Members Dinner with the Soroptimists 27th February 2019

Dr Timothy Brain, the retired Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, gave an excellent and informative talk on The History of Policing in England and Wales.

He started by asking us if anybody knew who started the British bobby. We all responded Robert Peel. This was partly correct. Two pictures appeared on the screen one of Alfred the Great and the other of Edward 1st.  Robert peel had "moulded" the "law enforcement" structures that had been in place for hundreds of years into the modern policeman that we know. The history books revealed that back in the 6th Century those with power organised their villages and the villagers to follow their rules. After 1066 the Normans thought it all a lacked some discipline so they made the Lords of the Manor swear an oath of allegiance. Court Leets were formed and tithing men appointed. Edward 1st put in place "statutes" and the records of the Court of Winchester mentions the "office of constable". (Constable from the Latin stabuli meaning count of the stable).

Towns people had "Watchmen" who walked up and down the streets shouting "all's well". This carried on until the 18th Century. At one stage there were "Thief Takers", professionals who could collect £40 for every thief they caught. Surprise, surprise it became corrupt.

In the 19th Century Robert Peel restructured the systems that for law enforcement in the City of London and formed what is today's Metropolitan Police. It was not a national system and it was down to future politicians to form the nationwide system that we largely see today.

The oldest county force is Wiltshire. Faced with the problem of where do we get a Chief Constable from go to Ireland. Gloucestershire brought in 40 officers from Ireland. They had been far in advance of the mainland and had the knowledge and experience.

Were our police officers armed in the past. There is a photograph of the Bristol constabulary armed with sabres!

In 1919 the police went on strike. Following this the government of the time set up the Police Federation .

In the 1960s the Panda Car came in and in the 1970s the first women police were to be seen on the beat. (they had been in the Service since WW1).

Finally, Dr Tim showed us pictures of the modern policeman in their various roles including wearing full chemical protection suits.

All in all a very interesting talk.

Report by Trevor Jones

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