The life of one of Norwich's original 'lads'

Alexander Christie

Mounted police officer Alexander Christie - Credit: Alexander Christie's Family Collection

They always appeared to be so stern and serious, and if they asked you to do something then you would jump to it.

Police officers tended to be large gentlemen with moustaches 'back in the day'…but often with a heart of gold and a rare sense of humour.

This is the story one of such gentleman. Superintendent Alexander Christie of Norwich.

When Pauline Webster got in touch to say she had been reading our stories about the world famous Norwich Lads Club and how her grandfather was heavily involved, I wanted to know more.

The photographs and memories of her beloved grandfather are fascinating.

Alexander was born into a crofter’s family in 1877 at Gariochsford, Aberdeenshire. He had 10 brothers and sisters.

According to the 1891 census, by the time he was 13 he was already living and working as a farm servant about eight miles from his home.

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He became a farm attendant at an asylum before moving south, where he worked as a male epileptic attendant at a workhouse in Dulwich. His salary was £28 a year plus £4 a year in lieu if beer preferred.

Alexander Christie's Family Collection Photos

Police officers when they were also firemen. - Credit: Alexander Christie's Family Collection

In 1898 Alexander joined the Metropolitan police as a constable and two years later came to Norwich to work with the horse-drawn fire engines. This was the time when police officers were also firemen and ambulance men.

He went to live at the Pottergate section house with other constables.

“Apparently,” recalls Pauline, “one meal time, after a bit to drink, when it was a meal of stew and dumplings, he bowled a dumpling from the end of the table towards a picture of the cricketer W G Grace. He broke the glass and had to replace it at the cost of 1s 6d (7/1/2 pence.”

Alexander married Betsy Seaman in 1903. He was also a mounted policeman. Five years later he became a sergeant and was very involved with chief constable John Henry Dain when Norwich Lads Club opened in 1918 – the first club of its kind in the world.

He loved the club and I’ll wager the lads loved, and respected, him.

Alexander Christie and Norwich Lads Club gymnasts

Alex seated in the middle with his hat on with the Norwich Lads Club gymnasts - Credit: Alexander Christie's Family Collection

Along with his work at the club, he became a police inspector and lived with his family at the Magdalen Road Police Station. His son Geoffrey slept in a room in front of the cells, which could get rather noisy on a Saturday night!

Alexander was promoted to become a superintendent in 1927 and when he retired in 1933 his retirement certificate described his conduct as “exemplary.”

In his retirement he kept budgerigars, was a dab hand at carpentry and gardening. In 1938 he was invited back to the Lads Club when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made a visit while in Norwich to open City Hall.

Alexander Christie's Family Collection Photos

Alexander, third from the right, working with the ambulance men - Credit: Alexander Christie's Family Collection

During the Second World War he returned to the force as a War Reserve Constable in the city.

He died in 1956 but Pauline says she remembers one thing he had said to his son Geoff….”don’t ask anybody to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.”

Wise words from a wise man.