A Policeman's Lot

One spring day in 1976 my parents took me to the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned in Main Street, Gibraltar.  There we were ushered into the vestry where a large old book lay open.  On its pages we read of the baptism of Jorge Weir, son of Juan Weir and his wife Rosa Smith in 1841.  This was the baptism of my great grandfather George Ware, the son of an army corporal, whose Irish wife insisted that their son was baptised in a Catholic church rather than by the Anglican chaplain in the garrison.  George already had an older sister and two years later another sister was baptised at the Cathedral.  Perhaps because of the crowded conditions in which army families lived in Gibraltar, this little girl did not live long. 

 In 1844 the 7th Royal Fusiliers, with whom John Ware was serving, embarked for Barbados.  There, Rose Ware gave birth to another daughter, Margaret and both she and George thrived in the warm climate.  Their mother, however, was seriously ill with Scarlet Fever during the voyage home, but thankfully she recovered and in 1848 the family set sail for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where a year later James Ware was born.  After just over two years the Wares returned to England, first to Winchester where another son, William, was born in 1850 and after a short time in Portsmouth to Devonport where the last sibling Louisa appeared in 1853.

John Ware had been born in York but on his discharge in 1854 he chose to live in Hull where he had found employment with the Coastguard.  Sadly Rose died within a year and 14 year old George found himself work on a whaling ship.  At the age of 16, George married 17 year old Elizabeth and they had a young son John George.  Seeking a better life for his family George set out for London to join the Metropolitan Police force.  Working in Limehouse, he was known for his toughness.

 George only stayed in London for 2 years but this valuable experience was put to good use when he moved to the police force in Leeds.  There, according to the writer of his obituary, “His intelligence and smartness were quickly recognised, and he was entrusted with much detective work, in which he particularly distinguished himself.”  He quickly gained his sergeant’s stripes, and it was not long before he was promoted to be an inspector, and further to be Deputy Chief Constable- and all this within the space of 5 years.

At this point George Ware heard of an opening in Kings Lynn, Norfolk.  Lieut. Cornelius Reeve was retiring as Superintendent of Police.  George applied for the position and despite being only 25 he was selected from a large number of candidates.  As a young man of the lower classes and an experienced policeman he was an unusual choice.  It was normal to choose a retired army officer of greater age, but the Lynn Watch committee had asked Lieut. Reeves to resign for being drunk on duty and they were impressed with George Ware’s record in Leeds.  His family was given rent free accommodation adjoining the Guildhall, next door to the Police Station in the Saturday Market and Mrs Ware was appointed Hall Keeper at £15 per year.

But all was not plain sailing for Superintendent Ware.  Six months after taking command George prepared his men for an inspection by Major-General Cartwright.  On 24th June 1867 the Watch Committee looked on proudly as Supt. Ware drilled his men.  The Major-General congratulated him on the efficiency of the establishment and was impressed by the arrangements for interim custody of prisoners.  He was, however, less satisfied with their relief to vagrants and directed that, “strict attention should be given to the searching of all suspected applicants, so as to distinguish as far as practicable the destitute wayfarer from the professional beggar and vagabond.”  Supt. Ware was personal charged with relief of casual paupers which he found most distasteful.

Two weeks later, the Mayor of Kings Lynn instructed Supt. Ware that his men should use every means at their disposal to prevent public begging in the streets.  But George resisted; he knew the hardships which people would suffer to keep their families out of the Workhouse and he feared the bad reputation his officers would receive if they constantly chased ragged urchins around the streets.  An angry interchange, between the brash young police Superintendent and the middle aged solicitor who was Mayor, meant that the Watch Committee had to deal with the fall out.  At a meeting of the committee next day the Mayor complained about Supt. Ware’s improper and insulting behaviour and George was told to move out with his family by Michaelmas.  Thankfully at the Town Council meeting 5 days later, the call for George’s resignation was considered to be out of all proportion to the offence.  The Mayor agreed to ask the Watch Committee to rescind their decision since Supt Ware had offered him a full and satisfactory apology.

On the personal front, George also suffered during his early years in Kings Lynn.  Within a month of their arrival, his daughter Elizabeth died and daughter Lillie born the following year died at 12 months.  Soon his wife, Elizabeth was also dead, leaving him to bring up his two sons John and Leon.  Things improved when he met and married Rebecca Linferd in 1870.  She was a farmer’s daughter from the nearby village of Walpole St Peter and as the years went by, she and George had six children.

Although George’s job was unchanged, the Watch Committee thought it appropriate to change his job title in 1889 when he became Chief Constable of the Borough Force.  Throughout his tenure George Ware was a, “hands on,” policeman who solved many crimes of national proportions.  Living close to Sandringham, he frequently had to arrange Royal protection and accompany parades.  Coming from a musical family he had established a police band which became very popular.

In 1898, suffering from chronic gout and attacks of bronchitis George Ware tendered his resignation after 40 years in the police force.  He was presented with a gold watch, a testimonial signed by 142 subscribers and a cheque for £133.  He retired to Bournemouth where he died in 1911 nursed by his third wife, Jane.

"A Movable Rambling Police" An official History of Policing in Norfolk by Brian David Butcher
"Glimpses of Fiddaman's Lynn" by Rosemary & Stan Rodliffe
Lynn Advertiser 28 April 1911

You can read about one of Superintendent Ware's investigations here

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