The Peel Web

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Contemporary comments on the police

Liberty or death! Britons!! Honest men!!! The Time has at last arrived. We assure you that six thousand cutlasses have been removed from the Tower for the use of Peel's Bloody Gang. These damned Police are now to be armed. Englishmen, will you put up with this?

From an early leaflet against the police

I find a general suspicion that your policemen are not paid enough. Three shillings a day for men who can read, to say nothing of understanding and carrying out printed instructions, seems totally inadequate. Every workman has five shillings a day. Can you expect to have harder duties done for about half a common workman's wages.

From a police official

Policemen's boots are of two sizes only - the too small and the too large. The latter are by far the more numerous; so it is easy to judge a policeman by his boot which seems about twice as big as anyone else's. These boots, or rather boats, presumably are of leather; but they look as clumsy and as awkward as if they were made of cast iron.

Punch magazine, 1844.

I had to put on a swallow-tail coat and a rabbit-skin high top hat covered with leather; a pair of Wellington boots and a belt with a great brass buckle. My hat was slipping all over my head. My boots, which were two sizes too large, were rubbing the skin off my heels.

A policeman describing his uniform (1855)

A Peeler's uniform was designed for the practicalities of the job: the stiff collar prevented the constable from being garroted or strangled from behind. The armband showed that the officer was on duty.  Although to begin with, the police wore white, lightweight trousers in the summer, they were soon abandoned.  Each constable wore a leather belt to which his truncheon and lantern were attached; he also wore a stove-pipe hat, strong enough to protect his head and sturdy enough to stand on so he could see over walls. On ceremonial occasions, the constable wore a Peeler's hangar (sabre) and sheath.

However, Peel seems to have been pleased with his police force.

Liberty does not consist in having your houses robbed by organised gangs of thieves

Sir Robert Peel

I have good reason for thinking that one of my police constables, if he is single, can find, out of his pay of a guinea a week:

  1. lodgings
  2. medical attention
  3. very comfortable living standards
  4. clothing and after all these
  5. save ten shillings a week out of his pay

Sir Robert Peel

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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