Looking round Burrington, one might be forgiven for wondering why such a wide-spread police presence was required in so peaceful a place. A magistrate called Baldwin Fulford has left behind a set of notes on the cases he heard in the area which throw a blinding light on what village life in Devon was like in the 19th century. In case after case, he dealt with poor and hungry people who, in spite of draconian sentences, stole anything and everything from one another - wheat, barley, turnips, cabbages, even animals . His notes record what the witnesses said and the key witness was generally the village policeman. The fate of Samuel Horvid of Sandford, charged with stealing a sheep from Abraham Bere who farmed at North Creedy in the parish of Sandford, was sealed by the local constable whose forensic evidence consisted of the sheep's head which was being cooked for supper when he visited Horvid to talk to him about the accusation. Samuel pleaded hunger but was nonetheless sentenced to 7 years hard labour.
In more modern times, the local police constable played a key part in the control of diseases such as Foot and Mouth. By keeping an ear to the ground, he was able to inform the Authorities quickly when an outbreak began and to make an immediate start to the isolation and disinfectation procedures.
At the time when the photograph above was taken, Burrington's Constable was Walter Saunders. He was a Somerset man, born in Bishop's Lydeard and in 1902, when his name appears in Kelly's Directory for Burrington, he was 28 years old. He came to Burrington directly from London where he had been a Constable in Y Division of the Metropolitan Police but we don't yet know for how long he remained in the village.