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Mike McLellan

Earliest Metropolitan Police Truncheons.

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Posted (edited)

After seemingly endless minutes of research, complimented by hour upon hour of day-dreaming, I have to admit, I still don’t have all the answers. 

I’m trying to find a photo, drawing, or other accurate description of the earliest truncheons issued by the Metropolitan Police. In his book on truncheons, Alan Clark suggests that the earliest ones were not painted or otherwise adorned. This makes sense to me “due to the volume required” and the timely manner in which they were needed. In another splendid book, “The Policeman’s Lot”, our good friend Mervyn Mitton cites a curious description found in an even earlier book on the subject. He writes that the earliest truncheon had finger grips, an acorn-shaped finial, and was adorned with a VR, although he adds that he has never seen one himself. This description cannot be correct. The Metropolitan Police predates Queen Victoria by a full 7 years.  

When the first coppers hit the streets on September 29, 1829, George IV was still the king, although his health was fragile, and his prognosis quite bleak. It might have seemed more discreet at the time to leave the sticks blank and make the next batch a little more decorative. Within 9 months, the king was dead.

William IV reigned for the next six years, and although there are numerous examples of truncheons with his Royal Cypher displayed, none are attributable to the Metropolitan Police. What happened? They can’t have all been tossed into the fire. Out of many thousands of sticks, surely a few of them still exist. Unless, of course, they were not painted and therefore not recognizable for what they really are. 

Any ideas? Does anybody have even a photo? Seriously, any opinions would be most welcome. 

Mike. 

Edited by Mike McLellan
Brain freeze on dates.

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Nothing in Erland Fenn Clark's book. although he has a bit at the back with an overly large image of about a hundred undecorated truncheons.  The individual ones are too small to make out any details, though.

Clark has a couple of Victorian Met decorated pictures, though.

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Posted (edited)

 

Thanks, Nightbreak. The trouble with history, is that there's so damned much of it! Plus, the sources of reliable information seem to be getting more scant as time goes on. Beside the three books mentioned, there's not much information readily available. We have to glean what we can and hope that we're not too far off the mark. 

I have, what I believe to be, one of the earliest of the Metropolitan Police truncheons. When I first got it (about 30 years ago) I thought it was one of the newer ones from the turn of the last century. However, since then, because of its size, heft, and shape, I've become convinced that it's from a much earlier time. 

According to Alan's book, when the newly formed police force ordered the first batch of sticks, it placed an order for a thousand truncheons 'ASAP' and another 1,000 two months later. I can't imagine some Dickensian character hidden away in a dimly lit corner of the Parker Field shop, with his supply of tiny paint brushes undertaking such a daunting task with painting, drying, painting some more, waiting, and correcting mistakes, all under the burden that ASAP demands. Instead, they stamped each one with an MP topped with an indented crown. a practice they repeated many years later when the painting of truncheons came to an end.

This one is the same as the three that Alan has pictured in his book (p.34), and are quite a bit thicker than the subsequent generation of truncheons, being almost 1.72" in diameter. Too thick, I think, to fit into the leather holster pictured, which also is from a later period.

I don't have a copy of the Fenn Clark book. I don't really collect truncheons, so I never felt the need to invest that kind of money in a reference book. My main interest is Met or COL insignia and equipment, and truncheons are a part of the mix. Thanks again for replying, Mike.

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Edited by Mike McLellan

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While we're waiting for our brethren to post their pictures of WivR Met truncheons, I have a couple more I'd like to show that are, at least, representative of what one might expect in a truncheon from that early reign (1830-1837).

A truncheon from the reign of William IV should either have a monogram of WivR or the proper coat of arms, which is the same one used all through Victoria's reign up until the present time, except for the addition of the Hanover Inescutcheon superimposed upon it. I don't have a stick with that combined coat of arms, and I'm unable to post one off the internet, but there are numerous examples in the books of Fenn Clark, Mitton, And Cook. 

The two sticks shown can be identified as Victorian by the coat of arms, which does not include the Hanover Arms. They can also be identified as early by the maker's mark, which appears on the butt end as, Parker 233 Holborn. This mark changed in 1842 to Field 233 Holborn, thus making the examples probably pre 1842. Both of these, presumably, are for sergeants or above. Constable would likely be given truncheons with only the Royal Cypher rather than a coat of arms, which cost more. 

Again, if anyone has a similar truncheon, either with a WivR monogram or a coat of arms showing the Hanover connection, please post a picture. Did I say, "Please"? Okay. Pretty please.

Mike.

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Posted (edited)

A couple more... 

In another thread in this forum (Apr. 27, 2015), Mervyn Mitton identified a truncheon like the ones pictured below as 'thje first pattern for Victoria". He also added that nobody is really sure what the WivR truncheons looked like. Hence my plea for information. 

Note: On the truncheon on the right, most of the gold leaf has been rubbed or worn off, This gives one some idea just how many steps it took to create one of these beauties. Multiply that by several thousand!

By the way, both of these show a maker's mark on the butt end of, "Field 233 Holborn", which indicates that they were made after 1842.

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Edited by Mike McLellan

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Posted (edited)

I'm just about through.

I'm not sure when 'MP' started to appear in the red cartouche. It was probably in the 1860s, but that's just a guess. It seems that the firm, Parker, Field, & Son was having a difficult time in holding onto the lion's share of the rapidly growing market of police related equipment. Alan Cook mentions some active competition in his book, and by the end of the century, they pretty much ceased to exist. 

Alan also writes that in 1887, instructions were given to cut down the existing truncheons from 17.5 inches long to 15.5 inches. The truncheon in the center is one of those shortened. The tool marks clearly show that the truncheon was chucked into the lathe and 2 inches was pared off of the crown end with a sharp chisel, rather unceremoniously. The short truncheon on the right was intended for Inspectors, and shows a maker's mark of "Field 223 Holborn" making it from prior to 1872. 

With the introduction of Identification Warrant Cards, coupled with the fact that the uniformed police were, by now, an easily recognizable part of the English landscape, painted truncheons were seen as no longer necessary and, by the turn of the century, faded from existence. 

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Edited by Mike McLellan

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