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The Police Boot Fund ~ Fascinating Social History

The Police Boot Fund ~ The Children’s Boot Fund
Here’s something that’s a wonderful bit of Social History, dealing with what was real child poverty, dreadful times but somehow something heart-warming came from it . . .

First and foremost, I must thank my father for the lead on this fine piece of Local History.
“Have you heard of the Police Boot Fund in Grimsby?” he asked me . . .
“Pray tell me more” I replied . . .

Before the Second World War there were still children running around in the streets of the poorer parts of Grimsby without boots or shoes - they simply didn’t have them.
The Grimsby Police ran a charitable fund to try and redress this issue.
I’m not sure about the finer points, I’d be keen to get more details, but I do know that money was collected in order to buy boots for the under-privileged children in Grimsby.
I’m only guessing here, but I’ll punt the theory that perhaps the Fund also took in donated boots and shoes ?

Rather interestingly, in order to drum up funds the Police had quite a wheeze which was known to be used with reasonable frequency:
People of means, or happened to be in funds, who were caught doing things they’d rather not become public were sometimes given the choice of making a generous donation to The Police Boot Fund rather then find themselves before the Bench !

Sir Alec Black of Grimsby
A local man ‘made good’ a very wealthy man, self-made, a great success and a man with some admirable ideals.
He did much for those locally who were less fortunate and continued to do so long after his death, he died in 1942 at a Racecourse I believe, with his Charitable Trust.

He loved Horse Racing and owned a renowned horse called The Panther
Sir Alec Black paid 3,600 guineas for the horse and so enamoured was he of this horse that he made the following pledge after entering it to run n The Derby

If The Panther wins The Derby then Sir Alec Black promised to buy every poor child in Grimsby a pair of boots !
Such was the publicity and faith in the horse that half of Grimsby backed the horse to win - I think it came tenth after previously having run such a hard race it was deemed not to have recovered in time for The Derby.

I’m keen to learn more and get as much information or anecdotes on this as possible.
If you can help then please do leave a comment
All the best


  1. V said,

    December 17, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    I really enjoy stories such as this. ‘people of means making donations to the Boot Fund. ‘ Brilliant .

    Sir Alec sounds like a remarkable man. It seems he started his life as a teacher before he went into the trawler business and became a millionaire ( hope for me yet ! )

    The Tayside Evening Telegraph reports that The Panther’s trainer was George Manser who had served for 3 years in France in WW1. Sir Alec lived at Field House, Bargate.

    Regarding Police Boot Funds ( which I had never heard of )

    There appear to have been several . In a VERY quick glance here today I have found them in Lincoln ,Evesham, Broadway, Cambridge.

    There do seem to have been some excellent efforts to support the poor of Grimsby.

    In 1886, Grimsby Town Hall was used to provide Christmas Dinner for 600 children with the Earl of Yarborough donating a roe deer .

    There was also a ‘’Grimsby Invalid and Soup Kitchen'’

    ( I wonder if the ‘and ‘ should be there? )

  2. workingman said,

    December 17, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

    Hi Rod,
    My father (born 1918) often told me that throughout the summer he went barefoot and in winter was issued “Police Boots” as his parents could not afford them. He was the eldest of 7 and shared a bed with his Grandmother up to the age of 15. He told of swimming across the River Head to steal cattle feed from the barges when he and his pals were hungry! Cue the “Kids today don’t know their born” rant.

  3. pirates daughter said,

    December 17, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

    My uncle “donated” money to the police benevolent fund between the wars (before my time) and after, he ran a book, illegal gambling, recently I was speaking to someone who’s Grandmother lived in the same street who remembers putting her bet and money behind a loose brick in the ally near his house.I don’t remember anyone in the family thinking it was odd that he never had a job but was the first family member to own a car he was always well dressed black overcoat and trilby he really looked the part ,he was never to my knowledge prosecuted he was obviously well know to the police and not just for his charitable donations, more recent than than you boot fund article but hope of some intrest

  4. Rod said,

    December 17, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    excellent information, many thanks indeed, he provided clean bedding for patients via a trust long after his own death - a good man I’d say

  5. Rod said,

    December 17, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    that’s a tremendous comment, really is - first-hand evidence, that comment would stand reading by a lot of people who complain today . . .
    I love this type of historical information

  6. Rod said,

    December 17, 2012 @ 7:05 pm

    this is another cracker, I didn’t dare hope we’d get such great information as this when I wrote the article.
    Really appreciated and absolutely fascinating

  7. veronica said,

    December 18, 2012 @ 11:00 am

    Rod indeed !

    The facts and evidence that I always stand by and am well known for at all times.

    But what delectable ‘’golden tickets'’ from the Oral Tradition PD and Workingman provided. This puts the meat on the bones of cold hard fact. Fantastic and thanks enormously to both PD and Workingman.

    We each thankkfully contribute our own talents.

  8. jean said,

    December 20, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

    Hi Rod ,my mother and her siblings(8) all use to have boots from the police boot fund and I,m sure it was Christmas morning that they were handed out.Sir Alex is also remembered for all the oak trees in the Nunsthorpe area as the houses were built he insisted that any trees were not pulled up, so now there large trees in many gardens as a child I loved them,and climbed them.Jean

  9. Rod said,

    December 21, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    this is fantastic, may thanks indeed, I’m really pleased how this one has gone so far.
    Sir Alec Black was clearly a man ahead of his time in saving the trees, the more you kearn the more impressive he becomes

  10. Paul said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

    Hi Rod,
    I am related to Sir Alec, he changed his name from Alick by Deed Poll.
    He is a fascinating character - he was made a Baronet after the First World War, after loaning his trawler fleet to the government for use as minesweepers. His father was a ship’s engineer and died in an unexplained drowning accident at Dieppe, when Alick was very young, and yet Alick fought his way up from having nothing to become a real philanthropist.
    There are several portraits of him on the National Portrait Gallery website, I also have one of him as a child with his sister if you are interested.
    Best wishes, Paul

  11. Rod said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

    that’s very interesting indeed, really appreciated and welcome to the site.
    He sounds like a great man to me Pual
    All the best

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