Llewellyn William Atcherley, Inspector of Constabulary

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On 20 January 1919, Major-General Llewellyn William Atcherley C.M.G., C.V.O., Chief Constable of the West Riding of Yorkshire, was appointed to the position of H. M. Inspector of Constabulary. It was a role which would see him not only inspect the police forces of England and Wales, but also influence their development and operations. The position naturally involved a great deal of travel, taking Llewellyn to many different towns and cities from Stourbridge to Sunderland, from Dover to Derby, and from Nottingham to – New York!

Llewellyn actually began his duties as an Inspector of Constabulary six months before being appointed to the post, shortly after his return to civilian life following nearly four years of military service (see Llewellyn Atcherley’s World War One). As Acting Government Inspector of Constabulary he inspected members of the Hull police force on 20 July 1918. He also inspected members of the Middlesbrough Constabulary some seven weeks later on 5 September.

A “high state of efficiency” had been maintained in the Middlesbrough force despite the difficulties of the war, the impact of which was visible in part from the reduced numbers of police officers on parade. Those numbers were swelled by 41 special constables, and Llewellyn thanked them, on behalf of the Home Office, for their services. Another reminder of the toll inflicted by the war was the presence of officers who had been wounded or (in one case) gassed while serving with the armed forces. One of those men had lost an arm. After inspecting the men, “Major-General Atcherley examined the various police-stations, cells, offices, and books, and expressed himself as highly satisfied with the police administration in the borough.”

Because of his “excellent police work in the West Riding”, it had been recommended back in 1912 that Llewellyn Atcherley should be considered for a post in the Home Office. That recommendation had been made by none other than Winston Churchill. Evidently Llewellyn showed, during his time as Acting Government Inspector of Constabulary, that he was more than capable of undertaking the duties involved. And so it was that Churchill’s recommendation was finally acted upon when Llewellyn was appointed to the position on a permanent basis in 1919.

The Times of London reported that Llewellyn’s appointment to this post had “given rise in some quarters to the assumption that the Home Office may contemplate the constitution of a new National Police Force, and the consequent appointment of a controlling head”. It went on to say that “nothing had occurred to support the supposition that any drastic changes in police administration were contemplated.” Changes affecting the police forces of England and Wales were certainly in prospect however.

On 13 August 1918 there had been a strike by members of the Metropolitan Police, organised by the National Union of Police and Prison Officers (NUPPO). At issue had been pay, bonuses and pensions, issues with which there was great dissatisfaction in many other police forces across the country. In response to these widespread concerns, on 1 March 1919 the Government convened a committee chaired by Lord Desborough to review the pay and conditions of the police across England, Wales and Scotland.

As an Inspector of Constabulary, even though newly-appointed to the post, Llewellyn Atcherley gave evidence to the Desborough Committee along with his colleague Sir Leonard Dunning. The two Inspectors were not singing from the same hymn sheet however. Howard Taylor, in a thesis written in 1997, has suggested that Llewellyn’s appointment by the Home Office was made in order to balance Dunning’s views:

Sir Leonard Dunning, 1st Bt. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Quite possibly the second Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Llewelyn Atcherley, was appointed by the Home Office to counter Dunning’s influence since the two Inspectors profoundly disagreed on so many policing matters. Dunning was the leading urban policeman, Atcherley was an innovative county police chief. The timing of Atcherley’s appointment, ‘a few weeks’ before the Desborough Committee, suggests that politics may have played a part in his selection. However, if that was the case, although Atcherley had long enjoyed great status and prestige in the police service, his appointment appears to have come too late for him to exert a decisive influence in the formative period, immediately during and after Desborough, when police establishments were under particular scrutiny.

Dunning’s view was that the police should expand their role into the social sphere, working with voluntary agencies to prevent crime, and that minor offences should be targeted “before the offender had a chance to develop serious criminal habits.” Atcherley, on the other hand, wanted ‘top down’ organisation of the police with strengthened Home Office power or even a Police Ministry at its apex. “He believed,” says Taylor, ”the scope of policing should be limited to the obvious, serious targets and that policing was not a social service.” He certainly did not see a role for ‘policing’ by voluntary organisations, as the following words, taken from the 1921 Report of the Departmental Committee on the Duties of Women Police and attributed to Llewellyn, clearly show:

I do not like separate voluntary organisations. I do not like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; I do not like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; I do not like a Society for the Protection of Girls. I think all these should be comprehended in police work and dealt with in police practice, and that they should be unnecessary, because the policy should be a policy accepted by all and under proper government. If you get voluntary organisations you get cranks. …

The findings of the first report of the Desborough Committee were accepted in full and were implemented by the Police Act 1919, passed by Parliament on 15 August that year. It outlawed NUPPO (the Police Federation was formed in its place) and abolished the right of police officers to strike, but it also removed, for most serving officers, any desire to strike by providing much improved pay and conditions. In his report for 1918-19, issued within months of the Police Act being passed, Llewellyn Atcherley wrote: “A great improvement is evident already, due partly no doubt … to the excellent influence of the Desborough Committee’s report.”

Other recommendations were made by the committee (which issued a second report in 1920) regarding the structure and organisation of police forces. One which was close to Llewellyn Atcherley’s heart was “the development of cooperative arrangements between police forces, for example ‘clearing houses’ for information about crime and criminals”. However, Llewellyn’s call for at least seven more Inspectors of Constabulary to be appointed, covering all of the ‘Chief Constables Conference’ areas, was watered down to a recommendation for just one additional Inspector, “to enable the Inspectorate to cope with its new responsibilities”. Even that recommendation was rejected by the Government, on grounds of cost.

The Desborough Committee also rejected the nationalisation of the police (the ‘National Police Force’ which The Times had referred to in 1918. Instead, it proposed uniformity across the various police forces, and these were delivered by the police regulations which came into effect on 1 October 1920. In the report issued by H.M. Inspectorate of Constabulary for 1919-20, Atcherley agreed with Dunning that the new regulations were “working towards uniformity of the Service”. That report, which has been described as “upbeat and optimistic”, was followed by a report in similar vein for 1920-21.

During this period Llewellyn continued his inspections of police forces in his Northern District, with visits to constabularies, divisions and sub-divisions across that area. Among the places he travelled to were Blackburn, Blackpool, Blyth (Northumberland), Cambridge, Derby, Grantham, Hartlepool, Hull, Leeds, Lichfield, Nottingham and Preston. The inspections, which were attended by various civic dignitaries and officials in addition to Major Atcherley, typically followed a set format with the officers parading and conducting drills before Llewellyn inspected the forces’ books and methods of operation.

Llewellyn Atcherley photographed at the Waldorf Astoria, New York, during the International Police Conference of 1922.

In 1922 Llewellyn got to travel rather further afield. An International Police Conference, organised by Commissioner Enright, took place at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in September that year and was attended by Llewellyn and by “Police chiefs from all parts of the United States, from Canada, Cuba, Porto Rico, Haiti, Belgium and Denmark”. The delegates got to see “The latest novelties in electrical burglar tools, the most up-to-date bombs and infernal machines, new finger-printing apparatus and the ‘modus operandi’ system of detecting criminals by the characteristics of their crimes”. The modus operandi system, developed by the New York Police Department, was based on the system devised by Llewellyn in 1913.

On 14 September the New York Times reported:

The methods of the New York Police Department are closely studied by the police of other great cities, according to Major General L. W. Atcherley of the British Constabulary. He said he believed the National Police Conference called by Commissioner Enright would be followed eventually by a world police conference. In time, he said, the countries of the world would co-operate to pursue criminals and stamp out crime. He predicted that an international police clearing house for fingerprints, criminal identification and international detective work would be established.

It was also reported during the course of the conference that Llewellyn’s view on illegal drugs was “the supplier of the drug be heavily punished rather than the wretched user and that if it is the intention to start an International bureau that this question of preventing the distribution of the narcotic supply be made a branch of it.”

Though it did not come about as a result of Llewellyn Atcherley’s suggestion nor with his involvement, it is interesting to note that the International Criminal Police Commission, which later adopted the name Interpol, was established in 1923, the year following that in which Llewellyn made his prediction of an international police clearing house.

Llewellyn, with Commissioner Staneland of Victoria, B.C. and Commissioner McKay of New York, examines “captured ‘jimmies’, burglars kits which had been used on safe-cracking expeditions.”

Picture credits. Extract from London Gazette, issue 31136, 21 Jan 1919, page 1072 used under the Open Government Licence v2.0. Sir Leonard Dunning, 1st Bt.: Picture by Bassano Ltd, © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG x120233) and used under a Creative Commons licence. Llewellyn William Atcherley at the Waldorf Astoria: Picture by Central News Photo Service, US photo from before 1923 and therefore in the public domain. Llewellyn William Atcherley, Commissioner Staneland and Commissioner McKay at the Waldorf Astoria: Picture by Central News Photo Service, US photo from before 1923 and therefore in the public domain.


[1] The London Gazette, issue 31136, 21 Jan 1919, page 1072.
[2] Hull Daily Mail, 22 Jul 1918, page 4.
[3] Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 5 Sep 1918, page 4. Middlesbrough Police Force.
[4] Churchill College Cambridge, Archives Centre item CHAR 2/56/81 shows: Letter from Reginald McKenna (Home Office) to [Winston Spencer Churchill], dated 1 May 1912.
[5] The Times, 31 Jan 1919, page 5. Constabulary Inspectors.
[6] British police strikes in 1918 and 1919. At Wikipedia (website, accessed 22 Sep 2014).
[7] Fight the Power? At Police (website of Police magazine , accessed 22 Sep 2014).
[8] Richard Cowley, Peter Todd, Louise Ledger (2006), The history of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. The first 150 years. (PDF)
[9] Howard Taylor (1997), The Politics of Crime in Interwar England and Wales. (PDF)
[10] Lancashire Evening Post, 1 Jul 1919, page 3. Blackpool Police.
[11] Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 4 Sep 1919, page 8. Police Inspection.
[12] Cambridge Independent Press, 5 Dec 1919, page 11. Inspection of Police.
[13] Hull Daily Mail, 3 Mar 1920, page 3. Hull Police Inspection.
[14] Nottingham Evening Post, 16 Mar 1920, page 5. A Smart Force.
[15] Lancashire Evening Post, 14 May 1920, page 6. Preston Police Inspection.
[16] Morpeth Herald, 25 Jun 1920, page 12. Blyth Police Inspection.
[17] Tamworth Herald, 18 Sep 1920, page 5. Borough of Tamworth.
[18] Hartlepool Mail, 8 Apr 1921, page 6. Police Inspections.
[19] Grantham Journal, 7 May 1921, page 8. Grantham.
[20] Derby Daily Telegraph, 11 Jul 1921, page 3. Derby’s Police Force.
[21] Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 6 Aug 1921, page 10.
[22] Lancashire Evening Post, 6 Oct 1921, page 3. Police inspection at Blackburn.
[23] Tamworth Herald, 15 Jul 1922, page 5. Borough of Tamworth.
[24] The Police Journal, Volume X, September 1922, number 3.
[25] New York Times, 22 Aug 1922, page 11. European Police Officials Coming.
[26] New York Times, 12 Sep 1922.
[27] New York Times, 14 Sep 1922.
[28] Interpol. At Wikipedia (website, accessed 21 Sep 2014).

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An Atcherley and an almshouse

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As I tracked my great grandfather Samuel Atcherley back through time via the England and Wales census records, I began to find out more about the family he had come from. Not just his parents – agricultural labourer Henry and his wife Mary – but also his many siblings. I soon found myself delving into the lives of those brothers and sisters, one of whom was named Fanny Atcherley. The 1871 census was the only one which enumerated Fanny (then aged 2) with her family, in one of the cottages at Sidney in the parish of Kinnersley (now Kynnersley). I found her on the following census living in the adjacent parish of Preston on the Weald Moors, but when I looked at the schedule to learn more I was, to say the least, intrigued. Why was Fanny, along with 23 other girls, living at a place known as Preston Hospital – and recorded as a scholar?

The head of Preston Hospital in 1881 was a 38-year-old Scot named Annie McLeen, whose occupation was described as “Matron of Institution”. Her sister Jane, aged 48, was Assistant Matron. Both were spinsters. Listed after them was Jane Clayton, a domestic servant, and she was followed by the aforementioned two dozen scholars, all girls aged from 9 to 15 (though the ages given may not have been entirely reliable – Fanny Atcherley was said to be 11 when she was in fact 12). Sixteen of the girls were from Shropshire, but others had been born in Staffordshire or even further afield.

Next on the schedule were the hospital’s ‘inmates’, each described as a “Pensioner of the Hospital”. The ladies were aged from 65 to 91 and, as with the girl scholars, the majority were born in Shropshire. There were 24 of them, with the names of two more crossed out and noted “absent for a few days on leave”. Finally, there was another domestic servant, and five visitors of varying ages and occupations.

“Preston Hospital, near Wellington”. Picture © Rob McCrorie.

Clearly, the institution at Preston was not a hospital in the modern sense. It was in fact an almshouse, the origins and operations of which were neatly summed up in an article published in Salopian Shreds and Patches in 1881:

Preston Hospital, as it is called, was founded by Catherine Lady Herbert, widow of Henry Lord Herbert of Cherbury, and daughter of Francis Newport Earl of Bradford, who by her will dated April, 1716, left the sum of £6000 to be laid out in the purchase of lands in the county of Salop, and building an almshouse thereon for twelve poor women and twelve poor girls; and further directed that the Earl and Countess of Bradford should appoint the recipients of the said charity. Her brother and executor Thomas Newport, Lord Torrington, by his will, dated January, 1718, gave his real estate at Preston on the Wild moors to be applied to the same use as the £6000 left by his sister, Lady Herbert, and a further sum of £1000, to be laid out in the building of a hall in the middle of the Almshouse.

The Almshouse thus endowed was built about the year 1727, and twenty women and twenty girls were at first appointed as recipients of the charity, preference being given, in the case of the women, to those who had once moved in a higher position. The charity was augmented in 1802, by a bequest of £4000 from Charles Henry, last Earl of Mountrath, and in 1827 new buildings were added as wings to each end of the Hospital, and the number of women increased from twenty to twenty-seven. The candidates are nominated by the Earl and Countess of Bradford for the time being. They must be members of the Church of England, and not less than sixty years of age at the time of their nomination.

Each of the twenty-six recipients receive £18 a year, and twenty of these a further sum of £8 a year from the bequest of the Earl of Mountrath. For funeral expenses £5 is allowed. Two tons of coal are also supplied to each, as well as separate apartments and a small garden. Upon admission to the Hospital, each pensioner has to deposit £10 in the Savings Bank, for the purpose of providing herself with such medical assistance as she may require.

The girls are also nominated by the Earl and Countess of Bradford. They are admitted at the age of ten, and are boarded, clothed and educated free of expense to their parents, till they are sixteen years of age, and on their leaving the Hospital a sum of £5 1s given them to supply them with clothing.

The hospital building itself has been described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “a most spectacular example of Georgian almshouse architecture”, “both grand and sober, inspired perhaps by the Chelsea Hospital”. It was originally built so as to form three sides of a square, with a large hall in the centre which was used as both a chapel and a school. The almswomen or pensioners occupied apartments in the west wing of the building while the girls lodged in dormitories in the east wing.

“Preston Hall” (the former hall of Preston Hospital). The building now belongs to Preston Trust Homes, the proceeds of the sale funding new almshouses in nearby Newport.

Schooling was the responsibility of the Matron. The expectation was that on leaving, the girls would go into service, so their education was doubtless slanted towards practical skills such as needlework. The older girls were also taught dairying. With only two domestic servants employed in an institution housing two dozen or so elderly women, it is clear that the girls would also have provided domestic services to the almswomen.

Popular Victorian author Eliza Meteyard stayed as a guest at Preston Hospital from the Autumn of 1853 until the following Spring, and wrote an article about her experiences which was published, anonymously, in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature later in 1854. (She later wrote a three-volume story based on observations of almshouse life, entitled Lady Herbert’s Gentlewomen.) She was visiting an old acquaintance who was then a pensioner of the hospital, and though her article concentrated on the lives of herself and the almswomen, she also made several references to the hospital’s girls.

Eliza described for example how “one of the incipient little school-maids, in cap, bib and apron” lit her a brilliant fire at half past eight in the morning. Given that “primitively early hours” were “the fashion” at the hospital, the little school-maid had probably already attended to one or more of the old ladies beforehand. “The children are well fed, and kindly treated, and behave with great respect to the old ladies,” Eliza wrote. They also carried some very hard work.

Christmas brought the systematic cleaning of the great building from end to end; and after this came the school holidays. Such rubbing and scrubbing as there was, few can conceive. The tessellated marble floor of the hall underwent entire purgation; its quaint stools and forms were piled together in a huge heap on the lawn; the agent’s rooms, the matron’s rooms, the dormitories, the fine old kitchen, with its service of pewter-plates and dishes, the galleries, the cloisters, were all besieged by some six or seven little housemaids, in mobcaps and checked bedgowns, such as our great-grandmothers wore.

Although Eliza Meteyard was a guest at Preston Hospital more than twenty years before Fanny Atcherley became a pupil there, it seems unlikely to me that life in the almshouse changed a great deal in the intervening years. Fanny was probably a resident of the institution from 1879 to 1885 or thereabouts, walking the two and a half miles home to her family at Sidney every school holiday. By 1891 however, she was much further away from home and living the life her years at Preston had prepared her for: that of a general domestic servant.

Finding Fanny on the 1891 census was not straightforward. From being shown as a year younger than she really was ten years previously, she was now recorded with an age that was two years out in the other direction – and her surname was written not as Atcherley but as Athelly! I can only guess that the household schedule had been completed by the head of that household in the near-illegible handwriting for which the members of his profession are still known today. Doctor Ross Steele, surgeon and registered medical practitioner, with his wife Annie and 10-month-old son Ross junior, were – along with Fanny Atcherley – living in a street named The Brook in the Staffordshire village of Gnosall, not far from the Shropshire border.

Fanny must have been a good servant to the Steele family, for ten years later she was still with them, at a house named The Brook in Gnosall’s High Street. However, sometime between 1901 and 1910 Fanny and the Steele family parted company. On 12 March in the latter year, Fanny was living at Flashbrook, in the Staffordshire parish of Adbaston, as was the man she married at St Michael’s church that Saturday: Albert Edward Chalenor (or Challenor), a widowed farm labourer who was ten years her junior.

Fanny and Albert Challenor were still at Flashbrook in 1911, along with their first child, Joseph, and a daughter from Albert’s first marriage, Evelyn, aged 7. Albert, a native of Compton in the Staffordshire parish of Tettenhall (even then effectively a part of Wolverhampton), was working as a shepherd. Also at Flashbrook was Fanny’s brother, my great grandfather Samuel Atcherley, who was employed as a cowman. Like Albert, Samuel had been widowed, remarried, and was living with his second wife (Jessie), a child borne by his first wife (John, aged 14) and a child from his second marriage (Fred – my grandfather). Not far away at Batchacre Gate in the parish High Offley was Henry Atcherley, a brother of Fanny and Samuel, with his family.

By 1918 Albert and Fanny Challenor were living at Rugeley Road in Chase Terrace, Burntwood, where they remained until at least 1930. They were probably drawn there by the local coal mine, which provided work for labourers like Albert – and for several of his wife’s close relatives. One of those relatives was Fanny’s nephew Herbert Russell Atcherley (youngest son of her brother Henry). Herbert was married at Chasetown St Anne in Burntwood in 1928, to a bride with a familiar surname: Beatrice Alice Challenor. The couple’s entry in St Anne’s marriage register proved what I suspected: Beatrice’s father was Albert Edward Challenor. I had been unable to make this link before, as Beatrice was not with her family at Flashbrook when the 1911 census was taken. She was instead a pupil at an institution which must have been recommended to her by her stepmother: the Shropshire almshouse known as Preston Hospital.

Picture credits. Preston Hospital, near Wellington: © Rob McCrorie and used with his kind permission (view original image at Flickr). The Hall, Preston Trust Homes: © Humphrey Bolton; taken from Geograph, modified, used, and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence. Extract from GRO marriage certificate for Albert Edward Chalenor and Fanny Atcherley: Image posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.


[1] 1871 census of England and Wales. Piece 2805, folio 24, page 4.
[2] Birth of Fanny Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, December quarter 1868; volume 6a, page 763.
[3] Kinnersley (Kynnersley), Shropshire, baptism register covering 1869. Entry dated 24 Jan for Fanny Atcherley.
[4] 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 2682, folio 93, page 7.
[5] “Sumleilug” (1881), Hospitals of Shropshire. In: Salopian Shreds and Patches, 7 Sep 1881, page 225. Snippets viewed at Google Books (UK), full copy viewed at Google Books (USA) via proxy server.
[6] Nikolaus Pevsner (1958), Shropshire. Pages 232-3.
[7] HMSO (1831), Reports from Commissioners: 1831. Volume 3. Charities. Page 360 et seq. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[7] G C Baugh, C R Elrington (eds.) (1985), A History of the County of Shropshire. Volume 11. Page 183. Electronic copy viewed at British History Online (website, accessed 9 Sep 2014).
[8] Sylvia Watts (2010), Shropshire Almshouses. Pages 90-95.
Eliza Meteyard (1854), An Alms-House in Shropshire. In: Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, No. 38, 23 Sep 1854, pages 193-197. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[10] Bye-gones, Relating to Wales and the Border Counties. 1899. Page 373. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[11] Eliza Meteyard (1862), Lady Herbert’s Gentlewomen. Volume 3. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[12] 1891 census of England and Wales. Piece 2136, folio 12, page 18.
[13] 1901 census of England and Wales. Piece 2568, folio 14, page 20.
[14] Adbaston, Staffordshire, marriage register covering 1910. Entry for Albert Edward Chalenor and Fanny Atcherley. GRO copy held.
[15] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 16333, schedule 106. Flashbrook, Adbaston, Staffordshire. Head: Albert Chalenor, 32, married, shepherd on farm, born Compton. Wife: Fannie Chalenor, 41, married (1 year, 1 child – living), born Kinnersley, Shropshire. Dau: Evelyn Chalenor, 7, born Wolverhampton. Son: Joseph Chalenor, 8 months, born High Offley.
[16] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 16333, Schedule 112.
[17] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 16332, Schedule 3.
[18] Spring 1919 Lichfield Division Register of Electors. Chase Terrace Polling District. Copy viewed at Staffordshire Records Office.
[19] Staffordshire Register of Electors, Lichfield Division, 1930. Chase Terrace Polling District. Copy viewed at Staffordshire Records Office.
[20] Marriage register of Chasetown St Anne, Staffordshire, covering 1928. Entry for Herbert Russel Atcherley (middle name as written by Herbert and by the clerk) and Beatrice Alice Challenor. Copy viewed at Staffordshire Records Office.
[21] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 16302, schedule 156, page 2. Preston Hospital, Preston upon the Weald Moors, Shropshire. Scholar: Beatrice Chaloner, 9, school, born Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. Plus other scholars, pensioners (women in their 60s, 70s and 80s), visitors, servants etc.

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