Clothing a Constable

Birmingham’s first municipal council took on the responsibility for maintaining the peace of the town. The first professional police force there was controversial, it having been forcibly instituted by central government in the 1839 Birmingham Police Act. Following confirmation of the Municipal Charter in 1842, the town council were able to finally take hold of the civic reins. Responsibility for managing the local police was placed in the hands of the Watch Committee, a group of men appointed annually from amongst the members of the council. The Watch Committee was represented by 6 aldermen and and 16 councillors. The 16 councillors represented the district wards: 1 for single wards and 2 for ‘double’ wards (those which had 6, rather than 3 councillors).

The Watch Committee was required to present its accounts at quarterly council meetings. These accounts offer up all sorts of information, revealing transactions between the public corporation and private business. The purchases of uniform presented here give some indication of the growing confidence held by the municipal men in their presentation of the professional face of Birmingham, as the uniform appears to become more elaborate. In May 1851 the committee reported to council that the four inspectors had requested a uniform, claiming that inspectors in London, Liverpool and Bristol were supplied with two suits of uniform perannum. The Watch Committee, after due consideration, recommended the Birmingham inspectors to be supplied with one per annum and this was granted. Later in 1851 the accounts include a sum of £11 and 5 shillings as ‘detective force allowance for plain clothes’.

The following entries are a small representation of Watch Committee accounts over a number of years and can be found in the second volume of Birmingham Town Council minutes at the Library of Birmingham: Archives, Heritage and Photography BCC1/AA/1/1/2

 August 4th, 1847

Thomas Evans for boots                            £106 4s  6d
Moore & Co. for hats                                  £173 5s
Dolans & Co. for clothing                          £640 2s 5d

February 1st, 1848

Dolans & Co. for clothing                          £194 6d
Thomas Evans for boots                            £153 10s

May 1848

Mr Evans for boots                                    £103 9s 6d
Mr Lilly for buckles                                   £11
Mr Goodrich for bags                                £1 2s
Mr Marsden for armlets                           £4 14s 4d

October 8th, 1848

Mr Ashford for leather belt frogs            £2 5s 6d

February 6th, 1849

Mr Evans for boots                                    £43

October 6th, 1849

Dolans & Co. for clothing                        £3 3s 5d
Mr Allen for a jacket                                £1 1s
Mr Kerslake for boots                              £4 12s
Mr Gent for hats                                       £3

November 9th, 1849

Mr Hyatt for new handcuffs                  £2 5s 3d
Thomas Evans for boots                         £2 9s
J.R. Crook for hats                                    £149 10s
William Adams for clothing                   £20 2s 1d

January 1st, 1850

William Adams for clothing                   £6 19s 6d
William White for wellington boots     £3 18s 9d
James Nicholls for truncheons               £32 10s
J.R. Crook for 3 hats                                  £1    9s

August 6th, 1850

J.R. Crook for hats                                   £153 2s
Mr Marsden, lace for uniforms             £5  16s
Mr Evans for boots                                  £113 6s
Mr Corbett, for a suit of uniform
for Inspector Glossop                              £5 19s
William Adams for 73 chevrons            £5 15s 7d
William Adams for fitting 57
suits of clothes                                          £6 7s 6d

October 31st, 1851

William Spicer, for capes                          £83 15s
J.R. Crook, for hats                                     £149 4s
John Kerslake for boots                            £4 12s
W. Gent for hats                                         £3
Thomas Evans, ‘boots as per contract’    £128




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