Sir Robert Peel (5 February 1788 - 2 July 1850)
The Maintenance of Law and Order before 1829
had few resources to cope with riot, crime and disorder. Country
parishes and smaller market towns had constables and the local watch and
ward. This was the old Tudor system. In London, the Bow Street Runners
were set up in 1742. Troops were used to keep order. Local militias were
used for local problems. Spies were used to track down those who were
suspected of disaffection. The industrial revolution put new pressures
on society, leading to violence. Collective living led to collective
organisation, which helped to create social disorder on a larger scale.
The Penal Code was severe with almost two hundred capital offences and
other punishments including transportation. This actually encouraged
more serious crime as evidenced by the idiom, "I might as well be hanged
for a sheep as a lamb". However, prisons were still dens of iniquity,
even after Peel's reforms of the 1820s. As Home Secretary, he undertook
an overhaul of the prisons and also a large-scale reform of the penal
code. Eventually prisons did improve although much of the pioneering
work was done by people such as Sir Samuel Romily and Elizabeth Fry.
Debate about the creation of a standing police force in England raged
during the early part of the 19th century. Confronted with political
objections and fears of potential abuse Robert Peel (later Sir Robert
Peel) sponsored the first successful bill creating a bureaucratic police
force in England.
In 1829 Peel's Metropolitan Police Act was passed by Wellington's
government as a political compromise, the Act applying only to
London. Sir Robert Peel could now established the Metropolitan
Police Force. The jurisdiction of the legislation was limited to the
Metropolitan London area, excluding the City of London and
provinces. The constables employed were affectionately nicknamed
"Bobbies" or "Peelers" (both terms are still used today).
Authentic signature of Sir Robert Peel
- All London's police were the responsibility of one authority,
under the direction of the Home Secretary, with headquarters at
- 1,000 men were recruited to supplement the existing 400 police.
- Being a policeman became a full-time occupation with weekly pay
of 16/- and a uniform.
- Recruits were carefully selected and trained by the
- Funds came from a special Parish Rate levied by the overseers of
- Police were responsible only for the detection and prevention of
Crime and disorder were to be controlled by preventive patrols and no
stipends were permitted for successful solutions of crimes or the
recovery of stolen property. Crime prevention was not the only business
of the new police force: they inherited many functions of the watchmen
- lighting lamplights
- calling out the time
- watching for fires
- providing other public services
The new constables were not immediately
popular. Most citizens viewed constables as an infringement
on English social and political life, and people often
jeered the police. The preventive tactics of the early
Metropolitan police were successful, and crime and disorder
declined. Their pitched battles with (and ultimate street
victory over) the Chartists in Birmingham and London proved
the ability of the police to deal with major disorders and
street riots. Despite the early successes of the
Metropolitan police, the expansion of police forces to rural
areas was gradual. The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835
ordered all incorporated boroughs to set up police forces
under the control of a watch committee, but it was not until
1856 that Parliament mandated that provinces establish
"Bobbies" or "Peelers" (circa 1830)
The Metropolitan Police Act established the principles that
shaped modern English policing. First, the primary means of policing
was conspicuous patrolling by uniformed police officers. Second,
command and control were to be maintained through a centralised,
pseudo-military organisational structure. The first Commissioners
were Charles Rowan (an ex-Colonel) and Richard Mayne (a Barrister).
They insisted that the prevention of crime was the first object of
the police force. Third, police were to be patient, impersonal, and
professional. Finally, the authority of the English constable
derived from three official sources-the crown, the law, and the
consent and co-operation of the citizenry.
St. Peter's Church, Drayton Bassett, where
Sir Robert Peel is buried
Drayton Manor (now demolished) the
home of Sir Robert Peel
SIR ROBERT PEEL'S NINE PRINCIPLES OF POLICING
Original material from "The Web of English History" http://www.historyhome.co.uk
- The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime
- The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent
upon public approval of police actions.
- Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in
voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain
the respect of the public.
- The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured
diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical
- Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public
opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service
to the law.
- Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure
observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of
persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.
- Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the
public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police
are the public and the public are the police; the police being only
members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to
duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of
community welfare and existence.
- Police should always direct their action strictly towards their
functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
- The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and
disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with
Many thanks to Dr Marjorie Bloy for her allowing us to use this information.