Captain John Henry FORREST

Chief Constable 1856 – 1891

John Henry Forrest, the son of William John Bond Forrest and Georgiana Carmichael-Smyth, was born on 31st August 1816 in Bloomsbury, London. In April 1843 he married Selina Atherley on 20th June 1843 in All Saints, Southampton, and together they had a total of eleven children, seven sons and four daughters. The birth places of their children showed that the family regularly moved around. They are shown living in Newbridge (Ireland), Coventry, Seaton (Dorset), West Stratton (Hampshire), Micheldever (Hampshire), Gedling (Nottingham)and Southampton.

He spent 14 years in the 11th Hussars rising from Cornet to Captain. He was appointed as a Cornet in the 11th Light Dragoon by purchase in 1833; promoted to Lieutenant in 1837 and then to Captain, by purchase in October 1839. He served as a 2nd Captain for five years and as Senior Captain for two. He served in India, Ireland and England. He commanded a squadron during the Chartist Riots in the North of England and was present in Ireland when the Army were suppressing the Repeal Riots. Whilst serving in India, and only 18 years old, he was challenged to a duel, despite not being the aggressor. He left the army in 1847.

In the 1851 Census he is shown as a visitor at 3 Upper Prospect Place, Southampton, the home of his Father in Law, George Atherley, a Magistrate and Banker. He had his wife Selina and seven children with him.

In December 1851 he applied to be the Chief Constable of West Suffolk. Although the only one of the seven candidates under the required 45 years of age, he was beaten into second place by Captain Syer by 45 votes to 16.

On 29th October 1852 he was appointed as the Chief Constable of Nottingham Police. He was at the time living in West Stratton, Hampshire. Amongst his testimonials was one from the Chief Constable of Hampshire, Captain William Harris, who described him as ‘a gentleman, and that he is extremely intelligent, active, zealous and energetic’.

On 24th May 1856 140 Magistrates met in Winchester to select the successor for William Charles Harris. The two candidates considered were Captain John Henry Forrest and Captain Fellowes. Forrest, the Chief Constable of Nottingham, was proposed by the Honorable R Dalton and seconded by Sir Edward Butler. Forrest having received 87 votes compared to 39 for Captain Fellowes, and was duly appointed as Chief Constable.

In the 1861 Census he is shown as living at West Hill House, Romsey Road, Winchester with his wife and seven children along with several servants. In 1871, 1881 and 1891 he was still living in the same house, but with fewer of his children, five in 1871 and just one in 1881 and two in 1891.

In October 1864 he issued directions encouraging officers to become ‘churchmen’, suggesting Superintendents encourage officers to attend church. He also recommended that all Clergy be saluted when seen by officers as a mark of respect. His ‘epistle’ brought wide derision and disapproval from the press who suggested that he was dabbling in areas he should not and suggesting that officers who were ‘dissenters’ in terms of religion were being unfairly disadvantaged in things like promotion.

His career ended under a bit of a cloud. His Chief Clerk, Superintendent Grant was convicted of ‘Misapplication of Funds’ and was unable to make good the amount of over £300 and associated costs of £170. The Joint Standing Committee felt Captain Forrest was responsible as he had placed too much confidence in Grant. They felt he was guilty of gross carelessness. They debated whether Captain Forrest should be asked to make good the loss. At the same time they were advised that Captain Forrest had offered his resignation, which had been accepted. He was 75 years old.

His wife died in July 1899. He died on 27th August 1901 at Petersfield House, St Giles Hill in Winchester, leaving an estate of £27,642 (£2.8 Million at today’s value). His sons, Colonel George Forrest and Captain Robert Forrest dealt with the estate.