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Friday, 10 June 2011

Metropolitan Police Service Records - Those lost registers 1857 - 1869

Most guides to Metropolitan Police Service records held at The National Archives will tell you that there is a gap in the records from 1857 to 1869. This is very true. There is no getting away from it – from April 1857 to February 1869 there are no Joiners Registers, no Attestation Registers and no Registers of Leavers. Does that mean that it will not be possible to find details of a Constable who joined during this period? Most definitely not. You just have to become a paper detective – or find someone who has spent a lifetime working with the records that are now held in the MEPO series. Here is the story of one Constable who spent 2 ½ years with the Met. back in the 1860s.

William Henry SHEAD had been born in 1841 the son of a Superintendent of Police in Herefordshire. By the age of 20 William had followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the local constabulary. But the family’s roots were in London so William journeyed south with the intention of joining the Metropolitan Police – no doubt a recommendation from his father would have gone a long way to getting him the job. He was successful in his application and joined up on 3rd. October 1864 being allocated the warrant number of 45305 – a number that would stay with him throughout his service. Five months later he was advanced from 4th. Class Constable to 3rd. Class Constable. He was serving on E (Holborn) Division and held the divisional number of PC 67E – this “collar number” would change whenever he changed divisions.

It looked as if William was just the sort of officer the Met. was after for one year later he was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to K (Stepney) Division. After a few weeks he impressed so much that he was upgraded to the Division’s Reserve contingent. Reserve Officers were the elite in any division. They were often put on stand by or “Special Reserve Duty” and during this time they were meant to be at home ready for whatever incident might occur. It was they who were called upon to police special occasions and for this honour they received a small additional allowance – which did not go down too well with their colleagues ! William’s collar number when part of the Reserve was PS 652 AR

The honour must have gone to poor William’s head because just six months later he committed a disciplinary offence and found himself reduced in rank back to 3rd. Class Constable. The offence he had committed was that whilst he was meant to be on Special Reserve Duty he had left his home and had been found in a beershop playing skittles with three Police Constables. His new “collar number” was PC 664K.

A few months later William resigned from the Metropolitan Police in order to work for one of the new Colonial Police forces – far away from the UK. A No. 2 certificate was awarded for “good” service.

Most of these details can be found in Metropolitan Police records held at The National Archives – it just takes a lot of perseverance to find them !

If you need a “paper detective” to find that elusive Metropolitan Police Ancestor then I am here to help. I can be reached on the following e-mail address (you will need to type it into your e-mail as this is not a direct link)

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