Borough & County Police

Brighton & Doncaster Borough

Fig 1: Brighton & Doncaster

Following the introduction of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 one of the next pieces of legislation enabling the formation of a police force was the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. The result of this reform was to allow 178 boroughs to form a watch committee, which in turn had to establish and supervise a local police force.

In 1839 the County Police Act enabled justices of the peace to form police forces within their counties for the preservation of peace and protection of the inhabitants. This legislation was not compulsory (known as the Permissive Act) and the take up was patchy with no single force model being developed. This shaky start to the formation of county forces necessitated further legislation and in 1856 the County and Borough Police Act (known as the Compulsory Act) made the provision of a police force compulsory. Each county was under the direction and control of a chief constable, but did not include those areas covered by a borough force who maintained their independence.

Figure 1 shows truncheons from the borough forces of Brighton and Doncaster. Both are made by the company Parker Field & Sons and are stamped with the makers name ‘PARKER 233 HOLBORN’ into the end of the handle.

The Brighton truncheon is 17½ inches long and decorated with a crown surmounting the Victorian arms within a Garter, and inscribed ‘BRIGHTON / POLICE’ in the cartouche.

The Doncaster truncheon is only 12¾ inches long and decorated with the borough arms. The size indicates it was probably issued to inspectors and superintendents. Doncaster’s system of policing had been in development since 1802 and when the 1835 Act was introduced it is unlikely it changed much, and most of the watchmen, or constables probably just transferred across to the new force. When this truncheon was issued the force would have comprised of no more than 19 officers.

Gloucester & Godalming edited

Fig 2: Gloucester & Godalming

Figure 2 shows truncheons from the borough forces of Gloucester and Godalming. The Gloucester example is another from the company of Parker Field & Sons. It is 17½ inches long and decorated with a crown over the arms for Gloucester and bears the title ‘GLOUCESTER / POLICE’ within the cartouche. It probably relates to Gloucester City Police, which was formed on 26 February 1836 and up to 1859 had between 16 and 20 offices. On 1 May 1859 the Gloucester City Police voluntarily amalgamated with Gloucestershire Constabulary. Using the maker and force amalgamation details it means this piece can be approximately dated between 1842 and 1859.

A police force had existed in Godalming since 1825 when constables were appointed under a Local Improvement Act. In 1851 the borough police voluntarily amalgamated with the newly formed Surrey Constabulary, but this was not a harmonious relationship and in 1857 the Godalming authorities re–established their own borough police, with two men.

In order to maintain a borough force certain qualifying criteria had to be met, which were often subject to change. In 1888 a Local Government Act was introduced which meant that only boroughs with a population in excess of 10,000 could retain their own force. As a result Godalming was again swallowed up by the county constabulary.

Other effects of this act included replacing the unelected justices of the peace with a new body to manage the police called the Standing Joint Committee. Any new municipal borough now had to have a population of not less than 20,000 inhabitants to set up their own force. As a result of this legislation the number of borough forces fell from 220 to 181.

The Godalming truncheon measures 17¾ inches in length and is decorated with a crown over a block ‘VR’ cipher, a coat of arms and the initials ‘G C’, which presumably stands for Godalming Constabulary. The arms on this piece can easily be overlooked as what at first appearance looks like an unusual shaped cartouche inscribed with the date ‘1846’ over the number ‘2’ is in fact a woolsack. This is the key element of the arms and alludes to the fact that Godalming was dependent upon the woollen industry for several hundreds of years.

Kent & Northants

Fig 3: Kent & Northants

Figure 3 shows truncheons from the county constabularies of Kent and Northamptonshire. The Kent County Constabulary became operational on 20 May 1857 with 222 officers, and truncheons from this period are not uncommon. The example shown is decorated with a crown over a script ‘VR’ cipher and inscribed ‘KENT’ in the cartouche. It is stamped with the makers details ‘PARKER 233 HOLBORN’ into the end of the handle.

A number of examples have been recorded where additional divisional information has been recorded in gold paint just above the handle. One such example was marked ‘DARTFORD DIV 2’ and another is recorded for Rochester.

Northamptonshire Constabulary was a considerably smaller force than Kent; being formed in April 1840 with 51 officers, which grew to approximately 137 by 1882. The truncheon shown is like the previous example by Parker Field & Sons and stamped with their name in a similar manner. It is a relatively plain and uninteresting example in terms of its aesthetic appearance, but rare in that Parker Field normally produced more far more elaborate pieces.

This example is 17½ inches in length and inscribed along the body ‘Northamptonshire’. The reverse is deeply engraved with a large crown over a ‘VR’ cipher and ‘N’. This was probably applied at the time of manufacture as the black body paint fills the impressed mark. It is also stamped with the number ‘149’ into the end of the handle, which has been carefully done so as not to obliterate the maker’s name.