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Friday, February 25, 2011

Law & Order: Constable John Illingworth

John Illingworth, Springwood’s first Police officer, was born in Springwells in Yorkshire in 1852.  He learned the trade of bolt maker in his father’s business but is believed to have gone to sea for some years. 
Around 1875 he married Frances Mary Grainger and their first child Rosa was born in 1876, followed by Charley who died soon after his birth in 1879.  The Illingworths decided to make a fresh start in the colonies and John set off ahead of the family, arriving in Sydney in 1879 on the vessel Hankow.  Presumably Frances and Rosa followed soon after.  On the13th April 1880 he was sworn in as a constable of the New South Wales Police Force.
Police records describe John as being 5 feet 10 inches tall with blue eyes and brown hair, fresh complexion and good general appearance.  John was transferred to the Eastern District on 17th May 1880 and he is understood to have been stationed at Parramatta before his appointment as the first permanent police officer at Springwood in 1881.
There had been local pressure for a police presence in Springwood from around the late 1870s with representation being made to Sir Henry Parkes.  While a lock-up was provided in 1879 it was not until 1881 that a combined station and residence was built on the site of present-day Manners Park.

Old police lock up left of picture
In May 1891 John Illingworth was transferred to Katoomba Police Station as officer-in-charge.  As a mark of their esteem the citizens of Springwood farewelled him with a function at Rayner’s Hall.  Following a speech by Mr. Rayner, John was presented with a beautifully illuminated and framed address accompanied by a purse of sovereigns.[1]
John’s duties at Katoomba also included those of Clerk of Petty Sessions and during his tenure he was promoted to senior constable.  On 31 March 1897 he left Katoomba to take up a position at Richmond Police station where he spent 10 years before transferring to Granville in March 1907.  He was promoted to sergeant second class on 1st January 1908.  John Illingworth achieved fame in what would now be regarded as a somewhat obscure field; the game of checkers or draughts.  In Stearns’s Book of Portraits-Prominent Players Volume ii, published in 1898, his photograph is published over a text which states that he ‘is one of the best known players in Australia.’
John Illingworth died on 3rd May 1913.  Illingworth Road, Yellow Rock commemorates Springwood’s first police officer.
Peter Chinn
Nepean Times
Beverley Dodd Woodford (daughter of Bertha Illingworth)
Stearn’s Book of Portraits-Prominent Players Volume 11
This an abbreviated version of a longer article in The Making of a Mountain Community: a Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District.

[1] Nepean Times, 13.6.1891.

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