12th November 1940

Sisson came in to [the Museum to] see the effigies, and said he had seen a few broken windows near the second railway bridge, by Dilbridge Hall. This afternoon I learnt that four or five bombs had fallen alongside the railway, and one in a garden near the railway bridge, but no damage except broken windows. The plane met no opposition at all.

The police have moved into the new Headquarters in Queen Street, thus breaking a continuity of almost a thousand years, as it must be almost that length of time that the seat of the administration of law and order has been located on the Town Hall site. One may assume that the Town Hall destroyed in 1846 was of Norman date, judging from the decorated doorway and window. The cells in this building were retained in the Victorian Town Hall, and no doubt continued in existence until 1898, although I have no definite evidence of this. The Gaoler and the Sergeants-at-Mace always had their headquarters at the Town Hall. I believe Poulter is giving the press a note somewhat on these lines, so as to have some record of the occasion.

The existing cells will remain, and will be used to hold prisoners, prior to their appearance in the Courts above.

[A brief history of Colchester's Town Hall is available here].

Cloudy windy day, but fine this evening. A boy brought a wretched half-starved pony to the stables tonight, and said he found it wandering loose in Morant Road. It is terribly thin, and its coat covered with what seems to be motor oil. I gave it a good soft bed and fed it. From its appearance I thought it must belong to one of the dealers, either Gaskin, Chitty Conyers, Pim Barbour or “Funny” Mason. I called on Gaskin, but he said it was not his, so I went along to Chitty’s place, opposite the Corporation Omnibus Depot. There is an old clothes shop in the front, kept by a gipsy woman. I went in and she appeared from behind a mass of filthy smelling clothes and said “What is it my dear?” I said I wanted to see Chitty. She replied “Just a minute, my dear,” and went along a dark passage to a room behind the shop.

I heard Chitty and she talking in low voices, and then she called “Come along in my dear, here he is”. I went into the room, which was large, and incredibly filthy. There was a huge double bed, several very old armchairs, and a mahogany table. A huge wood fire roared up the chimney, and several strings of washing spanned the room from side to side. Chitty was sitting on one side of the fireplace and a young man on the other, reading an evening paper. Chitty was peeling onions, the aroma of which mingled with the general smell. He greeted me most genially. “Good evening to you, sir! Come right in, sir! What can I do for you?” I told him about the pony, but he assured me he knew nothing of it, as all his horses were stabled “down the yard”. I know that stable, - a filthy airless shed with no door, backing onto St Botolph’s Station.

I was then shown out by the gypsy, beaming with affability, and went up to the Police Station to report the stray. I mentioned Chitty, and the sergeant told me he was out on bail for stealing a set of harness. When I walked in carrying a police helmet, he naturally thought I had called about the case, hence the polite reception. Under normal circumstances I should have been greeted with curses.

This was the first time I have been in the new Police Station. The interior is quite impressive, the central hall being surrounded by doors labelled “Inspector” “Sergeants”, “Detectives” etc. On one side a large hatch opens into the charge-room. All the woodwork is light polished oak, and looks very well, although all police stations are naturally grim and foreboding.

Went to bed early tonight, at 11 o’clock, feeling very tired and worn out.


Barbara Critchley said...

What an extraordinary piece of social history. The description of the old clothes shop and the filthy living space beyond, backing on to the former St Botolph's Station (now Colchester Town), shows a side of life we would never have known about, but for Rudsdale's diary and his interest in horses and horse transport.

Anonymous said...

This shop was probably close to Day,s harness makers, which was located at152-153 Magdalen street, also almost opposite to the bus garage, and was where Rudsdale had called previously for tea and harness. There was also a harness makers, also caleed Day,s in North Station Rd, still operating in the late 1940,s as I remember