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Victorian Policing (Paperback)

Local History British History True Crime Social History Victorian Era

By Gaynor Haliday
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 186
ISBN: 9781526706126
Published: 15th November 2017



Author Q&A

As featured by All About History - The Birth of the Victorian Police: Drunks, Riots and a Steady Income

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What was life like for the Victorian bobby? Gaynor Haliday became fascinated with the history of the early police forces when researching the life of her great, great grandfather; a well-regarded, long-suffering Victorian police constable in Bradford. Although a citation claimed his style of policing was merely to cuff the offender round the ear and send him home, press reports of the time painted a much grimmer picture of life on the beat in the Victorian streets.

Handwritten Watch Committee minutes, historical newspapers and police records combine to reveal an account of how and why the various police forces were set up; the recruitment, training and expectations of the men, the issues and crimes they had to deal with, and the hostility they encountered from the people whose peace they were trying to keep.

There’s a good selection of photographs, my favourite being of a police sports day: six coppers racing for the finishing wire, all in uniform and helmets. I don’t know why, but I found that photo very cheering; an enlargement hanging on my office wall to bring a smile on even the gloomiest of grey, rainy, workaday mornings.

Ripperologist, December 2017 – January 2018 – reviewed by Paul Begg

This book offers really detailed, specific chapters that tell not just about policing, but the safety and (sometimes) the corruption of officers themselves. Policing beginning with sentry watchmen as early as 1285, while the true defense of home and property coming from private citizens and the own arms/weapons. It wouldn't be until 1833 that there would be a police force funded by taxes & tolls (in order to offer them salaries, pensions, uniforms, whistles, nightsticks, etc.) to take on incidents involving assault, theft, and poaching. The port towns of the UK are among the first to organize police services with private detectives recruited and on the streets in 1847. I was most amused to find out about the codes maintained for each police force (i.e. no swearing or threatening your police inspector, no being drunk on the beat, and how to thwart someone who is resisting arrest).

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

There is a wealth of information and case studies here, and anyone with policeman ancestors will find it useful. Gaynor covers areas such as recruitment, training and progression up the ranks, to how order was kept, looking at evidence of offences such as riotous or disorderly behavior and how such behavior was treated by constables on the beat. However, evidence of misbehavior by the constables themselves is also explored.

Using Watch Committee minutes, newspaper archives and police records, Gaynor successfully creates an enjoyable narrative - one that has lots of information in it, but also has a light touch (like many of the pickpockets who worked in Victorian Britain, perhaps!)

Read it for: A well-illustrated account of what Victorian policemen did, and the laws and regulations affecting them.

Your Family History, March 2018 – reviewed by Nell Darby

★★★★★ As featured on...

Amazon Customer

Gaynor Haliday's great great grandfather Thomas Bottomley served in the Bradford Police for 39 years. He never rose above the rank of constable, but had a long police career and was only once reprimanded. It was his life that led her to produce this lively and enthusiastic book.

Haliday is very good in her discussion of the working life of the Victorian police constable...

...if you want rattling good stories about Victorian policemen, look no further...

WDYTYA? February 2018 - reviewed by Clive Emsley

Article by Andrew Hirst 'Here's why Victorian policing wasn't just about hitting wrongdoers with truncheons' as featured by

The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 10th January 2018

Author Q&A as featured by

All About History

As featured in

Yorkshire Post

This is the kind of book that turns my key!

Modern history with a personal flavour. Not the history of monarchy, politics and empire, but the gritty and sometimes grimy history of the police force. How it came about, its development and what it was like to be a constable in the formative years.

Ms Haliday has written a book which is thoroughly readable; it maintains the reader’s interest throughout and whilst being factual, drawing on references and records, it is not an academic volume. Nor should it be as this would inevitably reduce its readability to that of a dry reference book rather than a review of a particular element of social history.

If ‘Victorian Policing’ tempts the reader into academic research, then that is the time to open the dry tomes that lie, dusty and rarely opened, at the back of library shelves.

Dai Evans

About Gaynor Haliday

After many years in business development, Gaynor Haliday is pursuing a second career in writing, working for various clients to create website content, blogs and features. Combining her passion for family and social history she has written various articles about her ancestors for several magazines. In researching this book Gaynor discovered how the brave souls trying to uphold Victorian law, with only a truncheon for defence and a stick to summon help, became the pioneers of modern policing.

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