The First Fifty Years of Police Presence in
1795: John Russell, the
joiner, built a single storey building, which eventually became the
first police station. (It had two rooms, one for
the policeman, his wife and children and the other was divided to
provide an office as well as two prisoner cells.)
Pre-1857: The baton-man was responsible
for bringing law-breakers to justice. His baton was decorated
with the initials 'V.R.' and a crown as well as "Linlithgow County".
Before the coming of the first "Bobby", the baton-man
was the local blacksmith, Thomas Forsyth.
1857: The first PC was Thomas
Wood, swiftly followed by PC William Robertson from Bathgate. When PC Robertson transferred to
Blackburn, he was replaced by two men, PCs Douglas and Gordon, who
were kept busy keeping order in a rapidly growing town of young men
who were drawn by the availability of work and high wages. Later, PC Douglas was transferred to Blackburn.
Robertson returned to Armadale. The police
station was enlarged by adding a second storey where PC Robertson
lived while PC Calton lived downstairs.
1875: PC Robertson retired on half-pay and he was
replaced by PC Robert Chalmers from Crofthead who remained in Armadale
until his promotion to Sergeant (later rising to Inspector) and his
transfer to Bo'ness.
1885: The police station had be remodelled to provide larger accommodation
for PC Alex Neil and his junior PC Robert Brown.
1888: The latter was
replaced by PC James Simpson, shortly afterwards joined
by PC John Thom whose time in the town was cut short as a result of
his death following an operation.
1892: PC Simpson was promoted
to the rank of Sergeant (later rising to Inspector) and transferred to Uphall. from where PC Malcolm Corsie came to replace him in Armadale.
1900: PC Corsie was promoted
to Sergeant and transferred to Linlithgow; replaced by PC Charles Watt
who rose to Sergeant and moved to Whitburn; replaced by his junior, PC
Robert Duthie, with PC John Moir as junior.
1904: PC Duthie followed the
sergeant pattern, moving to Bo'ness while PC Moir replaced him,
assisted by PC David Anderson.
1900: PC Thomas Stenhouse was the first policeman to be
stationed at Bathville (whose recent growth had encouraged James Wood
to canvas for its own police presence). Two years later he moved
to the management of the newly opened Model Lodging House and was
succeeded by PC John Lees who remained in charge for three years until
his removal to Stoneyburn.
1905: PC Robert Swan came
from East Lothian to take charge.
For a West Lothian historical overview
see: Jails, Clinks and lock-ups: Crime and punishment in West
Lothian, Text of the Bennie Museum Spring Lecture, May 1998
Here is an indication of its coverage:
List of types of crime:
Crimes against God: blasphemy, profanity, witchcraft
(persecution of witches 1563 - 1736: over 1,000 witches executed in
Scotland). Last public execution in West Lothian was in
Linlithgow in 1857 - a rare event as the previous scaffold had been
sold to a baker for firewood and the scaffold had to be borrowed
Crimes against our fellow men: i.e. violence, e.g
1570 first political assassination by firearm in Linlithgow High
Street when Regent Moray (half brother of Mary Queen of Scots) was
shot by Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh. Assault (by 1700s mainly lower
classes as upper classes resorted to court cases to settle
disputes), hamesucken (assault in someone's home), riots, etc.
Crimes against property: theft, burglary, fraud etc,
eg 1787 robbery 4 miles east of Linlithgow of the post boy carrying
mail from Edinburgh. Debtors were confined in prison for a
month (creditors paying for their keep if necessary) before being
freed if they allowed their goods to go to creditors. (A relatively
humane system compared to the English system where no one had to pay
for the debtors' needs and debtors were confined until the debt was
paid. Without any means of outside support hundreds died in
prison.) Theft was not a capital offence, unless the accused
was an habitual offender, and penalties were not fixed, thereby
allowing leniency where appropriate.
List of types of punishment:
Medieval and some up to 1800: thumbscrew, boot,
rack, fines dismemberment.
Transportation, commonly used for Covenanters, where
the individual was sent to the West Indies as a bond-servant on a
plantation. Others to America up to 1783 and then to
Execution by hanging or beheading or maiden
(guillotine) first used in 1500s, rarely used especially when
compared to English practice, but as punishment for murder, treason,
Lesser punishments: a day in the jougs (iron
rings round neck attached to building eg Strathbrock church, Uphall)
or stocks; banishment; scourging/whipping; horrible physical
punishments, mostly gone by 1700.
Prison - up to 1800 generally only for short
confinement until trial.
From medieval times to 1747, the owner of an estate,
large or small, often the baron (later laird) applied the law and
administered justice. After 1747, only minor crimes and disputes
could be overseen by the laird, via an official called a Baron
Baillie. Lter Burgh and Sheriff Courts took over for lesser
crimes and the high Court for major crimes.
Linlithgow had a jail from the 1600s and Bathgate from
about 1760. The latter was replaced in 1828 (demolished 1923).
Debtors' accommodation was in a separate part with better facilities
but high security as the jailer and sentencing magistrate were
responsible for the debts of any debtor escapee.
1839 Prisons (Scotland) Act: the burghs'
responsibility for prisons transferred to County Prison Boards, which
ran one main prison per county. Thus Armadale and Bathgate had
burgh lock-ups for temporary confinement. If further action was
necessary, prisoners were taken to the county jail in Linlithgow.
1840 - 1859:The first high security prison was built
in Perth with 680 cells, 100 of them for women, as well as a lunatic
department. Until 1898, prisoners' work in the new prison was often
repetitive and unpleasant, eg the treadmill in Linlithgow prison.
1877: Prison (Scotland) Act: County Prison
Boards were abolished and central government took overall control.
The numbers of small jails were being closed around this time.
1886: Linlithgow Jail was closed.
1880s: Barlinnie and Peterhead Prisons were built.
1900s: Saughton Prison replaced Edinburgh's Calton Jail; Shotts and Cornton
Vale were also among the new prisons built
during the 20th century.