Lichfield Cathedral 
Close Constable

The watchman of the Close was mentioned in the late 13th century and the janitor in 1321. In the mid 1350s there was a subjanitor paid 4d. a week and a keeper of the west gate. The janitor was also known as the serjeant. (fn. 163) His office had developed into that of verger and constable by the late 17th century. (fn. 164) In 1523 the chapter ordered that the gates of the Close were not to be opened before the seventh hour in the morning except for bringing in ale and other goods, when only one gate to be opened. (fn. 165) In 1715 it ordered the verger to shut the gates at 10 p.m., leaving the wicket at the south gate open until 11 p.m. (fn. 166) In 1664 a watchman was employed in the Close for six weeks during a time of plague, and during the outbreak of 1665 two watchmen guarded the gates for nine weeks. (fn. 167) An instance of sanctuary in the Close, probably the last, occurred in 1532 when a thief took refuge there. (fn. 168) 

In 1825 there was a specially appointed constable besides the usual constable in the Close. (fn. 169) The inhabitants of the Close established a night watch for six months from December 1830 to protect themselves 'against nightly depredations'. Four watchmen were appointed to patrol in pairs from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., each pair working on alternate nights. The dean and chapter paid half the cost from the fabric fund, and the other half was met by a rate on the inhabitants. The watch, evidently reduced to the winter months from 1831, was still maintained in 1839. (fn. 170) From 1876, in reaction to nocturnal thefts in Lichfield and the neighbourhood, the dean and chapter appointed a night watchman for the Close, supported by contributions from the inhabitants. (fn. 171) He had the authority of a constable evidently from 1880. (fn. 172) Albert Haycock, sworn as watchman in 1912, continued to hold the office until his death in 1956, although for some time he had been too ill to carry out his duties. He patrolled the Close from 9.30 p.m. to 4.30 a.m., calling out the time and the state of the weather. He had full powers of arrest and exercised them on occasion, but he never used the handcuffs, whistle, and truncheon provided. (fn. 173) 

From: 'Lichfield: Public services', A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 95-109


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