Friends of the

Metropolitan Police History

Time Zone: 1856 - 1870


London General Omnibus Company Launched.

County and Borough Police Act. Counties and Boroughs compelled to appoint paid forces and furnish the Home Office with annual crime statistics. Home Office Inspectors of Constabulary Formed.

Detective Branch at Commissioner’s Office increased temporarily by 1 Inspector and 1 Sergeant (Made permanent in 1864).

Murder of John Cook by Dr William Palmer causes public hostility and new Act allows for such cases to be transferred for trial in different part of the country.

New truncheons - 17” long

Jan - Metropolitan Police Act established one Commissioner instead of two.

Mar - Carter Street Police Station opens.

Last gibbet in England demolished at Jarrow.

Mar 3 - First two Assistant Commissioners appointed (Captain Labalmondiere and Captain HARRIS).

Aug - Railways opened to Caterham and Loughton.

Nov - Parochial Cage or Lock-up removed at Beckenham.

Railway extended to Crystal Palace.


Penal Servitude Act abolished Transportation but still continued until 1867.

The Commissioner, Sir Richard MAYNE, is paid a salary of £1,883, and his two Assistant Commissioners are paid salaries of £800 each.

Metropolitan Police Act. Rating etc. for building and improving stations etc.

Jan - Kent Constabulary formed.

Jun 11 - persons killed in Lewisham train crash.

Sep 1 - Metropolitan Police Orders, Instructions and Pawnbroker list first issued in printed form (Printed by Harrison & Co, St Martin’s Lane (previously in manuscript)).


William HERSCHEL used fingerprints in India.

PC Henry MORGAN (Wt No 36449) ‘K’ Division, died from injuries received when attacked while making an arrest during an affray at Stepney.

First acquisition of Police van for conveying prisoners. These were horse-drawn and known as ‘Black Marias’.

Mar 31 - First estimate for English police for year ending - £145,980 (including salaries in Inspectors of Constabulary).

Apr - Queen Victoria opened Chelsea Suspension Bridge

Chelsea Watch House given up (from 1825)


Police Orders of 6 January stated ‘It is a great gratification to the Commissioner that the number of police guilty of the offence of drunkenness during the late Christmas holidays has been much lower than last year.... In A, F and R Divisions only one man was reported in each and in H Division not one man was reported in the present or last year...’

William Herschel uses fingerprints in India.

Uniform: 4” leather stock worn by police officers around their necks reduced to 2” Discontinued in 1880.

Mar 31 - Estimate for English and Scottish police for year just ended - £214,200.

April - Part of Bow and Poplar Sub Divisions (Middlesex) amalgamated to create the first West Ham Sub Division (Essex) - K Division.

Aug 19 - Uniform: Metropolitan Police Order published forbidding carrying of umbrellas on duty. (Police Order 19 August 1859)


Constance KENT case in Wiltshire/Somerset, in which Jonathan Whicher is criticised for his arrest of Constance Kent, who, 5 years later, confessed to the murder of her young brother.

Age for joining Metropolitan Police: Minimum - 18 years, Maximum - 35 years (until 1890).

Police began the use of the ‘Bischoffsheim Hand Ambulances’ for injured, sick or drunk people. In use until 1938.

Maurice DRUMMOND appointed Receiver.

Oct 3 - Metropolitan Police Act. Metropolitan Police took over Woolwich, Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport and Pembroke Dockyards.


Police Orders on the 25 January made allowance for one third of the Metropolitan Police Officers in Dockyards ‘to be relieved each Sunday, to give them opportunity of attending Divine Service.

The Metropolitan Police acted as firemen at the British Museum. The Superintendent in charge said of them, ‘From their manner of doing the work, I should be inclined to place considerable confidence in these men in an emergency’.

Dissection of murderers’ bodies abolished.

Capital Punishment - Only four offences punishable - Murder, Treason, Piracy with Violence and setting fire to arsenals and/or dockyards.

Uniform: Duck Trousers as part of the uniform abolished.

Last execution for attempted murder (Martin DOYLE).

Metropolitan Police Act (Pensions).

Metropolitan Police (Receiver) Act.

City of London coal posts removed from a 20 mile radius around the Metropolis to the MPD boundary under Act of Parliament.

Mar 23 - Trams first introduced in London. Removed in 1862 owing to inconvenience to other road users. Re-introduced May 9 1870.

Dec - ‘Police not to borrow money from publicans’ (Police Order 12 December 1861).


Second Great International Exhibition at South Kensington Formation of a new temporary ‘X’ Division to police the Exhibition.

Superannuation Fund of 1839 found insolvent. 50ths substituted for 30ths. Discontent led to strike in later years.

Strength of Force 7,112. Population 3,110,707.

Uniform - Official Belts issued to all ranks, 2.5“ wide, leather with snake-type clasp.

May - Lambeth Suspension Bridge replaces former Horse-Ferry.

Nov - Outbreak of garrotting in London.

The present Westminster Bridge opens to replace the original 1750 structure


PC William John DAVEY, (Wt No 27702) ‘T’ Division, shot through the head on his doorstep by a man whom he was investigating for a crime at Acton.

Drunkenness was still a problem in the force and in this year 215 officers were dismissed for this reason.

Victoria Embankment constructed.

City of London Police nearly taken over by the Metropolitan Police after failure to keep order for passage of Princess Beatrice through the city.

City of London Traffic Regulation Act.

Uniform: Top hat replaced by helmet originally in the inner divisions and then in the outer divisions (1863 - 1864).

Jan - Metropolitan Railway opens the world’s first underground Railway between Bishop’s Road, Paddington and Farringdon Street.

Oct - Uniform: Truncheon cases introduced to be carried on waist belt. (Police Order 21 October 1863).


Uniform: Wellington Boots abolished as part of the uniform. Tunic replaced the swallow-tail coat (Tunic had eight white buttons down front and two at rear until 1897). Plain stand collar with letters and numbers.

Uniform: Helmet completely replaced the Top-Hat.

Uniform: Belts issued to Constables to Inspectors worn with tunic, double thick right side with hook to carry truncheon case.

Uniform: Sergeants issued with badge of rank of three Chevrons.

Bridewell Prison demolished.

Metropolitan Police Act (Street Music).

Execution of 5 pirates of the ship ‘Flowery Land’ at Newgate. The Metropolitan Police supplied nearly 800 officers to keep the peace.

Detective Branch strength - 3 Inspectors and 12 Sergeants.

Jan - Charing Cross Railway terminus opened by the South-Eastern Railway Co (SER) on land formerly occupied by Hungerford Market.

Mar 11 - Classes I - IV for Constables and I - II for Sergeants created (Abolished 1890 vide Police Order dated 8 December 1890).

Uniform: Sergeants change Armlets from right arm to left arm (see 1835).

July - Thomas Briggs murdered in a North London railway compartment near Hackney Wick by Franz Muller - the first Railway murder. Muller hanged on 14 Nov 1864.


Further extensions of the Metropolitan Police District in terms of the area patrolled in north east London.

Locomotives Act required every powered vehicle had to be preceded by a man on foot with a red flag.

Oct 21 - ‘W’, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ Divisions established.

Dec 4 - Educational examination for promotion instituted.


Agitation over Reform Bill.

3,200 police under the command of Commissioner Richard MAYNE were used to control a serious riot in Hyde Park. 28 police officers were permanently disabled and MAYNE was hit by a stone which cut his head open. He was forced to call in the Military to restore order.

The Duddlewick murder case, investigated by Inspector Richard Tanner, uses evidence about blood from Professor Taylor.

Jan - Metropolitan Fire Brigade established.

Jan 23 - PC William FITZGERALD (Wt No 36371), ‘F’ Division, died from injuries when violently assaulted by a drunken prisoner in Drury Lane.

Mar - Paddington Police Station opened.

Jul 2 - Reform League meeting in Trafalgar Square.

Jul 23 - Reform riots in Hyde Park for several days. 265 officers injured including Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne.

Aug - Wood Green Police Station opened.

Sep - Cannon Street Railway Terminus opened.

Dartford Loop Line via Sidcup opened.

Oct - Mile End Gate and other East End Turnpikes demolished.


Detective Branch Chief Inspector appointed at Commissioner’s Office. Establishment raised to 3 Inspectors, 11 Sergeants and 1 Clerk Personal Secretary.

The Metropolitan Police were severely criticised after commissioner Richard MAYNE ignored a warning about the Clerkenwell Bombing by the Fenians. MAYNE offered his resignation, but it was refused.

Enrolment of Special Constables following Clerkenwell explosions.

Metropolitan Police Street Act (Special Limits). Authorised Shoeblack standings.

Metropolitan Police (Receiver) Act.

Truncheons: Plain clothes officers issued with brass tipstaves.

Jan - 40 killed in Regents Park Ice disaster.

April - Hyde Park and Green Park policed by Met.

Sep - Station Codes introduced for telegraphic communication based on the fisrt two letters of the station.

Oct - All Divisional HQ Stations equipped with telegraph codes, eg AD = King Street.

Dec 13- Clerkenwell explosions (Fenians)

Sergeant Brett was murdered on 18 September 1867 whilst in charge of the prison van escorting Thomas Kelly and another Fenian to Bellevue Prison.   There was a crowd of people who attacked the van, the operation being masterminded by ‘Colonel’ O’Sullivan Burke who was later arrested in London and whose attempted rescue was the cause of the Clerkenwell prison explosion.   Michael Barrett, the only man convicted of murder from this explosion, was the last man to be publicly executed in Britain.


Special recruitment of 1,200 men.

Transportation to Western Australia ended.

Police Rate Act.

Metropolitan Fairs Act.

Last public execution in Scotland (Mary REID).

PC Joseph EITE (Wt No 41044) ‘V’ Division, died from injuries received by being kicked by a drunken man in Wandsworth.

May 6 - Report of Departmental Committee on Metropolitan Police.

May 26 - Last public execution in England (Michael BARRATT - Fenian). (Outside Newgate Prison).

Jun - Officers granted one days leave per week (Police Order 17 June 1868) (Prior to this officers had one day off per fortnight).

Jun 2 - Insp Daniel BRADSTOCK (Wt No 20585), ‘A’ Division, stabbed by an insane prisoner at King Street Police Station.

Aug 13 - First 'private' execution (Thomas WELLS). (Maidstone).

Oct - Leather gloves issued to police for seizing dogs (Police order 8 October 1868).

St Pancras Railway Terminus opened.

Dec 9 - Experiments in traffic control signals outside House of Commons, in Bridge Street, New Palace Yard. (Designed by John Peake KNIGHT 1828-1886) PC injured when one exploded.

Dec 26 - Sir Richard MAYNE died. Colonel Douglas Labalmondiere appointed Acting Commissioner.


Habitual Criminals Act introduced Habitual Criminals Register.

Metropolitan Public Carriage Act. Public Service Vehicles.

Licensed by the Commissioner. Standard of fitness. 1500 carriages removed unfit in first year.

Uniform: Wearing of plain clothes when off duty allowed.

Four Districts introduced each under command of a District Superintendent. (Police Order 27 Feb 1869).

Feb 13 - Lt-Colonel Sir Edmund HENDERSON appointed Commissioner.

Mar 30 - Metropolitan Police permitted to wear beards and moustaches.

May 15 - Chief Inspector WILLIAMSON promoted Superintendent in Detective Branch.

Jul 26 - Detective force formed to cover whole of the Metropolitan Police District. Divisional detectives appointed.

Oct - ‘F’ (Covent Garden) Division combined with ‘E’ (Holborn) Division.

Nov - New Blackfriars Bridge and Holborn Viaduct opened.

Dec - East London Railway opened through Brunel’s Thames Tunnel.


The standard height for Metropolitan Police officers was raised to 5ft 8ins, except for Thames Police where it was 5ft 7 ins. (Police Order 3 January 1870).

Truncheons: Tipstaves bore words “Metropolitan Police Constable” in plain clothes.

Prisons became the responsibility of the Home Secretary.

Register for Habitual Criminals now has space for photograph.

Jan 1 - Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage established.

May 9 - Trams re-introduced.

Jun - Annual Reports of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis started as official Command papers (first one published 1869).

Jul - Reserve Police Force formed (Police Order 2 July 1870).

Dec - Fixed points established. (Police Order 5 December 1870).


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