Meet Malcolm Taylor who has been volunteering in the Essex Police Museum at headquarters for 15 years.
But, amazingly, this is not his only volunteering role. Malcolm enjoys walking and is a volunteer walk leader for a local U3A (University of the Third Age) group and Chelmsford’s Wellbeing Walks scheme Heart & Sole. He’s also involved in local Scouting and the Royal British Legion.
He began volunteering in the museum in 1996 when the curator decided to increase public access and asked volunteers from within Essex Police to assist with visits. Malcolm was a member of police staff at the time.
“As I have an interest in history, I thought, as I was already on site, I could combine my interest with passing on some of the force’s history to interested groups.”
The museum has just re-opened to visitors (June 2021) after closing at the start of the pandemic but running a series of very popular Saturday sessions on its Facebook page.
Malcolm is team leader for those volunteers who guide visiting groups around the museum, explaining the history of Essex Police and our Edwardian headquarters buildings and he also leads tours himself.
“I enjoy meeting people of all ages. Our ‘tours’ are fairly well structured according to the age group concerned; thus adults will have a history presentation and perhaps a walking tour of the outside of the buildings as we tell stories about the people who lived and worked there, whilst youth organisations will have a trail around the museum suitable for their age range.
“I also enjoyed putting together the history of the 1903 HQ and turning that into a ‘guided walk’. As I’m involved in Scouting, it was relatively easy to tailor the young people’s ’tours’ to meet certain badge requirements.
“When we had to start charging for visits – we are a charity – I proposed giving members of youth organisations a badge and, as we restock, we change the colours so they become a collector’s item.”
Malcolm finds it easy to fit in the five hours a week he donates because he can book in group visits around his other commitments.
Of course, because he has been volunteering for so long, Malcolm has some amusing stories to tell.
“A group of Spanish students were asked not to lock themselves in the handcuffs as we would charge €20 to release them - not that we intended to. Needless to say, they locked themselves in and then complained that we were not charging them £20 to be released – they hadn’t worked out that €20 was less than £20!”
“The Alma pub in Arbour Lane, Springfield, reopened as The Admiral McHardy. On the night they opened I dropped in for a pint. I asked who Admiral McHardy was and was informed that he stopped the slave trade in the West Indies – apparently that was all he had done!
“I pointed out he was the first Chief Constable of Essex Police and the pub was next door to the original police headquarters at Old Court. The bar staff were totally unaware so we arranged to supply them with badges illustrating McHardy and gave the manager the appropriate history sheet.”
“Don’t tell anyone but I’m also the Museum Santa!”
To anyone thinking of volunteering to help out at Essex Police Museum, Malcolm would recommend it.
“It’s great fun. You don’t have to have an interest in policing or history but it helps. We are always asked lots of different questions and it’s always pleasing to be able to assist them. It’s not onerous. A typical visit can last between one and two hours and you can choose when you volunteer – as long you tell us, so we can plan ahead!”