A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Sidney Smith of 4 Chequers Cottages, Preston
I remember Sidney and Louisa Smith well. They lived next door to my aunts at Chequers Cottages. I’d return from a long walk along the lanes at Preston to be greeted, as likely as not, by George Jeeves’ beaming face and a smile and wave from the Smiths from behind the shelves of geraniums by their back door. This is the story of Sidney’s career as a police constable and soldier.
The 1911 census provides some basic facts about Sidney’s family. They were then living on the north side of Chequers Lane, Preston in Ippollitts parish and Sidney was a farm labourer, probably at Temple Dinsley:
In 1911, the Smith family had recently moved into cottage numbered 6 above, a brick and tiled home with a kitchen, pantry and two bedrooms. The house was ‘in poor repair’ in 1910. Attached to the cottage were a barn and garden. My grandparents, Alfred and Emily Wray lived next door and although Sidney left Preston, when he retired he moved back to Chequers Lane, albeit on the opposite side and once again had Wrays as immediate neighbours. Jesse (a woodman) was born at Hill End, Preston and married Emma Payne at St Mary’s, Hitchin on 25 October 1890. Their second son, Sidney,was born on 14 September 1892 at Poynders End where the family were still living in 1901. He was admitted to Preston School on 28 June 1897 (the same day as my uncle, Robert Wray) Sidney joined the Hertfordshire County Constabulary in the autumn of 1914 and, after training, was posted to Watford. He resigned from the Constabulary to enlist in the army around a year later and was appointed as a Lance Corporal in the Military Mounted Police on 22 December 1915 (No. P/2900). Then, his height was 5’ 9½“ and he weighed 9 stone 13lbs. Sidney served with the Expeditionary Force in France from 14 April 1916 until 10 November 1917 and then in Italy until 17 April 1919. Sidney was mentioned in dispatches ‘for gallant and distinguished services in the Field’ on 18 January 1919 and demobbed four months later on 18 May 1919. Almost immediately, he rejoined the Constabulary at Watford and was part of the force that quelled the Luton Riot of 19 - 21 July1919. The riot was caused by servicemen who were angry at the lavish spending for London's peace parade, held on the same day, following the end of WW1, protested that the money should be spent on helping soldiers returning from the war.
Sidney in 1919. He had a similar moustache when I saw him and was still a slim figure
Sidney was transferred to Thorley, Herts (a parish to the south of Bishops Stortford) in November 1919. Here he married the widow Louisa Pullen (nee Pulle) on 21 February 1922. The couple lived at Thorley Police Cottage (shown below).
In October 1926, Sidney was involved in the arrest of Richard Salthouse:
Acting on the standing orders of his Inspector, Sidney initially arrested Salthouse at Bishops Stortford railway station, but Salthouse was able to escape from him and was re-arrested. Sidney was transferred to Stevenage, Herts in early 1927 and was living in Police Cottage, New Road. He gave evidence in court concerning several traffic accidents which was reported in local newspapers. He returned to Watford in 1931 and thence to Abbotts Langley, Herts. The 1939 Register shows him at 2 Police Cottages, Abbotts Lanley (below). Sidney retired in 1943.
The first record I have of the couple being in residence at 4 Chequers Cottages, Preston (left, below) is from 1952.
Sidney was buried at St Martin’s, Preston on 22 March 1979. His estate was valued at £23,228.
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