MAGISTRATES COURT AND POLICE STATION IN SYMONDS LANE
Cambridgeshire had established its own police force in the
early 1850’s a decision was made to divide the County
into six Police Divisions.
The Linton Division covered over twenty local parishes going
as far afield as Sawston , Ickleton and Weston Colville. New
Police Stations were built in each of the Divisions, the Linton
one cost £1040. Linton’s implementation of this
new system did not proceed as smoothly as expected. In August
1855 the new buildings were severely damaged by “idle
and disorderly persons.”
Nevertheless the Linton Police Station opened on time. It
was staffed by at least ten police officers. There was a Superintendent
in charge assisted by an Inspector, one or two Sergeants and
eight Constables. In 1900 there were only 72 policemen of
all ranks in the whole of the County (this figure did not
include Cambridge Town or the Isle of Ely).
However, crime was very low and all the Linton Division cases
were brought to Court within a two to four week period. Swift
justice indeed compared with the present day. The Police Station
in Symonds Lane finally closed in 1958 when the new Cambridge
Road Police Station was opened.
New Magistrates Courts to try local offenders were attached
to each Divisional Police Station from 1855. The Linton Court
met every two weeks on a Wednesday and the cases heard were
reported in the local press. Most were concerned with poaching,
drunken assault, petty theft or marital disputes.
Here are three cases from the Cambridge newspaper archives:
In 1857 Charles Whittaker, a 30 year old
labourer was found guilty of stealing 25 pounds (weight) of
brass from his employer in West Wratting. He was sent to the
Shire Assizes and sentenced to four years transportation.
In 1865 Robert Swann, a Linton labourer brutally
assaulted his mother with a dung fork! The local magistrates
sentenced him to three months hard labour to be served in
the prison at Cambridge Castle.
Finally, Eugene Stamp a trainee Pupil Teacher
at the Linton Church School threw a stone from a footbridge
at a passing train. He lost his job and was sent for trial
at the Assizes. Since his offence was more an act of stupidity
rather than a malicious crime he was treated very leniently.
He only received a fourteen day jail term.
Reading through hundreds of cases I was surprised to find
that juries often acquitted prisoners when the evidence was
contentious. Even important local people sometimes lost the
cases they had brought against poor working class defendants.
The English judicial system seems to have operated reasonably
fairly in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Linton Magistrates Court finally closed in 1979.