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.
Our collection and archive
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.