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 Uniform of a 'Peeler' Policeman 1850

  Archive pictures show a variety of coats with either one or two rows of buttons. Collars and insignia varied too.



The present day London Metropolitan Police dates from 1829 and were formed by Sir Robert Peel.  This is a picture of a "Peeler" as they were known, about 1850.

‘Sir Robert Peel’s first ‘Peelers’ as they march out onto their respective beats. These first police officers caused quite a stir with the public when they initially appeared because nothing like them had been seen patrolling the streets of London before. The first uniform of the Metropolitan police was an eight button swallow tail coat. A 4” leather stock was worn inside the high collar to guard the officer against strangulation. The stock was eventually reduced to 2” in 1859. White trousers were worn in the summer until 1861, they were not standard issue but were purchased by the officers themselves. The top hat was 6” tall with a 2” wide brim. It had a black leather top and inside there were stays of cane on either side ’

Acknowledgement to The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Metropolitan Police Museum.

The 'Peelers' were issued with a wooden truncheon carried in a long pocket in the tail of their coat, a pair of handcuffs and a wooden rattle to raise the alarm. By the 1880s this rattle had been replaced by a whistle.

The first uniform, which was a lighter blue than at present, was a high-collared tailcoat, worn with white trousers in summer. The headgear was a hardened top hat, which served the dual purpose of protecting the officer from blows to the head and allowing him to use it as a step to climb or see over walls. The sleeves of the dark blue coats originally had a pattern of white bars, roughly 6 mm wide by 50 mm high, set roughly 6 mm apart.

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, a bulls-eye lantern which hung from the belt, a rattle (police whistles did not come in until 1884) and a truncheon. Each officer was also issued with a cutlass but this was not carried on routine patrol.


"When I looked at myself in the glass with the uniform on for the first time, I wondered what could have led me to take the final step of becoming a ‘Peeler’. I had to put on a swallow tail coat, and a rabbit-skin high top hat, covered with leather, weighing eighteen ounces; a pair of Wellington boots, the leather of which must have been at least a sixteenth of an inch thick, and a belt about four inches broad, with a great buckle some six inches deep…. My hat was slipping all over my head; my boots which were two sizes too large, were rubbing the skin off my heels; and the stock was a thick leather one, and four inches deep; was nearly choking me. I would have given all I possessed to have got back into my ordinary clothes”.




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