A celebration of policing volunteers has taken place at the opening of the new Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall, in Tavistock. 

The High Sheriff of Devon, the Right Reverend Nicholas McKinnel, in one of the last engagements of his tenure, presented the High Sheriff’s award to volunteers in recognition of their work to make the newly opened mini museum in Tavistock a reality.

The unveiling of the museum was testament to the dedication and work of volunteers with Rt Rev McKinnel telling them that the accolade was given to those who made a ‘significant contribution to a community’, acknowledging their ‘enormous amount of work’ spanning 17 years.

Behind the scenes, the volunteers who come from Okehampton, Tavistock, Plymouth and Exeter areas have been cataloguing the archive material at police headquarters Middlemoor, and curating artefacts kept in stores at Okehampton Police Station, all ready for the March opening of the Tavistock mini-museum to the public.

The Rt Rev McKinnel said: “After I visited Okehampton and saw all the work that was going on there, and the amount of time that people were giving, the expertise, and the way that it was enriching the history of the community and the police force - to understand and know our roots - I said I would be delighted to give a High Sheriff’s award in recognition of great and valuable services to the community.”

Work to set up a museum began 17 years ago with six people around a table at Middlemoor police headquarters, in Exeter, to discuss how the collection should be preserved. 

The hunt to secure suitable premises where the public could visit was a decade in the making with funding for the long-term lease on the Tavistock Court Gate building secured in 2021. The mini-museum is currently working towards achieving Museum Accreditation via the Arts Council England. Planned exhibits for 2024 include personal stories charting the history of the region’s women in policing.

Museum trustee and volunteer Pam Giles is a retired police officer who joined Devon and Cornwall constabulary in 1975 and was the force’s first resident female police motorcyclist.

She said: “A lot of the archive and collection has been saved from skips and tips, and it’s important it is protected. When people started forming the collection, they didn’t realise the importance of what they were doing. 

“My hope now is for a permanent space for the collection and to see the digitisation project develop so more people have access to the archive.”

Additional volunteers are still needed for the policing museum which is a registered charity. Curator Alison Holmes said, “We are open just one day a week at the moment, and would welcome local people with an interest in preserving our policing heritage to come forward so we can be open more often.” 

Visit the Devon and Cornwall policing museum website at www.dcpolicingmuseum.co.uk for more information or contact [email protected]

The Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall is now open every Friday from 11am until 3pm until October.