Policemen in Mid Nineteenth Century Whitechapel

Policemen in Mid Nineteenth Century Whitechapel

Waterson, Jill

Published Online in (2011)


Much has been written about the policing of Whitechapel at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888, and later incidents. This paper focuses on an earlier period, and considers what it was like to be a policeman in Whitechapel in the mid nineteenth century. Issues examined include the background of the men who joined the police, the nature of their work, and what happened to them. This is done primarily through an analysis of 1851 census records of policemen resident in Whitechapel Registration District, surviving police records of H Division, and court reports. The life stories of 2 of the policemen are also presented, selected to show different starting points and outcomes. 

H Division, which served Whitechapel, was formed on 1st February 1830. By August 1830, it consisted of a Superintendent, 4 inspectors, 18 sergeants, and 168 constables, making a total of 191. The boundaries of H Division were “north along the City of London boundary line to Hackney Road, east to White Street, south through Charles Street into New Road, Cannon Street Road, Old Gravel Lane to the riverside at Wapping, then westwards to the Tower of London and back along the City Boundary.”

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