'Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend'

That quote is attributed to ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus. With time being so valuable, perhaps that is why the residents of Monmore Green wanted to recognise their local bobby's promotion to Sergeant with a time piece all the way back in 1885?

Before his death in 2003, Wolverhampton resident Donald Parker gifted a silver watch and chain of historical importance to West Midlands Police Museum. The pocket watch had been presented to Wolverhampton Borough Police Constable Henry Nagington in 1885 by Monmore Green residents on his promotion to Sergeant in appreciation of his service to them and the local community in which Henry also resided. Inside it is inscribed:

‘Presented to Sergeant Naggington by the residents of Monmore Green on his promotion from PC July 24 1885’

Original internal news article from 2003 with the pocketwatch
2003 internal news article with the pocketwatch

The pocket watch had previously belonged to Donald’s wife, Vera (née Nagington), the granddaughter of Henry and was passed down to her along with historical anecdotes. Donald told museum staff how Henry joined the police at a time before officers were issued with whistles and so to call for assistance officers would bang big sticks on the ground, signalling their need of assistance. Donald also recalled how officers lived and worked within their community adding that: ‘Everyone knew their local officer, including the villains’.

Donald told how the watch was originally inherited by Henry’s sons before finally passing to Vera. Donald and Vera didn’t have children and following Vera’s death, Donald decided that West Midlands Police museum would be the best custodian of the watch for future years.

Historical accounts that include Henry Nagington’s regular police work reveal that his job as a constable had some striking similarities to the variety of tasks completed by all officers throughout their careers. In February 1882, Constable Nagington dealt with an incident involving the sudden death of a thirteen year old boy who was killed by a train while crossing the line near Monmore Green. The following month, the Staffordshire Advertiser reported how Constable Nagington, acted on information received from a person in custody, and subsequently detected the handling of some stolen brass. On Tuesday 9th October 1883, the Birmingham Daily Post published an article that described how Constable Nagington apprehended a drunken man, William Jones, who was in charge of a horse and cart, riding it along the footway. On detaining Jones, Constable Nagington was challenged to a fight and was kicked severely. Career criminal Jones was subsequently sentenced to three months hard labour. In February 1885, Constable Nagington arrested a man for cutting another man’s head with a knife during a fight at the Jolly Collier Inn, Monmore Green.

Sadly, police personnel records for Henry no longer exist and it is unknown how long he served as an officer or whether he received ‘compliments’ and commendations for his good police work. However, it seems quite certain, through the presentation of the pocket watch, that he was a much respected officer and part of his local community.

Henry Nagington died on 19th November 1908, 112 years ago today, aged 58 years and is buried in Merridale cemetery, Wolverhampton.