London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1520 - 2000

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of the City of London Police, 1520-2000, including papers of the Chief office and Police Commissioner; orders and regulations; papers relating to the building and maintenance of police stations; correspondence; press cuttings; reports; leaflets and brochures; issues of Citywatch, the City of London Police Magazine; papers relating to the City of London Police Reserve (Special Constabulary); papers relating to the Detective Division; manuals and orders; papers relating to the police force during World War Two, including Police War Duties Committee minutes; papers, including photographs and plans, relating to the Houndsditch murders, 1910-11; record of the inquest held in 1888 by the Coroner of the City of London on Catherine Eddowes, one of the victims of 'Jack the Ripper', and other correspondence relating to the 'Jack the Ripper' murders; records of predecessors to the City of London Police including constables and watch and ward; and financial accounts.
Extent: 100.5 linear metres
Classification: CITY OF LONDON
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • The City of London have had the right to control their own police force, anciently called 'the watch', from time immemorial. The Watch was controlled through the Watch and Ward Committee under the government of the Aldermen. Constables were appointed annually and were responsible for peace and good order. Constables were chosen from householders acting in rotation, although they often paid for a stand-in to be hired instead. Marshalmen and Night Watchmen were appointed to assist them. In 1693 an Act of Common Council was passed stating that 1000 Watchmen should be constantly on duty in the City from sunset to sunrise - this was called the 'Standing Watch'. In 1737 an Act was passed allowing the Common Council to pass an annual order settling the number of Watchmen and imposing taxes for their maintenance. This was known as the 'Nightly Watch Act'.

    From around 1737 attempts were made to create an equivalent day force. For several years Extra Constables were sworn in to provide assistance to Ward Constables. In 1800 an experimental force of professional police was created to ensure policing during the day as well as at night. In 1834 the Common Council formed the Day Police Committee to send a deputation to the Court of Aldermen asking them to consider ways of providing a permanent day force. In 1838 the Common Council attempted to levy a rate to support a new combined police force for day and night, however, proposals were being put before Parliament to make the City of London part of the Metropolitan Police District. This was strongly opposed by the Corporation and in 1839 they put a Bill into Parliament which led to the 'Act for regulating the Police in the City of London'. This Act established that the Corporation should appoint a suitable person to be Commissioner of the Police Force of the City of London and that they should form a Police Committee to provide supplies for the force and maintain their buildings.

    In 1911 it was decided to form Police Reserves to cope with any civil disturbances which might arise, and to avoid recourse to military assistance. Two reserves to the City Police were then formed: the first Police Reserve, consisting of pensioners from the regular police prepared to rejoin when required in time of emergency; and the second, or Special Police Reserve (later renamed the Special Constabulary), consisting of citizens of suitable age and physical fitness, who would register their names as willing to undertake to serve as special constable in the event of an emergency arising to require their services. The registered members were formed into divisions, and provisional arrangements made for calling out and swearing them in emergency arose. In 1939 the strength of the Special was 2014. Many members of the Special Constabulary undertook full time police duties during the war, temporarily becoming members of the branch of the Civil Defence organization known as the Police War Reserve.
Copyright: City of London
Source of Acquisition:
  • Corporation of London Records Office
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 2018
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: Arranged in sections according to catalogue
Related Material: A policeman known to have lived outside the City, or who belonged to a police division outside the range 1-6 or A-E, is likely to have served with the Metropolitan Police. You should contact The National Archives.

For Corporation of London records relating to the police see: CLA/048: City of London Police, COL/CA/PLA: Court of Aldermen Police Committee, COL/CC/PLC: Court of Common Council Police Committee, COL/CC/SPO: Court of Common Council Special Police Committee, COL/CC/WPC: Watch and Police Committee, COL/CC/WPD: Court of Common Council Day Police Committee, COL/CC/WPS: Court of Common Council Special Day Police and Nightly Watch Committee, COL/PL for maps showing police jurisdiction in London, COL/SVD/PL and COL/PLD/PL for plans of police stations. See also COL/CHD/RT for financial information, COL/AC for historical information, CLA/041 for police reports, COL/CT for charities and COL/CC for byelaws.

LMA also holds the inquest papers on the death of Mary Kelly, see LMA ref: MJ/SPC/NE/Box 3, no.19.
Publication Notes:

For a more detailed account of the foundation of the police force see 'The Corporation of London: its origin, consitution, powers and duties', G Cumberlege (Oxford University Press, 1950).