Monday, March 23, 2009

The London of the Ton Part V

by Ann Lethbridge

While Michele is in transports over Australia (pun intended though not very good) I am still poking around Regency London.

You may have notice an addition to the side-bar. The link to the Thames River Police. While we are all aware of the existence of Bow Street Runners, established in 1749, an equally significant organized police force came into being in 1798.

The Thames River Police



In 1792 Parliament passed the Justice of the Peace, Metropolis Act (32 Geo.III, c.53), which established seven public offices in various parts of London, with three paid Justices attached to each.

Amongst them were offices at High Street, Shadwell, and Lambeth Street, Whitechapel, with jurisdiction over districts which are now part of the Thames Magistrate's Court area. They also had the jurisdiction over offenses on the River Thames or in connection with goods taken from vessels in the river. Not that they did a very good job on the latter. About £500,000 worth of imports were going missing every year. Never mind what disappeared from the exports.


Several people lobbied for the need for a police force to deal with theft on the River. The Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed to pay part of the expenses of a Marine Police Establishment, the West India merchants invited Magistrate Patrick Colquhoun (pictured here) to be superintend the creation of that establishment.

The Secretary of State arranged for a substitute to take Colquhoun's duties at Queen's Square so that he could devote his time to the new institution.

On June 15th 1798, the merchants' committee nominated John Harriott to the Secretary of State for appointment as resident magistrate.
The West India Docks in London.

More on this fascinating police force next time. Until then, Happy Rambles.