Searching for Regency London

The last day of February and I have to finish edits for a book due out in the Fall.  If you like sneek peeks, how about this title.   Lady Rosabella's Ruse

Oh and I have my UK cover for More than a Mistress. Here it is here. It will be out in North America in May.


My next topic is something I have blogged about before.  The Thames River Police I . Thames River Police II

I have linked to the earlier posts so you can take a look at them as an introduction.  This time, I was able to visit the museum and can fill in a few more details.  I must say I liked the idea of standing in a building that parts of it dated back to the Regency.  And it is nice to know that the Force continues to this day, albeit in a very different form.

The pictures I am adding today were taken in the museum with the kind permission of the museum's curator Robert Jeffries, who was a member of that illustrious Police force.

This picture is from 1859, but still it gives the feel of our time, the spars and masts, the wooden boats beached on the side of the river, the building unchanged from that above.

The Museum contains many treasures and mementos from the work of the police, as you can see from this cabinet.

Of particular interest is the police boat gun from 1798. 

You can make out the stock behind the glass and the thole, a wooden pin or one of a pair, set upright in the gunwales of a rowing boat to serve as a fulcrum in rowing (rowlock), only in this case it was used to support this very large weapon.  It was too large to be held and fired.

Publicans at inn like the Town of Ramsgate, pictured in detail last time, and the Prospect of Whitby, pictured here, were owned by what were known in those days as Master Lumpers.  They organized the Lumpers, the men who unloaded the ships.  they were also the men who stole a great deal of the  contents of those ships, seeing it as a gratuity for the work they did. Everything from sugar to coal.

Some of the terminology for the Thames River Police and those working on the river at the time:

Watermen   -     constables

Surveyors    -    warrant or customs warrant.

Lighters      -  boats wich take the cargo off to unload it a the warehouses

Lumpers - the labourers who unloaded the cargo

Sweepings    - the first mate on a sugar carrying ship had the rights to "sweepings" what was left on the deck after unloading, and he would sell these rights to anyone who wanted to do the work to sweep them up.  Interesting to think about what might have been in the resulting bag of sugar.   or not.

Spillage   -  anything spilled was seen as a perk for various individuals and somehow there was a lot of spillage. 

Tipstaff - a badge of office, like a warrant card today,  and sometime used to carry a warrant for arrest in the handle. Also  a weapon, a forerunner of the truncheon.

This is an inspectors tipstaff from 1827.  And here are a couple of early handcuffs.

Note the policeman's rattle in the second picture. The l-shaped large wooden object.

Rattles came into use sometime in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century when night watchmen and/or village constables used them to "raise the alarm". They proved  an ideal method to summon aid, sound the fire alarm, or, just generally get folks attention.  A traditional rattle was constructed of wood, usually oak, where one or two blades are held in a frame and a ratchet turned - by swinging - to make the blades `snap' thus creating a very loud noise.

Of course we have only touched on the surface of the river and its police force but I do hope you have enjoyed the visit.

Until next time, Happy Rambles


The London of the Ton - Part V

by Ann Lethbridge

Here is our routine reminder. This blog will move to

The Thames River Police Continued

What kinds of crimes were committed on the River Thames that it required its own police force?

This picture is the entrance to the London docks. A great many people who worked on the river saw it as a right to help themselves to anything they could. Remembering how hard life was for the poorer members of society in this era, one can understand why. Coalheavers, for example, made it a practice to take two or three bushels of coal with them every time they left the collier they were unloading. It was this kind of stealing the magistrates office was set up to defeat.

The Police Establishment had a number of rowing galleys, each manned by a Surveyor (equivalent rank to today's Inspector) and three waterman Constables under the direction of a Superintending Surveyor. He had his own supervision galley with a crew of four. All Surveyors were empowered both by the crown (an oath taken before the magistrates) and also sworn and issued with an excise warrant by Customs and Excise Service.

Additionally during those two years, many ship and quay guards were also employed on a part time basis. They were visited and supervised by the boat patrols, these constables were employed only when the West India fleets were in the river and being discharged when there was no need for them. They were in time to become the first River Police Special Constables.

The same vigilance which had suppressed thieving had also put a considerable stop to smuggling which 'was an organised system and carried to extraordinary heights by the aid and connivance of many of the revenue officers.' Even 'the almost incredible plunder of Naval stores from the King’s Yards at Deptford and Woolwich had been suppressed to some degree' by the attention on land and water of the Thames Police, whose boats sometimes went as far as Sheerness and Chatham.

They also had to deal with foreign sailors who often became desperately short of funds and were known to plunder and engage in knife fights.

The Thames Police Institution was given another seven yeas of life by Act of Parliament in 1814, and in 1821 an Act for the More Effectual Administration of the Office of Justice of the Peace in the Metropolis and for the More Effectual Prevention of Depredations on the River Thames brought the River Court (but not Bow Street) under the same umbrella as the other seven public offices.

In 1839 Metropolitan Police Courts Act brought all the metropolitan police offices, including Bow Street, into one organisation, changed their description from 'Office' to 'Court', authorised the establishment by Order in Council of other courts, and limited the number of magistrates to 27.

As the result of this and of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839, the Thames Magistrates ceased to be responsible for the control of the Marine Police, which became the Thames Division of the Metropolitan Police.

For much deeper look at this very interesting police force do visit the Museum website at

Until next time, happy rambles.

The London of the Ton Part V

by Ann Lethbridge

While Michele is in transports over Australia (pun intended though not very good) I am still poking around Regency London.

You may have notice an addition to the side-bar. The link to the Thames River Police. While we are all aware of the existence of Bow Street Runners, established in 1749, an equally significant organized police force came into being in 1798.

The Thames River Police

In 1792 Parliament passed the Justice of the Peace, Metropolis Act (32 Geo.III, c.53), which established seven public offices in various parts of London, with three paid Justices attached to each.

Amongst them were offices at High Street, Shadwell, and Lambeth Street, Whitechapel, with jurisdiction over districts which are now part of the Thames Magistrate's Court area. They also had the jurisdiction over offenses on the River Thames or in connection with goods taken from vessels in the river. Not that they did a very good job on the latter. About £500,000 worth of imports were going missing every year. Never mind what disappeared from the exports.

Several people lobbied for the need for a police force to deal with theft on the River. The Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed to pay part of the expenses of a Marine Police Establishment, the West India merchants invited Magistrate Patrick Colquhoun (pictured here) to be superintend the creation of that establishment.

The Secretary of State arranged for a substitute to take Colquhoun's duties at Queen's Square so that he could devote his time to the new institution.

On June 15th 1798, the merchants' committee nominated John Harriott to the Secretary of State for appointment as resident magistrate.
The West India Docks in London.

More on this fascinating police force next time. Until then, Happy Rambles.