PICTURES: Little Waldingfield remembers Met’s first black officer
The legacy of a ground-breaking Suffolk man, who was the first ever black officer recruited by the Metropolitan Police Service, was commemorated in Little Waldingfield last week.
Met police officers joined members of the Church of St Lawrence to mark 200 years since the birth in Stoke-by-Nayland of Robert Branford, who made history when he was recruited into the Met’s ranks in 1838, where he served for 28 years and became a superintendent.
His link to Britain’s black history was only recently discovered by historian Stephen Bourne, culminating in a service at his burial site in the village church yard on Tuesday morning.
The Rev Judith Sweetman, who also took the opportunity to thank the Met officers in attendance for their work in the difficult current climate, said: “I think everybody who has found out about this has been absolutely amazed.
“It’s quite extraordinary. It has meant a lot to everyone.
“We are all really humbled by it. He was a leading light in a way for black officers.
“It was really moving to hear his story and we all feel affected by it. It’s been a surprising event, and I think both sides found it very worthwhile.”
After joining the Met Police Service, Mr Branford went on to achieve the rank of sergeant in 1846, before being promoted to inspector in 1851 and finally superintendent of the M-Division, which covers Southwark, in 1856.
Records indicate that he retired in 1866 and moved with his wife Sarah to Little Waldingfield, where he died in 1869, aged 52.
Speakers at the service on Tuesday included the Met Police Service’s senior chaplain, Jonathan Osborne, and Victor Olisa, head of inclusion and diversity.
Rev Sweetman added that the church hoped this occasion would mark the start of a close relationship with the Met.