Introduction to Truncheons and Tipstaves

Anyone looking at this site will no doubt instantly recognise the traditional form of the truncheon and will require no further explanation as to what it is and why it was issued. What might not be known is why they were once decorated and why can such a variety of shapes and sizes can be found. However, this instant recognition is not likely to be the same for a tipstaff.

The golden era for decorated truncheons occurred from the late eighteenth century to about 1880. There are of course exceptions and examples dating back to the first half of the eighteenth century are known, but these must be considered as rare. The reason they were decorated is that in addition to being a weapon of defence the decoration was a sign of the holder’s authority. It is this reason that most decoration relates in some way to the monarchy and often to the office of the holder and where they were from.

A tipstaff was carried by the holder of an appointed office, but acted purely as a sign of authority and had no defensive capability because of its size. Most people would describe a tipstaff as a short cylindrical staff topped with a metal crown. There are, however, many wooden truncheons that are so small in their form that they were obviously designed to perform the function of a tipstaff. Therefore the absence of the metal crown does not in my opinion necessarily define these items as a truncheon. This difficulty of sometimes distinguishing the two is the reason I have included both within my collecting interest and have included them on this site.