Former police station, Neath
This building, now a JD Wetherspoon pub, was formerly Neath’s police station. It closed in 1996, a year after the South Wales Constabulary became South Wales Police.
The pub is named The David Protheroe after the town’s first policeman. He was Neath’s sole police officer from February 1836 to December 1837, when he resigned and was replaced by three officers. He took up the job aged 55, and someone who knew him recalled later that whenever he left the town he left his wife in charge – and she was a better police officer!
He was appointed by the Watch Committee on an annual salary of £52. The borough council was appalled at such a high salary, which could have paid for three policemen. Mr Protheroe refused to renegotiate and the council found the money to pay for him through public subscription and by raiding the new Gas Lighting Fund. The reason for his hasty departure is unknown, but it was said that townspeople angered by his actions had held him over the parapet of a river bridge until he promised to leave them alone!
He had probably worked from home, as Neath’s first police station, in James Street, wasn’t built until 1844. The building included a jail, where cholera and other diseases were rife. The Chief Constable of Glamorgan highlighted the conditions as early as 1849. The new station opened in 1862 on this site, opposite the rail station. Magistrates complained that they couldn’t hear evidence properly because of the noisy steam trains outside.
The police station was rebuilt in 1937, with a police court above. A second court was added later, above a garage at the rear. From 1962 the entire building was used for police operations.
With thanks to Martyn Griffiths, of Neath Antiquarian Society, and to Clive John for the 1996 photo of the station
Postcode: SA11 1LS View Location Map
FOOTNOTES: Recollections of Neath police station
Martyn Griffiths, who retired as a police officer in 1992, recalls:
“In the 1970s it was general practice for an officer working in Glynneath to travel down to Neath in the middle of the night shift to exchange correspondence. On one occasion the Glynneath men bumped into Max Boyce returning home from a concert, complete with scarf and leek. As a joke, Max was willing to go along with being ‘arrested’ and taken to the chargeroom at Neath, where the Sergeant’s eyes nearly popped out when the door burst open and there was Max shouting ‘Uggy, uggy, uggy!’
“Up until amalgamation of the Glamorgan forces in 1969, men at Neath police station would parade for duty. The Sergeant would inspect their pocket books and check that their appearance was in order – hair cut short, trousers pressed, boots bulled etc. One shift, the Inspector turned up for the parade. Inspectors usually left this job to the Sergeant. He tore a strip off the men for the state of their uniform and especially off some who wore coloured socks. Only black or navy were approved. The Inspector then pointed to the Sergeant as a model example and said: ‘Show them your socks, Sergeant.’ The Sergeant raised his trousers to display white socks!”