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A Policeman’s Lot

Police Constable AH 138 David Hardy - March 1970
Police Constable AH 138 David Hardy – March 1970

theserpentWhen, in 1970, I decided to join the Sussex Police I was aware that my Grandfather, Wilfrid Hardy, had been a Special Constable in Sunderland during WWII and later in London but when I delved into our family history I was to be surprised by how many other ancestors had been policeman.

Fact: The Thin Blue Line, a colloquial term for police and police forces, is derived from The British Army’s traditional red-coated regiments suggesting that a thin line of police officers is all that prevents civilized society from descending into chaos; it can also refer to the brotherhood of the profession.

‘A policeman’s lot is not a happy one…’ so says the song in The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan but, for me, it was a great and varied career. Whilst I may touch on my own experiences this chapter is dedicated to the illustrious officers of the law amongst this family’s ancestors.

The Police Medals awarded to Officers in this family history
The Police Medals awarded to Officers in this family history

Just to get you going here is a bit about one of our coppers…

In the same year that John Brian joined the Metropolitan Police as a constable, the new, and now famous, police offices at Great Scotland Yard were opened for the Detective and Public Carriage Departments. It was also the year that all London’s chimney sweeps had to register with police and obtain a certificate to operate. It is 1875.

Police Constable 59181 John Brian joined the capital’s Police Force on 26 July 1875 and he was posted to P Division – P was for Peckham and Camberwell, where he was to complete the whole of his service. He was 28 years old, born in Lewisham on 18 July 1847, 5ft 8¼ inches tall (173cm) with blue eyes and dark hair and complexion. A year after he joined he sustained injuries to the fingers of his left hand whilst stopping a runaway horse. On the point of retiring, having completed 26 years and 4 days of service, John was receiving £1 12 shillings per week and when he retired on 30 July 1900, his service was classified as excellent, and he was entitled to a pension of £51 15 shillings and 3 pence per annum. He was shown as married and living at 33 Clayton Road, Peckham.

All this information, plus John Brian’s signature on resignation, comes from the Metropolitan Police Records at The Public Records Office (MEPO 4/21/14141 & 4/341 p.158)

Ref: Chimney Sweeps Act 1875 (Police Order 22 December 1875)

More on this chapter soon.