St. Mary’s Parish Police [1835-1861]
In 1835 a Magistrates Court was erected on St. Mary’s to help curb the excesses of drinking and gambling on the isles.
No formal mechanism for policing has existed on the island of Lundy since its one-time owner the Reverend William Hudson Heaven declared it a ‘free island’ in the 19th century. Not a single police constable set foot upon Lundy until 15th December 1871, when Constable Dunsford of the Devon Constabulary arrived by rowing boat to arrest William Heaven for the manslaughter of George Tippett. The next incident of note to occur on the island did not happen until 1996, when the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary helicopter landed and deployed an officer to arrest a man for causing criminal damage
Isles of Scilly after 1947
Until 1947, the island authorities appointed their own uniformed officer to police the furthest part of the south western peninsula in much the same way as the old parish constables. Two officers from the Cornwall Constabulary were sent to the Isles of Scilly in 1942 to reinforce the local St Mary's parish police officer during the war years but it wasn't until 1947 that the responsibility for policing the islands fell to the Cornwall Constabulary. Following the 1947 amalgamation the formal name of the new force was Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Constabulary, although this title was rarely used. From that time the old parish constable system used on the islands ceased and only Cornwall Constabulary men served there, usually for periods of two years at a time.
The second paid officer for the parish of St. Mary's, covering all the various islands, was Constable Horatio Nelson (image © Isles of Scilly Museum). He was appointed in 1865 but finally dismissed in 1875 following numerous complaints made about him. It was decided by the island authorities to replace him with another officer...
"...with less profane and intemperate language and better moral conduct".
His tombstone can be found in the Old Town Churchyard, a few yards to the south-east of the church.
The Isles of Scilly, Cornwall Constabulary officers photographed in February 1959 at the rear of the old police station on St. Mary's (image © Mrs B. James). Standing, left to right: Constable Ernie Reynolds, Special Constable N. J. (Johnny) James and Constable Peter Ward. Seated: Special Constables George Nicholls and Jack Williams.