PC Powell

I wrote on LaF about a slight accident, the report of which prompted a reader of the Scarborough Mercury to write an acerbic letter to the Editor.  Here it is (again) in full:-



SIR.-The accident at Filey on Sunday [23 July 1882] is another of the exploits of the “bona-fide traveler.” It is to be hoped that our P. C’s will look after them, as the bona-fide traveler is an insufferable nuisance to all peaceable people who live at Filey. It is very seldom that we have a Sunday at Filey, but we have to witness several parties driving about the place in anything but a respectable manner, and often in such a state as to be a danger to anyone who may be out on a walk. It is high time that Parliamentary attention was turned to Sunday closing of public houses instead of wasting their time and the country’s money over Egypt.-

Yours etc.,


Enter PC Powell… I don’t know if he was on duty in and around Filey in 1882 but a studio portrait has been passed to me by Kath Wilkie and I consider him a suspect! Lower ranks of the force don’t seem to have stayed long in the town and many evaded the local Census net. A search for “Police” in Yorkshire in 1881 yields 3134 hits – and one of them is John J. POWELL, age 31, living in Albion Street, Wakefield (PRO ref RG114576 f16). He was born in Scotland, as were his wife and apparent firstborn Ada. Jack arrived next in Halifax and then Elizabeth in Wakefield four years later. A simple search of the GRO births determines the births were in the December Quarter 1874 and June Quarter 1878 and the mother’s maiden name was Tait.

I searched for John J and Augusta on FamilySearch.

John didn’t appear on the first page of returns and there were many more pages to scroll through so I looked for his wife. The third Augusta in the list was married to John Powell and they were in the IGI because a son, George William had been born 18 August 1871 in Hawick, Roxburgh.

The fourth hit gave their marriage on 21 June 1869 in Edinburgh.

The fifth offered the birth of George William Stephen Powell, 21 December 1872 in Govan, Lanark. This record gave the parents middle names – James and Anderson.

The sixth record identifies Ada Catherine (9MTH-19C), born 31 May 1870 in Coldingham, Berwick.

Wee George II must have died before the family came south of the border – I couldn’t find a death registration that fitted him in England and Wales. But I reckon FamilySearch has offered enough evidence to prove that this is our man –


Kath could give me no information about the photograph beyond the “PC J Powell” added in a caption to a digital copy of the image. I think there is a good chance that he was posted to Filey for duty between 1881 and 1891 and might well have been one of the PCs about whom “Progress” was waxing sarcastic.

Wondering what became of John and his family I did a little more research.

He was baptised in “Kirkpatrick Juxta” 10 August 1849 and at the 1851 Scottish Census was living with his parents George W and Catherine, older sister Catherine and two older brothers George W and William Stephen. (Poignant, huh?)

At the 1871 Scottish Census John James and Augusta were living at 7 Wellington Street, Wilton, Roxburghshire with new born Ada Catherine. JJ was employed as a Railway Clerk. (His father was a Stationmaster.) Ten years later, as we already know, he was a police constable in Wakefield, Yorkshire. In 1891 the family was back in Scotland at a confusing address in the Find My Past Transcription – “Montague Street, St Cuthbert Edinburgh, Newington, Midlothian” – John working as a Book Keeper, Ada Kate as a Stationer’s Assistant and Jack as a Packer aged 16.

And that is where I’ll leave them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s