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Anniversary of the founding of London's Metropolitan Police

This week's blog celebrates police ancestors with today (29 September 2017) being the 188th anniversary of the founding of London's Metropolitan Police

On 29 September 1829, 188 years ago to the day, the Metropolitan Police of London (later also known as the Met) was founded. Although this was first professional police force in England, there had been local constables throughout the 18th century. From the 1730s, some towns and cities paid for watchmen or constables to patrol the streets at night. In 1749, Henry Fielding set up the Bow Street Runners and in 1763, his brother, Sir John Fielding brought in the Bow Street Horse Patrol.

A Peeler circa 1850s (c)
Unknown - http://www.victorianstrollers.co.uk/stevesuniforms/peeler/peeler1.jpg
Outside of London, the first professional police force in Britain, the City of Glasgow Police, was established in 1800. Railway police began in 1830 with the creation of Liverpool and Manchester Railway's own force. But London's law and order remained chaotic with only 450 constables and 4,500 night watchmen to keep the peace.

Famously, the then Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel's Metropolitan Police Act 1829 created the first full-time professional police force. The new Bobbies or Peelers, as they became known after their founder, covered a 7-mile radius area outside of the City of London. The City gained its own police force in 1832, which was known as the City of London Police in 1839. 

Highgate Cemetery Burial Register entry for Robert Grant VC
The Deceased Online database holds the burial and cremation records of several police officers. One of the most remarkable is Robert Grant VC (1837-1867), a police constable, soldier and Victoria Cross recipient who lies buried in Highgate Cemetery.

The grave of Sergeant Robert Grant in London's Highgate Cemetery (c) Wikimedia Commons @stephencdickson
 After a distinguished military career in which he was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Robert Grant enlisted as a constable in the Metropolitan Police, number 306. Although Grant was born in Harrogate in Yorkshire, he would live for the remainder of his life in London. He served in the northern suburbs of the capital, in the Y Division Holloway. Sadly, in 1867, when he was aged just 30, Grant's life was cut short by consumption - the scourge of the Victorian era. He had been living off the Caledonian Road, which runs between Holloway and King's Cross. He was buried not far from Holloway in Highgate Cemetery. Despite his excellent military and police service, Grant was buried in a pauper's grave with no headstone. In recent years, his work and bravery has been rediscovered and celebrated publicly. A headstone has been erected in the cemetery and a plaque dedicated to him on the War Memorial in Harrogate.

For further information on the past 188 years of the Metropolitan Police, see the Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection online at https://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/ 

Do you have ancestors who served in the Metropolitan Police Force, City of Glasgow Police, City of London Police, as a railway police officer, or with any other police force across Britain? We would love to hear from you in the Comments Box below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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