The great Farnham ‘bobby’, Superintendent Arthur Simmonds, became a much-loved and hugely-respected figure in his 23 years enforcing the law in the town from 1898 to 1921 – and today, this very newspaper is produced in his former home and workplace at The Old Court House in Union Road, Farnham.
The legend goes that when Supt Simmonds was suffering from a blood clot on his brain in 1906, the townsfolk paid for straw to be strewn in Union Road in order to deaden the noise of the traffic passing by and thus not disturb their favourite policeman’s rest. And after his death in 1926, almost the entire town lined the town streets for his funeral procession.
There are several contemporary photographs of Supt Simmonds, some of which were recently exhibited during the Herald's Heritage Open Days tours of The Old Court House. But a new image shared on the Peeps into the Past Facebook page last week has aroused a fair amount of interest in this great town character.
Pictured at the door of the Union Road police station, are Supt Simmonds (far left) with his grandson Arthur Slaught, who lived for a time with him at what has become The Old Court House. But as yet unidentified are the officer and child to the right.
One theory has emerged, courtesy of Pat Seale, who writes: “I’ve been puzzling over the photos of Arthur Simmonds.
“Arthur’s dates were 1859-1926, so he was about 67 when he died. Could these images be taken on his retirement (circa-1924 possibly) or even 1921 around Census time when two of his three grandchildren were staying at Union Road?
“Arthur Slaght’s father, John, was Canadian, and was serving with the rank of Captain with the 38th Battalion of the Canadian Forces when he died.
“So a war time romance, wedding to Ella May Simmonds in Farnham in June 1916, birth of Arthur Slaght in 1917. Then tragedy struck when John was killed on March 16, 1918 in France.”
Pat added the medal young Arthur was wearing looks to be the Canadian Military Cross awarded to his father.
The citation reads: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He worked untiringly maintaining the ammunition supply and evacuating the wounded. He reconnoitred the front line and brought up his company to support the battalion to which he was attached, under continuous and heavy shell fire. His example did much to maintain the morale of the men under most difficult conditions.’
Pat continued: “The girl in the group of four people could be Arthur Simmonds’ granddaughter, Joyce Sillick, born in 1915, daughter of Henry Sillick and Julia Ann, nee Simmonds. In 1921, Henry and Julia were living in Great Clacton, Essex, but Joyce was in Farnham.
“As to the other policeman in that group, are there any police uniform experts out there? He looks to be the same gent sitting on Arthur Simmonds’ right in the group photo.
“There are some slight differences in the uniform: the buttons aren’t shiny, no insignia on the collar, he had a flat, peaked cap whereas the sergeants and constables had the ‘Custodian helmet’ (ditto the gent sitting on Arthur’s left). Could he have been the new chief of Farnham police?”