Friends of the

Metropolitan Police History

Time Zone: 1871 - 1885


Prevention of Crimes Act gave responsibility for keeping the Habitual Criminals Register for England to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

Introduction of the Chief Inspector and Station Police Sergeant ranks to Uniform grades.

Location of Divisions:

  • A - Whitehall
  • B - Westminster
  • C - St James
  • D - Marylebone
  • E - Holborn
  • G - Finsbury
  • H - Whitechapel
  • K - Stepney
  • L - Lambeth
  • M - Southwark
  • N - Islington
  • P - Camberwell
  • R - Greenwich
  • S - Hampstead
  • T - Kensington
  • V - Wandsworth
  • W - Clapham
  • X - Paddington
  • Y - Highgate
  • 1 - Woolwich Dockyard
  • 2 - Portsmouth Dockyard
  • 3 - Devonport Dockyard
  • 4 - Chatham Dockyard
  • 5 - Pembroke Dockyard

Jan - ‘Police not to borrow money from publicans’ - (Police Order 1 January 1871).

Public Carriages- new metal tickets. (Police Order 24 January 1871).

Apr - Police suspended through Venereal Disease - reports to be made (Police Order 3 April 1871).

Apr 21 - As a result of frequent larcenies of linen, the Commissioner, Edmund HENDERSON said, ‘Constables are to call at the houses of all persons on their beat having wet linen in their garden and caution them of the risk they run in having them stolen...’

May - Dogs Act 1871 - stray dogs to be seized by police and sent to Battersea Dogs Home (Police Order of 26 May 1871).

June - Albert Hall opened.


Parish Constables Act (Referred to PCs as tithingmen, headboroughs and borsholders).

Lantern supplied to each sergeant and constable on night-duty (Police Order 6 January 1872).

Licensing Act - see Police Order 8 October 1872 for exemptions.

Pedlars Act.

Parks Regulations Act. Regulations enforced by the Metropolitan Police on duty within the parks (Police Order 9 October 1872).

Metropolitan Police Minstrels formed by ten police officers attached to Cannon Row, supported the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage and raised thousands of pounds for charities. Disbanded 1933.

A Map of the Meropolitan Police District issued to every police station (Police Order 6 January 1872).

Aug - Abolition of parish constables appointments.

Nov - Police strike for the first time (180 men involved). Various men were disciplined or dismissed, although these latter were later allowed back in to the force.

Dec 25 - Murder of Harriet Buswell and arrest of Gottfried Hessel creates a cause celebre on identification evidence and identification parades.


Mr BELT wrongly arrested for drunkenness. Clashes between police and officers of the Life Guards outside Argyll Rooms.

The Metropolitan Police acquire 9 new stations: North Woolwich, Rodney Road (Lock’s Field), Chislehurst, Finchley, Isleworth, Putney, South Norwood, Harrow and Enfield Town.

Legal advisors to the Commissioner appointed.

‘No candidate for the Metropolitan Police can be recommended to the Secretary of State for appointment if he have more than two children depending on him for support’ (General Orders).

Feb - Kew Bridge freed of toll between Middlesex and Surrey.


Red adopted for pillar boxes (previously various colours).

A survey of recruiting over a 2 year period showed that of those who had joined the force, 31% came from land jobs, 12% from military services and 5% from other police jobs. The remainder mostly from manual jobs. The majority of recruits and serving officers came from outside of London.

Feb - Liverpool Street Terminus opened by the Great Eastern Railway Co (GER).

Waterloo Pier floating Police Station (Thames) created, replacing the ship ‘Royalist’.

Oct - The barge ‘Tilbury’ laden with gunpowder explodes on the Regents Canal under the Macclesfield Road Bridge


3 Detectives attached to Thames Division.

Crime Museum started, based partly on powers in Prisoners’ Property Act. (Police Order 25 Aug 1874). Before long dubbed 'The Black Museum' by Press.

Metropolitan Police Magistrates Act.

Uniform: Rank of Station Sergeant introduced with four-bar chevron (Replaced by three chevrons and a crown in 1921).

Metropolitan Police Staff (Superannuation Act).

Oct 4 - New police offices at Great Scotland Yard are taken possession of by the Detective Department and the Public Carriage Department.

Dec - Chimney Sweeps Act 1875 required all Chimney Sweeps to be issued with a certificate by the Police (Police Order 22 December 1875).


Jan - Waltham Abbey Police Station opened.

Jan 8 - The following order was released: ‘Relief from duty during severe weather - during the present severe weather as much indulgence as possible is to be given to the men on night duty, due regard being had to public safety...’

Mar - Tottenham Court Road police station opened. Commercial Street Police Station opened, replacing Church Street, Bethnal Green.

Apr - East London Underground Railway opened Shoreditch to New Cross.

Jul - Staines Police Station opened.

Aug - PC COOK murdered by Charles PEACE.

Dec - Sunbury and Notting Dale Police Stations opened.


Metropolitan Board of Works Act.

Clerkenwell House of Correction/Detention closed down.

Aug 13 - Departmental Committee appointed on State, Discipline and Organisation of the Detective Force of the Metropolitan Police (Report published Jan 25 1878).

Oct 24 - Trial of the Detectives, or ‘Turf Fraud Scandal’ exposed corruption within the force.


Fenian Bomb outrages.

Mar 6 - Charles Edward Howard VINCENT appointed Director of Criminal Investigations, the reformed Detective Branch, which became known as the C.I.D.

Apr 8 - C.I.D. re-organised.

Aug 7 - Departmental Commission appointed on State, Discipline and organisation of the Metropolitan Police.

Sep 3 - Pleasure Steamer ‘Princess Alice’ disaster on Thames. 640 people lost their lives when struck by the ‘Bywell Castle’ of Galleons Reach. (Police Order 9 September 1878 refers) .

Sep 12 - Cleopatra’s Needle erected on the embankment.


First telephone exchange installed in Coleman Street.

Henry Faulds solves a burglary case in Tokyo by comparing two suspects' fingerprints with a mark left at the scene.

Feb 25 - Charles PEACE executed.

May - Lambeth, Vauxhall, Albert, Battersea and Chelsea Bridges now Toll-Free.

May 27 - Report of Departmental Committee on State, Discipline and Re-organisation of the Metropolitan Police (other than the C.I.D.) published.

Jun 7  -Initial rules for dealing with murder cases stated, ‘the body must not be moved, nor anything about it or in the room or place interfered with, and the public must be excluded’.

Jul - Metropolitan District Railway extended to Ealing Broadway.

Jul 29 - Execution of Kate WEBSTER. (Wandsworth Prison).


Sir William HARCOURT at Home Office. Improved Police Stations.

Titley Case (Agent Provocateur).

Convict Supervision Office formed for the assistance and control of convicts discharged upon licence.

Forged reprieve in attempt to stop execution of Charles SHURETY


First public telephone lines to Scotland Yard tried out but discontinued after a short while owing to trivial calls.

Treasury special contributions in respect of mounted and river police ceased.

Mar - Police Stations where dogs are detained to requisition Drinking Troughs for Dogs (Police Order 4 March 1881).

Apr 4 - Old Bow Street Office replaced by new police station and court.

Sep 23 - PC Frederick ATKINS (Wt No 61462), ‘V’ Division, shot three times and fatally wounded when he disturbed an unknown burglar at Kingston Hill.

Oct 12 - Lost Property Office opened at 21 Whitehall Place, S.W.1.


Phoenix Park (Dublin) Murders.

Riots at Bolton.

The growth of London and the area needing policing was illustrated in Tottenham, (‘Y’ Division) when 8 miles of new streets were formed in a year with nearly 4,000 houses on them.

The Metropolitan Police at Devonport Dockyard illustrated the diversity of the role of the force as the Police Fire Brigade had its busiest year since formation with 6 major fires.

The Municipal Corporations Act repealed and replaced the 1835 Act.

May - Queen Victoria declares Epping Forest ‘Free to the public for ever’.

Dec 1 - PC George COLE (Wt No 65227), ‘N’ Division, shot in the head attempting to arrest a burglar (ORROCK) at Dalston.


Uniform: Supply of Police whistles received Home Office approval.

Sir (Alfred) Richard PENNEFATHER appointed Receiver.

Receiver entitled to wear a civil court dress.

Police Gazette transferred from Bow Street to Scotland Yard.

Irish (Special) Branch formed.

Oct - Dynamite explosions on the underground near Charing Cross and Westminster Bridge


Metropolitan Police Act - Assistant Commissioner appointed in charge of Civil business.

James MONRO appointed Assistant Commissioner in charge of Detective Division.

May - Scotland Yard Police HQ and Nelson’s Column dynamited by Fenians. The Special Irish Branch attacked.

Oct - Inner Circle Underground Railway completed, including the Whitechapel branch.


Uniform: Rattle replaced by whistle on day patrol. (Police Order 10 February 1885).

The strength of the force in this year was 13,319, but statistics show that only 1,383 officers were available for beat duty in the day. The population of London at this time was 5,255,069.

Public outraged at the explosions at the Tower of London and Houses of Parliament. Two men were sentenced to penal servitude for life as a result.

Site on Embankment purchased for Metropolitan Police.

In the execution of Robert GOODALE, head severed from body.(Norwich) In the execution of John LEE, trap door failed three times.

Metropolitan Police Streets Act.

Steam launches introduced in Thames Police.

Inspr Thomas Simmons of Essex Constabulary shot dead by burglars near Romford

Jan - Attempt to blow up Westminster Hall averted by action of PC COLE who was awarded Albert Medal for bravery.

Attempt to blow up London Bridge.

Jul - Cutlasses reduced in number to 10 per division (Police Order of 1 July 1885).


Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection

38 Wincanton Road

Noak Hill



  • Email

    Email Us
  • Registered Charity Number: 1167839