Frankly incredible!

Say hello to the Frankish family, an incredible inter-generational family of police officers

Joshua Rest Frankish was working as a street-keeper (an early form of police officer) as early as 1836 in Birmingham – three years before the police force was created. It was referenced in the Birmingham Journal in June 1836 that a Thomas Knott was sentenced to a fine of 20s or one month’s imprisonment as punishment for an assault upon Frankish.

When the Birmingham Borough Police were created, following Chartist riots in the town, many of the original officers were from the Metropolitan Force who had been sworn in as special constables to help quell the disturbances. Very few of the early officers were already working in law and order roles in Birmingham at this time and Joshua was one of them. He joined the force at the end of its first month, on 29 October 1839 and by 1847 was promoted to sub-inspector. Bearing in mind many of Joshua’s original colleagues had by this time resigned, been dismissed or died, he was doing incredibly well to remain in the force, let alone be promoted to a senior position.

Policing back in the 1840s was incredibly hard work, with officers working a seven day week of gruelling shifts, for a meagre pay and having most of their lives controlled by the police force. They were often subjected to abuse and assault from members of the public, and along with a many other members of Victorian society, officers often turned to drink to drown out the struggles of everyday life.

In the 1841 census record, Joshua is living with his family on Steelhouse Lane, 50 years before the Lock-up was built and 80 years before the police station that followed. At this time the Birmingham Workhouse was located down Steelhouse Lane, along with various back to backs, gunsmiths and public houses. In the 1851 and 1861 census records, Joshua declares his occupation as 'police officer' and by 1871 he is shown as retired, eventually dying in 1880 at the grand old age of 86! A publication released in 1939 to mark 100 years of the Birmingham City Police stated that he had retired in 1865. This makes him one of the longest serving officers of the original borough police force, one of only a few to achieve over 25 years’ service.

Policing was a tradition that was to run for generations in the Frankish family – Joshua’s son William Berry Frankish served briefly as a night watchman (another early form of police officer) and William’s son Adolphus had a commendable career with Birmingham City Police – serving from 1886 to 1920, retiring in the rank of inspector. During this time he would have seen immeasurable changes to policing, as the Victorian era disappeared, with significant improvements in pay and working conditions coming in just at the end of his career. Unusually for a service record of this time period, there are no misconduct entries for drinking on duty or being absent from his beat. There is one minor blip on his otherwise exemplary record, whereby an allegation was made of improper conduct at a disturbance at a restaurant. Whilst the Watch Committee expressed their disapproval of the conduct of the officers involved, they chose not to inflict a punishment so cannot have taken the matter too seriously.

Two of Adolphus’s sons joined the Birmingham City Police – with Howard joining in 1914 (whilst his father was still working as an inspector) and Sidney joining in 1925, serving 40 and 25 years respectively. Howard briefly left policing to serve with HM Forces from 1917 to 1919, was complimented on three occasions and awarded a guinea twice for rendering effective first aid. In 1928 following a daring rescue whereby Howard saved a family from a house that had collapsed during a fierce gale, he was awarded the prestigious 1st stripe of merit. In 1942 he was promoted to superintendent and in 1950 was awarded the King’s Police and Fire Service Medal. Sidney was commended five times during his career, highly commended on another occasion and awarded a guinea for effectively rendering first aid, eventually retiring on a medical pension. Sidney’s son Richard, whilst he did not follow the family profession, did retain ties to the legal system – serving as a magistrate in Birmingham.

Adolphus’s other son, also called William Berry, was not in the police however his son – Dennis John Frankish served with Birmingham City Police from 1952 to 1957, before resigning at his own request.

The end of Dennis’s police career and his subsequent relocation to Australia in June 1957 was the start of a policing journey for his son Jeff. He joined the South Australia Police in 1974 and spent four years in a city policing role before spending two years as a recruiting officer. After a stint at the Accident Investigation and Prevention Section (fatal vehicle collision investigation and accident rescue) he went to the country for some 16 years. Jeff spent nine years on the West Coast of South Australia some 700+km from Adelaide in small rural towns with Aboriginal communities. He also spent time in a single person police station at Booleroo Centre and some time in a rural town on the river Murray at Waikerie – one can only wonder what his Birmingham Police ancestors would have made of this experience! Jeff’s final postings were at Adelaide City.

The pictures below show Jeff on his graduation, mid-career (demonstrating the country (outback) uniform which was a khaki colour with a cowboy type hat) & receiving a medal from the Assistant Commissioner in his final year of policing:

Jeff Frankish served with the South Australian Police for 42 years, retiring in 2016 – ending a policing legacy spanning almost 180 years and six generations of the Frankish family, with an astounding 171 years’ service between them.