For 50 years, from 1890 to 1940, Covent Garden had, one might say, a ‛substantial police presence’.
Policeman and resident for 50 years
That is, no fewer than five of its houses, Nos. 42‒50, were occupied by members of the Cambridge Borough Police Force ‒ they were what are called ‛tied houses’, which meant that their owners had an arrangement always to rent them to the police. And one of those policemen was Moses Free, who lived in No. 50, the back bedroom window of which afforded a fine view of the cricket on Fenners!
Moses was born in Castle Camps in 1864. By 1887 he had moved to Cambridge, for in that year he married Flora Parrish. Within a year the couple had started a family. And by 1891 ‒ probably earlier ‒ Moses was a police constable. By 1901 he had been promoted to acting sergeant, by 1911 to full sergeant, and by 1918 to the rank of police inspector. He retired in 1922/23. Flora died in 1926, but Moses was able to continue living at No. 50 until his death in 1940.
Courtesy of Free family
One thing we know about Moses Free is that he attended services at the Zion Baptist Chapel, near the junction of East Road and Mill Road, whereas his wife attended St. Barnabas Church on Mill Road. Moses and Flora had four children: Ernest Robert, Frederick Charles, Bertha Margery and Rosa Eliza Rebecca.
Image courtesy of Ian Bent
Both sons served during the First World War, Ernest in the Royal Garrison Artillery, dying of the Spanish ’flu in 1918, Charles surviving the war. The youngest child, Rosa, is still well remembered by the many Cambridge residents who were taught by her at Romsey School. She continued to live at No. 50 Covent Garden until about 1980. She was a keen photographer, loved playing tennis, drove a small car, and was a parishioner at St. Paul’s Church.
We know the names of the other policemen who lived in Covent Garden: they included Lazarus Potter Marsh, who became a detective sergeant and lived at No. 48, Edward Baker, who attained the rank of police inspector and lived at No. 44, and Alfred Brand, constable, who lived at No. 46. Most of these policemen are buried within a few hundred yards of their homes, in Mill Road Cemetery, and their gravestones give us further information about them and their families. Moses’s grave is in fine white marble, elegantly engraved.
Photographs and some information kindly supplied by members of the Free family.