Police Rattles and Whistles

The Victorian Strollers450 × 416Search by image Recruits into the New Police were provided with two sets of uniform, usually of a poor quality. He had a cape, an arm band to indicate when he was on duty, ...

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.

1880 Experiments

In the 1880’s experiments were carried out in London to find an alternative to the rattle. It was discovered that the sound from a whistle, already being used in some provincial forces like Liverpool, could be heard at 1000 yards (900 metres) – almost twice the effective distance of a rattle.

1884 Whistles are Issued

The Metropolitan Police issued whistles in 1884. The London police whistle was invented by Joseph Hudson of Birmingham in 1884. His first contract for 21,000 whistles was the foundation of a prosperous business.

Early varieties for constables and sergeants were dull grey metal “pea whistles”, with a large ring on top and a hard cork ball inside. Senior officers’ whistles were silvery with an acorn moulded on the top.

The air whistle came into use in the early twentieth century and has remained largely unchanged ever since.

Extract from Police Uniform and Equipment, by A A Clarke – Shire Publications

Comments about this page

  • Hi there
    For a variety of reasons don’t do antique valuations or authentication, and suggest you ask a specialist auctioneer or someone at your local museum.
    Most experienced collectors can probably identify and date the rattle pretty quickly

    By Paul Beaken (21/01/2018)
  • I purchased a job lot of rattles about ten years ago at Bonhams Chester. The sale was a sporting memorabilia. And the lot discribed as football rattles. Two are gas rattles used by the ARP in the second World war. But one in fine condition,and much older is I am sure a police rattle. The wood has a very rich patina. It has just one paddle. A hole drilled in the top of the handle,presumable for a loop of string. It is very heavy. The wood being quite dense grained. What age might this item be ?

    By Terence O ' Neil (21/01/2018)

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