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Metropolitan Police Records of Service

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The Metropolitan Police Act 1829 defined the original Metropolitan Police District as an area of about seven miles radius from Charing Cross. Within the next year seventeen police divisions were set up and centred on the following areas:

A - Westminster; B - Chelsea; C - Mayfair and Soho; D - Marylebone; E - Holborn; F - Kensington; G - Kings Cross; H - Stepney; K - West Ham; L - Lambeth; M - Southwark; N - Islington; P - Peckham; R - Greenwich; S - Hampstead; T - Hammersmith and V - Wandsworth.

In 1865 three more divisions were created: W - Clapham; X - Willesden and Y - Holloway, and J Division (Bethnal Green) was added in 1886. Maps of the districts and their changing boundaries can be found under the reference MEPO 15.

The Bow Street Horse Patrol was incorporated into the force in 1836 and operated in the outlying Metropolitan divisions. The second Metropolitan Police Act 1839 converted the River Thames force into the Thames Division, absorbed the Bow Street Foot Patrol and extended the Metropolitan Police District to a fifteen mile radius.

The establishment of the Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the police of the Royal Dockyards and military stations, Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich from 1860 until 1934 and Rosyth in Scotland from 1914 until 1926; information about dockyard police prior to 1860 might be found in the civil pensions for artificers and labourers (ADM 23).

Attempts to incorporate the City of London police into the force were unsuccessful and it has always retained its independence (see Other Forces).

Each division was in charge of a superintendent, under whom were four inspectors and sixteen sergeants. The regulations demanded that recruits should be under thirty-five, well built, at least five feet seven in height, literate and of good character. The minimum age is usually considered to be twenty years but the certificates of service (MEPO 4/361-477) include recruits as young as eighteen; service before the age of twenty was not considered for pension purposes.

Staff Records

Metropolitan Police staff records have not survived in their entirety.

Nearly all the staff records detail name, rank, warrant number, division and dates of appointment and removal. Information addition to this has been noted in the records listed below:

Numerical registers of warrant numbers 1-3147, September 1829 - March 1830 (MEPO 4/31-32) give the officer's height and cause of removal from the force.

Alphabetical register, 1829-1836 (HO 65/26) gives dates of promotion or demotion.

Alphabetical registers of joiners, September 1830 - April 1857; July 1878-1933 (MEPO 4/333-338). The earliest volumes give names and addresses of referees.

Attestation ledgers for warrant numbers 51491-146379, February 1869 - May 1958 (MEPO 4/352-360) give signatures of the recruit and witness.

Certificate of service records for warrant numbers 74201-97500, January 1889 - November 1909 (MEPO 4/361-477) give a description of recruit, date of birth, trade, marital status, residence, number of children, name and place of last employer, previous public service, surgeon's certificate, postings to divisions, dates of promotion or demotion and cause of removal.

Registers of leavers, March 1889 - January 1947 (MEPO 4/339-351) give class of officer, number of certificate granted if not dismissed (1. Excellent, 2. Very Good. 3, Good, 4. Open, i.e. no comment), date certificate sent to division, number of documents an officer entitled to, according to regulations, and date documents sent to division. These last two details are phased out around 1913-1914 and the comments on an officer's conduct are no longer expressed numerically. The abbreviation R.P. stands for 'resignation permitted' and is replaced in October 1920 by R.R. 'required to resign'. The divisional abbreviation C.O. stands for 'Commissioner's Office'.

An incomplete nominal index of officers covering the surnames with the initial letter of A - Brazier, largely drawn from the registers of joiners, 1829-1836, is held at the Reference Desk, Reference Room, location A4/18.

Also held at the Reference Desk, Reference Room, location A/19 is an index to officers who joined the Metropolitan Police between 1880-1889.

Women police patrols were appointed to the force in February 1919 but they were not sworn in as constables with powers of arrest until April 1923. Unfortunately their records of service do not seem to have survived.

Pension Records

Before the Police Pensions Act 1890 pensions were granted on a discretionary basis. The Act provided a legal right to a pension after twenty-five years service, and a modified pension or gratuity if discharged medically unfit. Pensions and gratuities, 1829-1859, are mentioned in the early series of correspondence and papers (MEPO 5/1-90).

Records of Metropolitan Police pensioners who retired or resigned between 1852 and 1932 and who were granted or (after 1890) qualified for a police pension are to be found in class MEPO 21. These contain detailed personal records, including physical description, date and place of birth, marital status, dates of service. Before 1923, names of parents and next of kin are also given. To use this class it is necessary to know the approximate date of retirement.

Post 1932 pension records are held by MPS Police & Civil Staff Pensions, LogicaCMG - Pensions, PO Box 56332, London SE1 0UY.

Other Sources

The following records might supplement information found in the staff records described above:

Returns of deaths whilst serving, 1829-1889 (MEPO 4/2) give the cause of death.

Police Orders (MEPO 7) contain notification of personnel matters arranged annually. They are closed for fifty years. Details of officers pensioned, promoted, dismissed and transferred have been indexed for some of these volumes and added to the class (MEPO 7/156-164). An alphabetical index of officers who joined between 1880 and 1889, compiled from the Police Orders of those years (MEPO 7/42-51), is available in the Reference Room. Each entry consists of surname with at least one forename, warrant number, date of joining and (where available) date of leaving.

Joining papers and particulars of service of certain distinguished officers have been preserved amongst the Special Series of correspondence and papers from the Commissioner's Office (MEPO 3/2883-2921). These personnel files are subject to closure for at least seventy-five years.

Incomplete divisional records for A, B, E, F, G, H, K, L, M, N, R and Y divisions are held by the MPS Historical Collection, Unit 7, Meridian Trading Estate, Bugsby's Way, Charlton London SE7 7SJ .

Thames Division ledgers are held at Wapping Police Station Museum, 98 Wapping High Street, London, EC1. The Metropolitan Police Historical Museum and the Wapping Police Station Museum will try to answer written enquiries.

Files on awards of the Kings Police Medal from its introduction in 1909 can be found under the honours and awards subject code in the list to registered papers of the Home Office (HO 45) and a list of awards, 1909-1912, is given in MEPO 2/1300.

Other Forces

Police records of other forces are not public records. Those which survive are held either by the appropriate local record office or the force itself.

Correspondence relating to colonial police forces can be found in the papers of the Colonial Office but the records of the forces themselves, like those of local forces in this country, are not held here but might well have been deposited in the archives of the country to which they relate.

The City of London Police Records Office, 26 Old Jewry, London EC2R 8OJ possesses registers listing every member of the force since warrant numbers were introduced on 9 April 1832 together with personal files on 95% of officers who have served since that date.

Records for the railway police of the various railway companies do not appear to be amongst the railway staff records held at the Public Record Office, but information about the numbers and organisation of railway police circa 1900 can be found in RAIL 527/1036. The occasional references to 'Police Department' in the railway staff records relate to signalmen, etc.

There is a separate PRO leaflet describing records of service of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Administrative Records

Other departmental records relating to the Metropolitan and other police forces can be found in MEPO 2, MEPO 3, MEPO 5 and MEPO 7 and amongst the records of the Home Office.

© Crown Copyright, August 1991
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