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Carlisle man was UK's first black policeman

John Kent, Britain's first black policeman Photo: ITV Border

John Kent, who was born in Cumbria, became the UK's first black policeman, serving in the Carlisle police Force between 1837-1844.

He was the son of a former slave, Thomas Kent, who was brought from the West Indies in the early 1800s.

His descendant, Ian Bulman, who is approximately John Kent's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson, still lives and works in Armathwaite on their family farm.

Ian Bulman, farmer and descendant of John Kent Credit: ITV Border

Ian Bulman says he is very proud of his ancestors:

I was proud when I found I had a black ancestor and what he had been through, and it was explained to me, because being a slave, and then he was brought into this country. I was very proud of not just the physical, but the mental strength, to survive such an abhorrent regime, and to come out of it the other end. Because there was such a high mortality rate, and my ancestor survived that.

– Ian Bulman, farmer and descendant of John Kent

John Kent was born in 1805 in Low Heskett, then settled at Botchergate, and on what is now known as Warwick road in Carlisle, after getting married to Mary Bell from Longtown.

In 1844, John was dismissed for being drunk on duty, which was a common occurrence amongst police officers at the time.

1851 census of Botchergate, listing John Kent and his family Credit: Cumbria Archive Centre

He then worked for West-coast railway until just a few days before his death in 1886, at the age of 91.

The phrase "Black Kent is coming!" was used to scare away misbehaving children, but John Kent was described in a local newspaper obituary as "'a quiet, inoffensive man with a positive fondness for children."

'Death of a Carlisle Notable' obituary of John Kent in The Carlisle Patriot, 23 July 1886 Credit: Cumbria Archive Centre

He was also described as having "civility and unvarying good humour" making him "a favourite with everyone" in The Carlisle Patriot.

'Pictorial History of the Cumbria Constabulary' by Mick Ewins Credit: ITV Border
The early police station in Carlisle Credit: ITV Border

The painting depicting John Kent hangs in Carleton Hall, and is a montage of the Cumbrian police force over the years.