At our regular October meeting of the Society we were pleased to welcome Mr Graham Sutherland, historian, tourist guide and retired police officer, to talk to us about “The Development of the Police”. The talk was also accompanied by a digital film show which served to illustrate the many and varied stages which the development had gone through before arriving at the “Police Force” which we have come to accept and rely upon today.
Mr Sutherland commenced his presentation by mentioning Sir Robert Peel who, in 1829 is credited with setting up and organising a nationwide group whose job it was to protect the law abiding public from criminal activities of others and who came to be known as “Peelers” or “Bobbies” He then went back in time to the Saxon period of British history and the employment, by Lords of the Manor, of Tything Men who collected monies from the tenants. He also mentioned terms such as Hue and Cry, Pricking and Charlies all of which were related to someone involved in maintaining some form of law and order. Charlies were a form of night watchman during the time of Charles II. Mr Sutherland went on to talk about law and order in the late 17th century to the early 18th century and in particular to an individual, named Jonathan Wilde who operated on both sides of the law. He made his name in London where he was known as “The thief taker” but was also operating on the wrong side of the law. He was eventually caught, imprisoned and eventually hanged at Tyburn on 24th May 1725. Finally the presentation dealt with the terms “Coppers” who took their name from the copper buttons on their tunics, Bow Street Runners, smuggling gangs, police, fire brigades and Francis Galton of Birmingham, credited with the development of the finger print classification system and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, another man from the Midlands who was credited as being a forerunner in forensic pathology.