Hereford Cathedral
Close Constable

Hereford Cathedral, unlike the other cathedrals discussed, does not posses its own private constabulary. However, it did until 2014, have a Close constable, and like the others, the history of the post is sourced in antiquity. Not withstanding this, not all records show the Close constable’s predecessors in the best of light.

Records of the 'Corporation of Hereford 1601-1760' make interesting reading. They certainly give the impression that some 17th century parish constables in Hereford were derelict in their duty. Papers from 1691, written in the prose of the day, record:

‘Wee present all the constables as well chief as petty within the said citty of Hereford and liberties thereof for suffering idle vagabonds and sturdy beggars to wander about the streets of the said citty, and desire they may be punished according to law for that their neglect of their office. And whereas the best of laws are but as a dead letter without being put into execution, and the best of customes useless without being rightly upheld, Wee, the representatives as well of the inferior better and capitall citiizens of this citty humbly desire Mr. Mayor our head, not only to putt these our presentments, but all other good laws and customes, in execution, for the incouragement of vertue and orderly living and disincouragement of vice and ill mannerrs. And wee doo most heartily congratulate our present Majesties safe arrivall, who under God was the reformer of our religion, laws, liberties, preserving our lives and antient customes from the greedy jaws of Popery and slavery, and ever since hath been our royall champion and preserver of the same, whom God graunt long to raigne, and lett all the people say Amen.’

The Corporation’s papers’ later record in 1708:

‘Persons are now presented, not for not going to church but "for not going to some place or other of worship on the Lord's day," and the constables for not suppressing the boys for gaming and sporting on the Lord's day, and the Mayor is humbly desired to mind them of their duty.’

As cited in the second chapter, parish constables were engaged in ensuring Sundays were kept sacred and that parishioners attended church. Judging by the above statement, in Hereford, parish constables were again found wanting and needed to be reminded of their duty.

Records maintained by the Cathedral show that on 17 May 1798, Chapter appointed John Leech, Thomas Faithful, Thomas Willim and William Green as constables for the precincts of the Cathedral. An entry dated 14 November 1799, records that Leech, Faithful and Willim were sworn in before Dr Napleton and Mr Morgan in the Chapter House and William Green at his home. Another entry dated, 13 November 1800, records:

‘Four persons shall be annually appointed by the Dean & Chapter at the Audit to be Constables for the Cathedral Precincts and sworn into their Office by the County Magistrates.’

How long these four constables served is unclear, but Chapter records for the mid to late 19th century include a number of references in respect of the constable’s house. These show that the office was held by at least two individuals, William Clark and Richard Phillips.

An entry dated, 24 March 1881, records:

‘Resolved that an application be made to the Watch Committee for the terms upon which the attendance of a Police Constable in the Cathedral Close from dusk until midnight would be provided.’

How successful this commissioning arrangement proved to be is not recorded. However, given that in November 1881 Chapter resolved, ‘A Special Constable be engaged to attend in the Cathedral Close from dusk until midnight to prevent nuisances there,’ it may have been less than satisfactory. On 6 February 1885, Richard Bodenham was appointed Special Constable, his duties were:

‘To attend in the Cathedral Close every evening from dusk to half past eleven o’clock throughout the year and keep order there and prevent prostitutes and other improper characters loitering in the Close.

To assist in blowing the organ at the Cathedral morning and evening services throughout the year, except on Sunday evenings and on the evenings when special services are held in the Cathedral, when a substitute will be provided.

When on duty in the Cathedral Close his beat will be from the Broad Street Gates round the Cathedral through the College Cloisters by the School; the Deanery and on the north side of the Close to Broad Street, giving an eye to Harley Court to prevent improper characters resorting there.’

The engagement to be subject to a month’s notice upon either side – wages to be seventeen shillings per weeks – Duties to commence from 16th February 1885.’

Bodenham served as a special constable until his services were dispensed with on 31 March 1900. Although there is no start date recorded for Richard Phillips, records show he was living in the Close constable’s house in 1869, and served as a Close constable until 25 November 1905.

Phillips was replaced by George Haines on a salary of 16 shillings per week and the rent of the house vacated by Richard Phillips. An assistant Close keeper and constable, John Sheffield, was appointed about the same time. George Haines stayed in post for 23 years, being succeeded on 3 May 1928 by Albert Lowe as Close keeper, but the record makes no mention of him being attested as a constable.


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