The Thin Blue Line

Exactly 185 years ago on 30th September 1829 at 6pm the first Metropolitan Police Constables marched out onto the streets of London.

Paid 21/- [£1.05] a week there was only 895 of them to keep order in a city of 1.2 million inhabitants.

This is just one of many splendidly curious facts about the Capital’s police force – sorry police service.

Tooled up
Founded by the then Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel (hence the nicknames ’bobbies’ or earlier ’peelers’), they were unarmed but had access to 50 flintlock pistols and cutlasses should the need arise.

The Guv’nor
The Metropolitan Police Service (’Met’) and The City of London Police Service are the only ones whose head is a commissioner; the rest of England has a chief constable. The Met’s head is England’s senior police officer, its current incumbent has made an arrest at every level of his career.

Just the job
The Met’s official newspaper is called ’The Job’, written not only for service members, the public may obtain a copy from their local nick.

Good Evening, All
The country’s first police TV drama was called Dixon of Dock Green and was a spin off from a 1950 film entitled The Blue Lamp. It would start with George Dixon played by Jack Warner outlining that week’s story standing in front of the station’s blue lamp. But Britain’s original cop shop had a white light. Queen Victoria’s husband Albert died in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle. When she attended the nearby Royal Opera House the lamp was changed to white.

Line of duty
Less than a year after the Met was founded PC Long [G1715] was stabbed to death when he challenged three suspects near Gray’s Inn Lane.

Helping police with their enquiries
On 15th August 1842 after newspapers criticised the Met’s failure to apprehend Daniel Good for the murder of his wife the detective branch was set up with just two inspectors and six sergeants.

Long arm of the law
In 1848 PC Daniel Mink was struck with his own truncheon, made of bamboo at that time, by a man attempting to free a prisoner at St. Giles.

Fire up the Quattro!
In 1858 the first acquisition of police vans for conveying prisoners. These were horse-drawn and known as ’Black Marias’, possibly named after Maria Lee, a large black woman who kept a Boston boarding house in the 1820s with such severity that she became more feared than the police, who called on her to help them catch and restrain criminals.

Drunk and disorderly
In December 1861 police were ordered not to borrow money from publicans, yet two years later 215 officers were dismissed for drunkenness.

Read them The Riot Act
When five pirates from the ship Flowery Lane were executed at Newgate, it took 800 officers to keep the peace still wearing Wellington boots which would later be abolished from the standard uniform.

Bang to rights
On 9th December 1868 the world’s first experimental traffic lights outside the House of Commons exploded injuring a police constable.

Get yer strides on son, you’re nicked
It was not until 1869 that police officers were permitted to wear plain clothes when off duty, beards and moustaches were also allowed to be on shown both on and off duty.

It’s a fair cop
A rule in 1873 stated: ’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.’

Photo: The Blue Lamp © Geoff Wilkinson – All rights reserved. See Geoff Wilkinson Photography. Geoff believes his picture taken outside Wanstead Police Station could be of the last blue lamp outside a police station in London

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