Pupils from Harewood Primary School joined the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland today (22 October) as they stepped back in time with Preston Park Museum’s resident ‘bobbies’ to celebrate the official opening of the police station on the Victorian Street.
Following a generous donation of objects from Cleveland Police, the museum’s police station has re-opened its doors giving members of the public the opportunity to learn about Stockton’s criminal history. Items range from archive official notices and certificates, to police paraphernalia.
Until recently the police station was behind a barrier of glass which limited the visitor experience – a feature that was part of the original design from the early 1980s.
With the help of staff and volunteers it has now been transformed into an exciting space where costumed interpreters can interact and engage with visitors. There is also an opportunity to handle certain items from the collection including a figure of eight handcuffs, an early knuckle duster and a Metropolitan whistle.
Councillor Norma Wilburn, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure and Culture, said: “The newly refurbished police station is a fantastic addition to the Victorian Street at Preston Park Museum and is already proving to be a firm favourite with the public. Visitors can experience what crime and punishment was like in Victorian times thanks to the museum’s dedicated street interpreters and new interactive space”.
The Mayor of Stockton, Councillor Ian Dalgarno said: “It’s great to see that Preston Park continues to enhance its visitor experience, becoming more accessible and engaging for all the family.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “I’m delighted to be involved in the opening of the police station at Preston Park. It is another asset to an amazing attraction which is very popular within the local community and surrounding area.”
Cleveland Police Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer said: “It is wonderful that people can see the history of British policing on display at Preston Park and I hope that those that visit find it interesting and learn a lot from it.”
The archival and less durable objects have been given a home within the main store at the museum, and these include some fascinating pieces of Teesside’s historical criminal past. Conservation work is underway by Preston Park Museum’s Collection Team on a mug shot book believed to be from the North Riding of Yorkshire that dates back to 1878-1896. The term ‘mug shot’ originated in the early 1840s with the onset of photography and its application became standardised by regional police forces in the 1870s, leaving us with a wealth of documentation. The work, which involves high resolution digitalisation, will mean that the album could be put on display for the general public to see. In addition there are plans to provide regular access to the digital format all year round.
The Cook family from Middlesbrough is pictured in the museum’s mug shot book. Father John William and mother Sarah Ann, along with their sons John William and Frank William Cook (19 and 16 respectively), were arrested and charged with two cases of housebreaking and the subsequent theft of goods. In the first case, goods to the amount of £8 17s 4d had been stolen, including a lady’s gold watch, when John W. Mitchell, an engine driver and occupier of the property, had left the house vacant between 2.30pm and 10.30pm. A Mrs Dilworth of Somerset Street also testified against the Cooks, claiming that her house was ransacked in her absence, with goods to the value of £2 stolen, including a pair of boots.
Preston Park Museum is open all year round, Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-4pm (last admission is 3.30pm).