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Our Cambridge Collection has changing exhibitions about Cambridge.  Much of our collection is in storage to ensure its preservation for future generations.


Police: 1886 – 1930

The first European force policing the Cambridge area was the 3rd Regiment of the Waikato Militia under Colonel William Charles Lyon.
On 10 October 1867 the Armed Constabulary Act was passed and the Waikato Militia disbanded.

William Brennan became the permanent constable and his first arrest on 3 July 1876 was Te Huia “drunk and incapable on the Cambridge wharf.” Fined £1 and 3/- costs.
As Brennan settled in he dealt with numerous cases of drunk and disorderly, larceny, assault, absent without leave, disturbances, vagrancy, obscene language, furious riding and larrikinism. Harry Bowman had a charge of horse stealing dismissed, but for singing an obscene song in a public street (to wit) Duke Street Cambridge he was charged 50/- and 4/6 costs. The lock up was a busy place.

From 1877-1886 the NZ Constabulary Force had jurisdiction.
The new bill enabled the constabulary “to act as constables in and throughout the colony, for putting down rebellion, quelling disturbances, preserving the peace, preventing robberies and other felonies and apprehending offenders against the peace.”

In September 1880 Mathew Cooper stole a fruit pie and a pound of butter (value 3/6d) from the meat safe of John Robertson’s Boarding House and a plum cake (value 2/6d) from the Rev. William Willis. The Waikato Mail records – “When our worthy sergeant of the police, in pursuance of his duty, called at a certain house in this town, a little girl met him at the door, and gazing earnestly at his face, asked,’ are you the man that stole the cake; did you eat the whole of it?’ Fancy, the indignation of the worthy sergeant, it is said that his very heels blushed with shame at the unjust imputation.” Cooper was sentenced to six months imprisonment for each offence.

In April 1881 a riot occurred during the Native Land Court hearings and the police got “rather roughly handled”. Then Wiremu Te Riu did not respond to a summons – but later (in June 1883) when visiting Cambridge “he was only a few minutes in town before he was pounced upon by the vigilant Brennan.”

By mid 1884 a full troop of N Z Constabulary Force was no longer required in Cambridge and all movable buildings and most of the personnel were transferred to Kihikihi. Constable Brennan who had served in Cambridge since June 1876, carried on with policing duties, charging youngsters Charles, Hugh and David who “did unlawfully ride their horses furiously in Duke and Victoria Street”, and were each fined 5/- and 11/- costs.

18 May 1886 a Police Force Bill and a Defence Bill were introduced to Parliament.
Both were passed and the NZ Police Force came into being on 1 September 1886.

The first constable in charge of Cambridge was William Brennan.
His uniform consisted of a blue cloth cap with peak and band of black braid. Loose blue cloth jumper with uniform buttons. Blue cloth trousers, strong lace-up watertight boots, a great coat, a waterproof coat and white gloves.


Ambrose William Donnellan Brennan
To Cambridge 29 June 1876
Left Cambridge November 1897
Timothy Cahill No. 286
To Cambridge 27 November 1897
Left Cambridge 23 August 1899
Alexander McGilp No. 201
To Cambridge 19 August 1899
Left Cambridge 16 October 1903
John McNamara No 790  
To Cambridge 19 October 1903
Left Cambridge 13 May 1911
Stephen Garvey No. 3457
To Cambridge 12 August 1911
Left Cambridge 15 May 1915
Phillip John McCarthy No. 891  
To Cambridge 30 May 1911
Left Cambridge 12 August 1915
James Francis Cleary No. 1217
To Cambridge 11 February 1915
From Cambridge 1 February 1928
Ernest Francis Jones No. 1917
To Cambridge 1 February 1928
Left Cambridge 22 December 1932
Constable William Israel Trask No. 1966
To Cambridge 26 August 1930
Left Cambridge 22 March 1933
Alfred Doel No. 1972
To Cambridge 21 December 1932
Left Cambridge 19 March 1935
Charles Henry Maisey No. 1833
To Cambridge 19 March 1935
Left Cambridge 20 April 1944