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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/276

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1779

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 6 production units.

Name of creator(s): City of London Police Force | Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

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.

In 1911 it was decided to form Police Reserves to cope with any civil disturbances which might arise, and to avoid recourse to military assistance. Two reserves to the City Police were then formed: the first Police Reserve, consisting of pensioners from the regular police prepared to rejoin when required in time of emergency; and the second, or Special Police Reserve (later renamed the Special Constabulary), consisting of citizens of suitable age and physical fitness, who would register their names as willing to undertake to serve as special constable in the event of an emergency arising to require their services. The registered members were formed into divisions, and provisional arrangements made for calling out and swearing them in emergency arose. In 1939 the strength of the Special was 2014. Many members of the Special Constabulary undertook full time police duties during the war, temporarily becoming members of the branch of the Civil Defence organization known as the Police War Reserve.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the City of London Police; comprising police rate books for each ward, 1906-1907; and precept from the Lord Mayor to ensure that ward constables and other personnel are prepared for Lord Mayor's Day, 1779.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

CLC/276/MS03056: rates; CLC/276/MS24583: precept.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, which merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.


Related material:

For the City of London Police Force see also CLA/048.

DESCRIPTION NOTES 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: August to October 2010.

Community charge | Taxation | Fiscal policy | Finance
Constables | Police personnel | Emergency services personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People
Local taxation | Taxation | Fiscal policy | Finance
Police management | Police | Law enforcement | Social control, formal | Sociology

Personal names

Corporate names
City of London Police Force | Corporation of London

City of London | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe