William Carr of Ditchingham Hall was a Magistrate of many years standing, for Norfolk, Suffolk, and the West Riding. He was chairman of the Norfolk Quarter Sessions, vice-chairman of Norfolk County Council and a Deputy Lieutenant for Norfolk. Hidden among his correspondence for the period 1912- 18, amid election and military matters, is a very odd letter with the postmark October 29th 1917 from a disgruntled resident of Ditchingham (MC 166/37).
I have attempted to retain some of the errors to capture the flavour of the letter itself. It begins simply enough, with the author saying “thought I would just drop you a line as (you are) chairman of the bench at Loddon. I think the lights in the parish ought to be seen into more by the policeman in Ditchingham as you cannot tell when the raiders are over, my house is in danger and so are your housings in danger too.” However, as the writer gradually gets into his stride, his spelling and punctuation becomes increasingly erratic. His next complaint is about “bicycles having no rear lights, and no lights at all, I have seen it several times now along the Broome Road, where is acting sergeant Howlett not looking into things as he ought to do”
At this stage it becomes clear that the real grievance of the anonymous complainant is linked to the promotion of the village policeman Howlett from police constable to acting sergeant. The letter continues “I suppose you are paying P.C. Howlett to go feretting and shooting rabbits and poaching the day times.” It appears the writer was a witness to such crimes as he says: “I saw them come from Mr Watton’s of Broome and P.C. Howlett and Mr Alexander Porter with rabbits and ferrets and Howlett had bags, I should like to know what was in those bags. It looks very nice for a policeman to carry bags and a gun about, so I can quite understand he cannot see after lights in the night time because he must be sleeping at night after poaching all day.”
It seems rather odd perhaps to be a daytime poacher? However the real grievance emerges when the writer states “well, I was with the special constable and he told me he could have several cases if I was the policeman.”
He adds of Howlett, with his grammar and spelling even shakier “If he can shot rabbits let him go and shot Germans” [sic]. He concludes “It is time to have a sharper Policeman.”
It seems likely the correspondent has himself in mind as a possible replacement. The letter is signed “The parish of Ditchingham” suggesting the writer hopes to convince William Carr that he has the support of the entire village in his request. How Carr himself reacted to this letter we do not know.
Compiled by a NRO Research Blogger