The Brighton Police Centenary 1838 - 1938. Part 2

The origin of the rattle is not clear. Peel's first policemen were issued with a small and usually folding rattle which fitted neatly into specially made pockets in the swallow tails of their coats.
Uniform worn by a policeman in 1858
Old Police Cells Museum

Conditions of Service.

The conditions upon which each police constable is to be admitted into the Police force are stated here, in order that no complaint may be made hereafter upon their being enforced. The Commissioners at the same time reserving themselves the power to alter and annul any of these conditions; and to make such new rules as may be found expedient.

Each man shall devote his whole time to the service.

He shall promptly obey all orders which he may receive from the persons placed in authority over him.

He shall conform himself to all the regulations which may be made from time to time for the good of the service.

He shall at all times appear in his complete police dress, whether on duty or not.

He shall receive his pay weekly, on such day as shall be appointed.

His pay as a constable shall be 18 shillings a week; and in addition the following articles of clothing will be supplied to him, viz:

1 greatcoat.

1 cape,

These articles of clothing will be issued as the Commissioners direct.

1 coat,

1 pair of trousers,

1 hat,

1 cover ditto,

1 stock, and 2 pairs of duck trousers

Sussex Police handed out a leaflet complete with pictures of the ‘perfect cop’ and a ‘shabby officer’.

The flyer – given to 3,200 officers – tells them ‘how to wear’ their new uniform, which was rolled out to bobbies in May this year.

The new uniform comes complete with zip-fronted ‘moisture management shirts’ and cargo trousers.

The flyer shows a ‘prim and proper’ officer standing to attention with his arms behind his back in his smart new uniform – complete with a giant tick over his image, signifying that he is wearing the uniform ‘correctly’.

The flyer states: ‘Serving Sussex Smartly by being proud of your appearance, you inspire confidence in the work that you do.’

But on the reverse side of the flyer an officer poses in a bedraggled state, with his shoelaces undone, shirt hanging out of his trousers and adopting a ‘slouching’ posture.

This shabby lawman is berated for his appearance and has a big red cross over his photo, stating: ‘The new uniform is being launched on May 10th. To ensure a consistent appearance across the Force please ensure you follow these guidelines.”

It then states five of the guidelines, including;

  • Your shirt must be tucked into your trousers;
  • Your PPV (personal protective vest) must be worn over your shirt;
  • Your fleece jacket should be worn over your PPV;
  • Your utility belt should only contain items issued by the Force;
  • When on patrol you must wear your head wear at all times

 By Daily Mail Reporter
Updated:  00:25, 19 July 2010

These articles to be issued every year.

The whole of which shall be considered to be the property of the Commissioners, and shall be given up upon any man quitting or being discharged from the service.

He shall only be paid for such days as he is actually on duty.

Each person employed is liable to immediate suspension by the Clerk to the Commissioners, and subsequently to be dismissed by the Commissioners for unfitness, negligence or misconduct, independently of any other punishments to which he may be subject by law, by order of the Commissioners.

The remaining sections of the Regulations are extensive and dealt with the duties of Officers and men; the felonies, misdemeanours and offences with which they had to deal with and the steps which had to be taken to apprehend offenders.

The Constable was instructed; ‘inter alia’ “If at any time he requires immediate assistance, and cannot in any other way obtain it, he must ‘SPRING HIS RATTLE’ but this is to be done as seldom as possible, for such an alarm often creates the inconvenience, which it is intended to prevent, by assembling a crowd, thus giving an opportunity of escape to criminals. 

These instructions strike one as being very complete and are so sound as to supply fundamental principles on which to base a modern text-book on Police work.

Strange to say, although public houses appeared in those days to have no closing hours, there was no mention of the offence of being drunk.

In the Metropolitan District, Superintendents used to discharge drunks from the Police Station and it was not until 1883 that these charges were brought before a Magistrate. It appears that this offence was not put on the Statute Book until some years later.

Mr. Henry Solomon was the first Chief Officer of Police; he had a tragic end however in 1844 when he was murdered in the Police Station by a man named Lawrence, who was arrested, tried, convicted and hanged. Henry Solomon’s ‘staff of office’ is in The Brighton Museum.

Watch Committee

In 1854 Brighton became incorporated and the Watch Committee took over from the Town Commissioners, the watching or policing of the Borough. The Force at this time consisted of a Chief Officer, two Superintendents, seven Inspectors and fifty one constables, whose minimum pay at that time was £1 a week. At the first meeting of the Watch Committee it was considered what number of men would be sufficient to act as constables for the Borough for preserving the peace by day and night, preventing robberies and other felonies, and of apprehending offenders against the peace; it was decided to increase the strength by ten.

In those days there was no annual or weekly leave granted to members of the Police force, nor was there any provision made for the payment of wages to men who were absent from duty through sickness. At their discretion the Committee paid two thirds of the pay to the constables on sick leave, – if it was recommended by the Chief Officer.

A Police Surgeon was appointed and the Council decided to furnish a detective Officer with a suit of plain clothes. In 1855 it was decided that in future, constables should have frock coats in lieu of the dress coats.

The following year, on the passing of an Act of Parliament, it was enacted that one-quarter of the charge of the pay and clothing of the Police of any Borough, the population of which exceeded 5,000, would be made by the Government on receipt of a Certificate that the Police had been maintained in a state of efficiency during the previous year.

The early Chief Officers must have had a very disappointing time trying to get their men to live up to a high standard which was held out to them in their Regulations when joining the Service.


Strong drink then, which led to their drunkenness, was one offence for which many officers appeared to be guilty of and as a result were dismissed. Another was being asleep on duty (either standing or sitting) was a very close second offence in which police officers were dismissed. There are many such offences appearing in the discipline books.

A report submitted to the local watch Committee indicated that the inhabitants in many parts of the town complained that they scarcely ever saw a policeman. An increase in the personnel of the force was asked for in consequence of the growth of the town, especially the north part near the Level. It was also pointed out that many of the residents lived a mile and a half from the police station (The Town Hall.) As a result it was decided to increase the Force by ten persons.

In 1865, there was a further increase of ten men for the Force and this then brought the total strength up to 100 men, which included four sergeants, a clerk, two detectives and a reserve man. Just six years later it was again increased, by another 8 men. DavidRowland

Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.

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