Crime and PunishmentProvincial Police Forces Return to the main page
Case Study  3 - Did other parts of Britain want to copy the Metropolitan Police? Task Glossary
   
 

Crime prevention in the growing industrial cities of the early 19th century was patchy. Newcastle had an efficient force, under the control of the mayor and council, while the quarter of a million people in Liverpool were policed by a mix of watchmen and parish constables, with another police force for the dock area. Many people argued the case for a proper police force in the cities, while the "Captain Swing" violence of 1828-1832 worried the authorities in rural counties.
However, there was opposition to setting up police forces:

  • There was fear that they would be a military force, crushing freedom.
  • There were demands to keep such forces under local control.
  • There was objection to paying money for them.


The first Acts of Parliament setting up police forces in towns and counties were therefore "permissive": the 1835 Municipal Corporation Act and the 1839 Rural Constabulary Act allowed towns and counties to set up police forces if they wished. By the 1850s only 36 out of the 54 counties had done so (and some forces only covered part of the county); many towns still had no police, and some forces were very small - less than 10 men.
The County Borough Police Act, 1856, compelled all counties and boroughs to have a police force. These forces differed from the Metropolitan Police in several ways. The new provincial police were under the control of local JPs, not central government. They were smaller - 239 separate forces were set up, with big variations of pay and service conditions.

 
Case Study 3 sources
 
Source 5 Source 4 Source 3 Source 2 Source 1