Sunday, 14 August 2016

The men of the night watch ~ A piece of history

Today it is hard to believe that Britain in the 19th century did not have a professional police force.
It wasn’t until 1822, when Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) became Home Secretary, that this was finally considered. Nonetheless, it took another seven years before anything happened.
The first policemen, known as 'Peelers' or 'Bobbies', were set up in London in 1829 by Robert Peel, the then Home Secretary.
He finally introduced an Act of Parliament, the Metropolitan Police Act, in 1829. It established the Metropolitan Police of London (with the exception of the City), replacing the previously disorganised system of parish constables and watchmen.
The first thousand of Peel’s police, known as ‘Peelers’ (Robert PEEL) or ‘Bobbies’ (Robert or BOBBY Peel), dressed in blue tailcoats and top hats, began to patrol the streets of London on 29th September 1829. The uniform was carefully selected to make the ‘Peelers’ look more like ordinary citizens, rather than a red-coated soldier with a helmet.
The ‘Peelers’ were issued with a wooden truncheon carried in a long pocket in the tail of their coat, a pair of handcuffs and a wooden rattle to raise the alarm. By the 1880s this rattle had been replaced by a whistle.
Peeler cartoon
To be a ‘Peeler’ the rules were quite strict. You had to be aged 20 – 27, at least 5′ 7″ tall (or as near as possible), fit, literate and have no history of any wrong-doings.
They worked seven days a week, with only five days unpaid holiday a year for which they received the grand sum of £1 per week. Their lives were strictly controlled; they were not allowed to vote in elections and required permission to get married and even to share a meal with a civilian. To allay the public’s suspicion of being spied upon, officers were required to wear their uniforms both on and off duty.  Source ~ HERE
Manchester City Police peelers parade in the yard of the city's Albert Street Police Station in the 1850s.
Earlier history
Before the passing of the Metropolitan Police Act in 1829, law enforcement among the general population in England was carried out by unpaid parish constables who were elected, and later appointed by the local justice of the peace.In certain circumstances, such as serious public disorder, the army would intervene to support the local authorities; yeomanry  (a number of units or sub-units of the British Army Reserve, descended from volunteer cavalry regiments) were extensively used for this purpose before police forces developed.
Law enforcement and policing during the 1700s, and earlier, were not administrated nationally, instead, they were organised by local communities such as town authorities. Within local areas, a constable could be attested by two or more Justices of the Peace, a procedure that some sources say had its roots in an Act of the Parliament of England of 1673. From the 1730s, local improvement Acts made by town authorities often included provision for paid watchmen or constables to patrol towns at night, while rural areas had to rely on more informal arrangements.
Because this system of policing was largely unorganised and lacked a criminal investigation capability, the novelist Henry Fielding (who had been appointed a Magistrate in 1748) introduced the first detective force, known as the Bow Street Runners, ( originally numbering six men) in 1753.
In 1737, an Act of Parliament was passed "for better regulating the Night Watch" of the City of London which specified the number of paid constables that should be on duty each night. Henry Fielding established the Bow Street Runners in 1749; between 1754 and 1780, Sir John Fielding reorganised Bow Street like a police station, with a team of efficient, paid constables.
In the early 1800s, some town authorities became more involved in improving local policing. An Act of Parliament in 1800 enabled Glasgow to establish the City of Glasgow Police, often described as the first professional police force in Britain. As the population in industrial towns grew, more local Acts were passed to improve policing arrangements in those towns
London in the early 1800s had a population of nearly a million and a half people but was policed by only 450 constables and 4,500-night watchmen.
Bow street runners
Watchmen were groups of men, usually authorised by a state, government, or society, to deter criminal activity and provide law enforcement. Watchmen have existed in various guises throughout the world and were generally succeeded by the emergence of formally organised policing.
Police paddy wagon and horse from late 19th century in London
Policemen gathered in Bonner's Fields, London, during the Chartist revival of 1848.
Covent Garden watch house
Early origins of The Watchmen
An early reference to a watch can be found in the Bible where the Prophet Ezekiel states that it was the duty of the watch to blow the horn and sound the alarm. (Ezekiel 33:1-6)
The existence of watchmen has also been found[specify] in the Ottoman, Greek and Egyptian Empires.
The Roman Empire turned the role of a watchman into a profession by creating two organisations:

  • the Praetorian Guard thus establishing a rank and file system with a Captain of the Guard.
  • Vigiles, literally the watch.

A Night Watchman. By Thomas Dekker from The Belman of London (1608).
Watchmen in England
The streets in London were dark and had the shortage and poor quality of artificial light. It had been recognized for centuries that the coming of darkness to the unlit streets of a town brought a heightened threat of danger, that the night cover to the disorderly and immoral, and to those bent on robbery or burglary or who in other ways threatened physical harm to people in the streets and in their houses.
Watchmen were nicknamed "Charleys" after King Charles II.
The anxieties that darkness gave rise to had been met by the formation of a night watch in the 13th century, and by the rules about who could use the streets after dark. These rules had for long been underpinned in London and other towns by the curfew, the time (announced by the ringing of a bell) at which the gates closed and the streets were cleared. Only people with good reason to be abroad could then travel through the City. Anyone outside at night without reason or permission was suspicious and potentially criminal.
Couldn't resist adding ;o) 
Allowances were usually made for people who had some social status on their side. Lord Fielding clearly expected to pass through London’s streets untroubled at 1 am one night in 1641, and he quickly became piqued when his coach was stopped by the watch, shouting huffily that it was a ‘disgrace’ to stop someone of such high standing as he, and telling the constable in charge of the watch that he would box him on the ears if he did not let his coach carry on back to his house. ‘It is impossible’ to ‘distinguish a lord from another man by the outside of a coach’, the constable said later in his defence, ‘especially at unreasonable times’.
The Ordinance of 1233 required the appointment of watchmen. The Assize of Arms of 1252, which required the appointment of constables to summon men to arms, quell breaches of the peace, and to deliver offenders to the sheriff, is cited as one of the earliest creations of an English police force, as was the Statute of Winchester of 1285. In 1252 a royal writ established a Watch and Ward with royal officers appointed as Shire Reeves:

By order of the King of England the Winchester Act Mandating The Watch. Part Four and the King commandth that from henceforth all Watches be made as it hath been used in past times that was to wit from the day of Ascension unto the day of St. Michael in every city by six men at every gate in every borough by twelve men in every town by six or four according to the number of inhabitants of the town. They shall keep the Watch all night from sun setting unto sun rising. And if any stranger do pass them by them he shall be arrested until morning and if no suspicion be found he shall go quit.
London before the formation of the 'Peelers' who where the world's first police force. A Watchman, pictured outside his watch box, said to be Charlie Rouse, one of the last of the watchmen. The cutlass is an interesting flourish.
The watchmen patrolled the streets at night, calling out the hour, keeping a lookout for fires, checking that doors were locked and ensuring that drunks and other vagrants were delivered to the watch constable. However, their low wages and the uncongenial nature of the job attracted a fairly low standard of person, and they acquired a possibly exaggerated reputation for being old, ineffectual, feeble, drunk or asleep on the job.
The interior of a watch-house with night watchmen in large overcoats with lanterns.
London had a system of night policing in place before 1660, although it was improved over the next century through better lighting, administrations, finances, and better and more regular salaries. But the essential elements of the night-watch were performing completely by the middle of the seventeenth century.
A watchman's sentry box. Situated in Norfolk Crescent, Bath, beside a grassy expanse and opposite the Georgian terrace, Cumberland House, this circular structure (erected in 1793 and restored in 1896) 
During the 1820s, mounting crime levels and increasing political and industrial disorder prompted calls for reform, led by Sir Robert Peel, which culminated in the demise of the watchmen and their replacement by a uniformed metropolitan police force.
Watch-boxes increased in number during Queen Anne's reign. Made of timber or stone, the wooden ones provided targets for bored young "gentlemen" who tipped them over (and the snoozing watchman within) for sport.
Watchmen and modern police
With the unification of laws and centralization of state power (e.g. the Municipal Police Act of 1844 in New York City, United States), such formations became increasingly incorporated into state-run police force (see metropolitan police and municipal police).
Watchmen still exist under Florida statutes and are recognised / given special dispensation in law 
Since the 1960s, police forces in the United Kingdom have been merged and modernised by several Acts of Parliament.
A suffragette arrested, London, 1910
Mrs Edith Margaret Garrud (1872-1971) was the suffragette who taught the other suffragettes jiu-jitsu and ran a dojo with her daughter.
Officers and a detective of Manchester City Police taken outside their police station in Newton Heath, circa 1880
2002: Police Reform Act 2002. Introduced Community Support Officers, commonly referred to as Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) notwithstanding that this term does not appear in any legislation, as well as investigating officers and detention escort officers - all in England and Wales only. None of these are Police Constables although they have certain specific powers of a constable, e.g. in relation to lawful detention.
2006: Major provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 come into effect including the overhaul of powers of arrest, Institution of the Serious Organised Crime Agency and extension of powers available to PCSOs; these (other than SOCA) applying in England and Wales. The majority of the Act applies only to England and Wales with only a few sections applying to Scotland or Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 comes into force.The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) was a non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom which existed from 1 April 2006 until 7 October 2013. 
Children observing the attire of police officers, two clad in body armour, London.
2013: Amalgamation of 8 Scottish territorial police forces into one, Police Scotland.
2013: The National Crime Agency (NCA) leads the UK law enforcement's fight to cut serious and organised crime. The NCA became operational in October 2013.
More Peeler History HERE
The Whimsical Watcher 
Love and light,

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