In 1792 in response to concerns about policing in the metropolis Parliament passed the Middlesex Justices Act. This established 7 ‘Police offices’ in the capital (excluding the City of London – which had its own at Guildhall and Mansion House) each staffed by 3 salaried justices of the peace and a team of officers (or ‘runners’ as the Bow Street men were called).
By the middle of the 1800s London had 13 Police Courts served by 23 stipendiary magistrates. These were former lawyers (with at least 7 years bar experience) and to attract good legal minds the government paid them the princely sum of £1,400 a year. Many established strong reputations for harshness, efficiency or kindness through the reflected lens of the newspaper reporters.
The courts dealt with a tremendous variety of crimes and incidents and the London press soon fund them to be a rich source of news for their growing readership. Not everything involved crime and so the reports from the courts are a rich source of social and cultural history.This blog takes the stories from the police courts and gives a little bit of historical context where its needed.
All comments welcome!
The author is Dr Drew Gray a lecturer in the history of crime at the University of Northampton. Drew is the current head of the History department at Northampton and has published a number of books on the subject of crime and punishment.
His latest text (Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1660-1914) is available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crime-Policing-Punishment-England-1660-1914/dp/1441117652 or directly from the author (please see the contact details page).
Drew gives local talks to conferences and History groups in London and Northamptonshire and is happy to respond to requests from schools, colleges and the media. Drew has done numerous radio and television work including telling Len Goodman all about his family’s criminal ancestors!