The Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall is a registered charity that collects, preserves and celebrates the history of policing in Devon and Cornwall. We encourage people — through exhibitions, pop-ups, workshops and online activities — to change the way they think about and experience policing heritage.
The Museum holds a kaleidoscope of historical policing material including documents, photographs, and artefacts, and provides an in-depth array of material tracing the social history of the region spanning over two centuries.
We exist to ensure the policing heritage of Devon and Cornwall is made accessible to an inter-generational audience and preserved for posterity. We support researchers, genealogists, educational institutions, and heritage organisations across the region to engage with policing history, encouraging all our collaborators, partners and audiences to uncover in particular the underrepresented voices and diverse histories preserved in our collections.
The Museum was established in 2016 as a charity registered with the Charity Commission, and is governed by a Board of Trustees.
The Board is supported by a Development and Operations Manager, an Archivist, and volunteers who work collaboratively with the Trustees to ensure the Museum’s vision is achieved and its values are upheld.
As a young Charity, we are embarking on an ambitious plan to achieve greater public engagement and a more diverse research community, by working tirelessly to unlock the breadth of our collections.
The Museum Story
The history of the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall is a story of great twists and turns. What started as the pursuit of a small number of police officers with visions of rescuing old police operational equipment and material for posterity, is today one of the most complete police collections in the UK.
The active collecting of police material began in the 1970s, fueled by a desire to protect the history of the police forces that risked being forgotten following a series of police mergers in the late 1960s. This work was spearheaded by one police officer in particular, Brian Estill. At the time, there was no formal force heritage policy, and dated equipment and material was largely being disposed of. Brian painstakingly recovered items from skips and decommissioned stations, catalogued material and sought funds to establish a formal heritage collection. Brian’s initiative laid the foundations for the Museum, and his legacy lives on in the charity’s work to continue growing the collections, unlocking them to the public and increasing their accessibility.
Earliest items in the Museum date from the mid 18th century, and the collections are made up of archives, photographs, artworks, uniforms and equipment, as well as an extensive library relating to criminology and law enforcement. The Museum represents a rapidly disappearing genre – a complete collection of a profession – and the organisational memory of a large, regional police force, as well as the social history of the communities the force once served.