was promptly loaded into their army vehicle and taken away.

As far as the civilian population was concerned it was usually gypsies that were responsible for trouble. It was common then for gypsies to travel around the countryside engaging in the seasonal work that the farms provided. As has been previously mentioned, most work was done by man power, the complex farm machinery of today was yet to be invented. The fields were, therefore, full of toiling bodies. Both men and women joined in the various tasks involved. The gypsies would camp up somewhere in the area, sometimes on ground provided by an individual farmer but often anywhere there was room for their caravans and livestock. Many carried chickens with them,(in specially provided boxes below the floor of the caravans), they almost always had an assortment of dogs and, of course, the horses which pulled the caravans. At the end of the day’s work it was the norm for the menfolk to make their way to the pub. Drink and gypsies always seemed to be a pretty lethal mix and trouble was often the end result. For the most part they confined their fighting to themselves. The extent of this sort of behaviour can be gauged by the fact that many pubs in both town and village displayed large signs telling the world, no travellers or gypsies would either be served or admitted.
Away from the pubs crime was very rare, the good people of Kingsley led blameless lives. The village had its policeman who lived amongst the community. In Kingsley’s case the police house was at the east end of the row of houses that began with Church View, I think, at the west end which was situated on the right hand side as you entered Woodfield. The policeman knew everyone on his patch and what was going on throughout the area. He spent his days in and around the village and was seen, I have no doubt that this contributed to the general good order of the day.

Houses, our own included, were left unlocked, it was unthinkable that anyone would walk in and rob the occupants whilst the property was empty. People didn’t travel as they do now and many of the villagers spent their whole lives in the village thus everybody knew and, I suppose, trusted one another. Strangers would stand out like a sore thumb so, again, I suppose the opportunity to get away with a criminal act would have been unlikely.

During the whole of the time I lived in the village I only recall two incidents involving village people that reached the courts and were one off’s. There may have been others but if there were they passed me by. The first was a straightforward theft which involved a woman. The lady involved was the mother of one of my friends and took the opportunity to relieve Woolworths, in Alton, of some small item. I seem to recall it was a card of buttons. In any event she was caught and found herself in front of the court. I do not intend to reveal the identity of the lady as there might well be relations still residing in the village. I do not recall the sentence which was handed down but I do clearly recall the overwhelming sense of disbelief and indeed shock that my parents and many of our neighbours felt and expressed. Quite simply, in those days, village people just didn’t do that sort of thing.

The other incident which caused a similar amount of shock in the community involved a mate of mine. Although several years older than me, we had spent a lot of time together due, in no small part, to the fact that he kept cage birds and often took me with him when he went to Aldershot market on a Saturday to buy new stock. We went up on the train from the Halt down near the Straits. However, as a teenager, the chap in question got himself a girlfriend, and no doubt, finding the delights of a young lady a greater attraction than cage birds he found himself confronted with the somewhat less delightful prospect of becoming a father. Sadly this caused him to abandon the relationship. It should be remembered that those were the days when, if a girl, "got into trouble" the shame was quite terrible. The rich would have sent their daughter off abroad to avoid scandal. The less well-off had to endure the social stigma that went with the situation as they had nowhere to hide. It is difficult to believe how much times have changed, today young women purposely have a child for the benefits that go with single parenthood. Back then they were on their own and if mum and dad did not help they really were in trouble. Often these events caused family breakdowns and long term feuds that never healed. Happily, I don’t recall any other such events in Kingsley but the local and national newspapers bore witness to these circumstances in the wider community. I suppose the fact that far more of these type of situations did not occur was quite simply fear. The swinging sixties were to change all that!

Anyway back to the case in point, after some time the young man was brought to account for his indiscretion. He found himself the subject of a court hearing at which it was intended to decide the level of support he would have to provide for the young lady. He denied responsibility and contested the case. I don’t recall exactly how many hearings there were, but at the final one, the young fellow failed to appear. Incredibly, it was reported, that police cars were driving around Alton calling his name over the loud hailer and summoning him to attend the proceedings. The details of what followed I cannot recall but his fatherhood was established and, no doubt, payment obtained. Again the sense of outrage and disgust amongst the community was palpable and the sympathy totally with the young lady. These matters were all a matter of public record and anyone wishing to research village history in greater depth can, I am sure, find full details in the archives of the local newspapers. Suffice to say, "things ain't what they used to be".

In addition to the two single offences outlined above there was also a young man who got into trouble and appeared to embark upon a life of crime. He was several years younger than I but I knew him very well. Sadly, he got into trouble at a young age and continued to offend for as long as I knew him. The last time I encountered him was after I had joined the Prison Service and had been sent to H.M.P. Winchester for my initial training before going to the training school in Wakefield. One day I happened to hear my name being called from above and upon looking there smiling down was the chap in question. We exchanged a few words and that was that. In those days if a member of staff knew a prisoner it had to be reported. Usually this resulted in the individual, prisoner, being moved to another establishment. Since I was about to depart to Wakefield I believe that did not happen in this case. I have not seen him since. However, as far as I am aware, he was the only one of the youngsters that grew up in the village at that time that went on to visit the prison system.

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