Leamington Policeman no 222 Copyright: John Hannavy Collection

Leamington Policeman no 222
Copyright: John Hannavy Collection


Frederick George Brown was born in 1835 in Leamington Priors to John and Charlotte Brown. John was a local carpenter and had five surviving children, four sons and one daughter. Three of his sons became policemen – two of them, including Frederick, were sergeants in Leamington Priors Borough Police Force.

After school, Frederick first became an apprentice butcher, then enlisted in the Army at the start of the Crimean War in 1854. He was wounded and was sent to the Isle of Wight to recover. It was here that he met his wife-to-be, Jane, a nurse. They married on the Island in April 1856 and together had 11 children, 7 of whom survived childhood.

First Town Hall and Police Station, High Street

First Town Hall and Police Station, High Street

In 1857 Frederick enlisted in the police force and was a serving officer for the next 16 years. He became a plain clothes detective sergeant 6 years after he started. In his time as a police officer he undertook the solving of many crimes in Leamington, including robbery, drunkenness, prostitution, serving alcohol after hours, army desertion (for which he would have had a reward if he caught any absentee soldiers) and appearing as a witness for the local vicar, Rev John Craig, who it appears was regularly drunk. In one committee report he was credited with solving half the crimes carried out in Leamington Borough during that year. He regularly followed his suspects, even using his own time to do so, and once marked some coins so that he could see if a shopkeeper’s assistant was helping himself from the till.

Frederick was involved in many fights and in one in particular, complained that the attacker had pulled his whiskers sharply! In the Autumn of 1872 his wife Jane and her friend were attacked by Henry Smith, a local cooper, who had no idea that he was being followed by Frederick. A fight ensued and for once Frederick came off worse. He injured his leg and was confined to bed for next three months, his appearances in court limited to correspondence. At the end of the year he put in his resignation so that he could get his pension. The request went to the committee and by January 1873 it was approved. Frederick asked Superintendent Lund for the money to be paid as soon as possible as he wished to purchase a public house.

However, the minute he had the money he disappeared, – accompanied by his pregnant wife’s best friend Lizzie Ife, leaving Jane with four children and no money. A nationwide bulletin was issued to track Frederick down for abandoning his family but he was never caught. According to newspaper articles, it was thought that he had gone abroad, to America or Europe. Jane died in 1888 without ever knowing what happened to her husband.

F G Brown, Census 1911

F G Brown, Census 1911

Frederick and Lizzie, though, reappeared in the Census of 1891, in London, England. Their ages and names match but their places of birth are given as Germany and Denmark. By 1901 they had moved to Nottingham and had reverted to their proper places of birth. Frederick was then working for the railway. In 1911, by then both elderly, they were caretakers of a hall in Nottingham. Frederick died in 1916, followed a few years later by Lizzie. In the 1911 Census which bears Frederick’s signature as it appeared in family documents years earlier,  it states that they had no children. There is no record of Frederick ever meeting any of  his family again.

Colin Simmons


Sources & Acknowledgements:

Family History,   Leamington Spa Courier,   National Archive Census Returns