A Curious Incident

The police came in for an awful lot of criticism over the course of the Whitechapel murders.

The newspapers – or, to be precise, the radical newspapers – were on their case almost from the outset, mostly as a means of getting back at the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, over the previous year’s Bloody Sunday episode.

Many of the local residents, who lived in Whitechapel and Spitalfields, were on their case, complaining, probably with a certain amount of justification, that the police presence in the district was totally inadequate.

Even Queen Victoria was critical of them, telegraphing her Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, in November 1888. to proffer her opinion that the detectives were, “not what they should be.”

The Punch Cartoon Blind Mans Buff showing a blind-folded police officer being taunted by criminals.
Blind Mans Buff – A Punch Cartoon From 1888.


But, every so often, a story emerged, that, not only showed the police in a good light but also revealed a decidedly human side to the Victorian police force.

One such story appeared in The Tavistock Gazette on Friday the 16th of November 1888.

It showed that the police were more than able to respond to members of the public who aided them in some way:-


“A curious incident, which throws a pleasing side-light upon the relations between the police and the public has occurred in London within the past few days.

It seems that a little time ago a gentleman fought his way through a crowd of roughs in Leather Lane, one of the worst districts in the metropolis, in order to go to the assistance of a constable who was being kicked.

In the course of his endeavours he found it necessary to use his walking stick, and this with such effect that he broke it over the head of one of the ruffians with whom he was struggling.


The police at the nearest station thereupon, in admiration of his courage and recognition of the pluck with which he had helped in time of trouble one of their comrades, resolved to present him with another stick, and from the proceeds of a subscription raised among themselves, they purchased an ebony one, silver-mounted, which they have now given to him.


Perhaps only those who have personal experience of the rougher side of London life can thoroughly appreciate all that such an incident means, but all who know how arduous are the duties of the police in such a vast metropolis as ours will agree that the whole circumstance is an honour to everyone concerned.