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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): COL/CC/WPC

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1701-1840

Level of description: sub-fonds

Extent: 0.5 linear metres

Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The concept of the Court of Common Council grew from the ancient custom of the Folkmoot, when the assent of the citizens to important acts was obtained. This custom was continued by the Mayor who consulted the Commons several times during the 13th century. From 1376 the assembly began to meet regularly and was referred to as the Common Council. It was decided that the Council should be made up of persons elected from each Ward. By 1384 a permanent Common Council chosen by the citizens was established for all time. The Council assumed legislative functions and adopted financial powers, confirmed by Charters of 1377 and 1383. The Council has often used these powers to amend the civic constitution, regulate the election of Lord Mayor and other officials, and amend the functions of the City courts. The Council was judged so successful in the conduct of its duties that it was the only Corporation unreformed by Parliament following the Municipal Corporations Commission report of 1837, while the Corporation Inquiry Commission of 1854 suggested only minor reforms. The work of the Council is conducted by a number of committees, while the whole Council has the right to approve policy, confirm major decisions and sanction expenditure. The committees handle many aspects of the running of the City including land and estates, finance and valuation, open spaces, street improvement and town planning, public health, police, Port of London, civil defence, airports, libraries, markets, education, and law. The Town Clerk has held responsibility for recording the minutes of the Council and its committees since 1274.

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.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Watch and Police Committees, Court of Common Council, including Watch and Ward Committee minutes, 1701 and 1704; Nightly Watch Committee minutes and papers, 1827-1839; Watch and Police Committee minutes, 1839 and Nightly Watch and Police Committee reports, 1827-1834.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright City of London.

Physical characteristics:


Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

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.

Publication note:



Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: February 2009

Night watch | Law enforcement | Social control, formal | Sociology
Police | Law enforcement | Social control, formal | Sociology
Police personnel | Emergency services personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People

Personal names

Corporate names
Nightly Watch and Police Committee | Court of Common Council | Corporation of London
Nightly Watch Committee | Court of Common Council | Corporation of London
Watch and Police Committee | Court of Common Council | Corporation of London
Watch and Ward Committee | Court of Common Council | Corporation of London