British Police History

There have always been robbers but we didn't always have cops. The history of the British Police force is a varied one. Here's how Peel's Boys in Blue came to lay down the law.

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THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW

The first steps in policing the country came in 1361 with the Justice of the Peace Act. In each county, three or four men were appointed to 'arrest, take and chastise' offenders.

REVOLUTIONARY CHANGES

The Industrial Revolution caused a huge influx of people from the country to cities. With it came poverty, which caused a law and order crisis. Into this chaos came Henry Fielding, who formed the first paid police force, known as The Runners.

THE BOW STREET RUNNERS

The Bow Street Runners were a small, plain-clothed force that started in 1750. They sought help from the public by publishing descriptions of criminals. By 1805, The Runners were joined by the Bow Street Horse Patrol, who helped to clear London of highwaymen.

PEELERS AND BOBBIES

Sir Robert Peel changed policing forever with The Metropolitan Police Bill of 1829. He approved a force of 95 constables, 88 sergeants and 20 inspectors. By 1856, over 200 police forces were established in England and Wales.

UNIFORMED TRUNCHEONS

People hated the new Police so much that uniforms were designed to make them look like civilians. Wearing dark blue coats and a collar with their Constable's Number, they carried truncheons and a rattle to raise the alarm. By 1864, helmets were introduced and whistles replaced rattles.

THE ORIGINAL JAM JAR

In 1858, the first Police vehicle was horse-drawn, later secure police vehicles were introduced. They were called originally Black Marias; a special area in the yard of Bow Street Police Court was reserved for the loading and unloading of Marias.

POLICEWOMEN

It wasn't until 1914 that women joined the police ranks when men were away fighting in World War I. In 1915, Edith Smith was sworn in as the first policewoman with powers of arrest.