City of London Police

It is a well-known fact that two police forces investigated the Jack the Ripper crimes of 1888 – The Metropolitan Police (on whose territory the majority of the victims were murdered) and The City of London Police (on whose territory Catherine Eddowes was murdered).

It is also often stated that the two police forces were at loggerheads with each other, an inaccurate assertion that is, most certainly, not borne out by the facts of the investigation.

The Metropolitan Police were, and are, responsible for policing the Greater London area; whilst The City of London Police had responsibility for the one square mile of the City of London.

However, since the City of London Police looked after what has been referred to as “the wealthiest square mile on earth”, they had an enormous amount of responsibility, and it is interesting to catch glimpses of them, both in relation to their involvement in the hunt for Jack the Ripper and in their everyday duties of policing the City of London.

On Monday 1st November 1886, the St James’s Gazette reproduced an article that had first appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine that had taken a close look at the set up and the responsibilities of the various ranks of the City police force.

It is an interesting article for several reasons.

Firstly, it gives us an idea of the type of crimes, disturbances and situations that the ordinary beat constables were likely to encounter as they went about their duties.

Secondly, it provided an insight into the activities of the force’s detectives and revealed how they were an elite within the force, who might travel all over the globe, and who might look forward to substantial rewards should they manage to bring an investigation to a successful conclusion.

Here is the article:-


“Mr. Alexander Innes Shand contributes to Blackwood’s Magazine an interesting article on the City of London Police.

We extract the following passages:-


The district under charge of the Metropolitan Police is no less than thirty miles in diameter, and embraces a superficial extent of about seven hundred square miles, while the City and its liberties only cover a single square mile.

But no other square mile in the world is the centre of business interests so important, or contains such a mass of valuable property, in the shape of bullion, cash, and convertible securities.

The area of the City is merely a mile; but there are about fifty miles of streets to be patrolled, and many of them during the day-time are crowded to excess; while after business hours they are relatively deserted.

Banks, warehouses, and offices are locked up, or left in the care of a solitary watchman or housekeeper.

Nevertheless, even of a night, some 50,000 souls are supposed to sleep in the City, which, after all, is considerably more than the population of many a flourishing provincial town.

The metropolitan district has a population of some four millions; and, including the business men who come up from their suburban or country residences, it may be said to send all its adults into the City each working day. In other words, there is a daily influx of about a million, chiefly of busy men.

The rising tide of incessant traffic must be directed, especially where it comes in rushes or breaks into eddies, as at the great railway stations or on the bridges – about the Bank, the Mansion House, or the Stock Exchange.

Traffic on the street around Cheapside.
The Busy Bank Junction Looking Towards Cheapside.


The night-constable is sent on his eight hours’ watch at ten o’clock.

Slowly patrolling a street of shops or warehouses like Cheapside or Cannon-street, his first business is to look carefully to all the fastenings.

Wind, wet, or snow, it is all the same; he flashes his lantern on each bolt and padlock.

When he sees any fastening insecure, he puts a private mark upon it, and makes a note in his memory as well. He pays special attention to the weak point through the night, and reports the matter next day to his superiors, who will communicate with the owner of the premises. Reports of such cases of neglect on the part of the owners or the servants are very common. As a rule, however, premises properly secured are never tampered with from the outside.

Robberies are perpetrated, either by collusion with the persons in charge, or far more frequently by a confederate of the thieves having succeeded in secreting himself before the closing for the night. From which it follows that, when house-owners are robbed, they may generally blame their own negligence.

Each night the building should be searched – before the doors are secured. There are two entrances, at least, to most of the great offices or warehouses. The doors that are locked from the inside may be pronounced impregnable; if the place is to be forced at all, it is by that which is fastened on the outside. And the surest fastening on the outside is a strong metal strap or band over the inner lock, with a stronger padlock of intricate mechanism.

An illustration of the area around Bank at night.
Bank Junction In The City Of London At Night


As for the ordinary constable, he is told, when he puts on the uniform, that by activity, intelligence, and good conduct he may rise to the higher stations.

Meantime his intelligence is to some extent assumed; for he is forthwith made answerable for life and property within his beat.

He is to begin by thoroughly informing himself as to its topography – which explains the marvellous promptitude with which anxious inquirers are directed “to take the third to the right and then the second to the left.” More than that, he is expected to make a study of the inhabitants, so as to be able to recognise or identify them on occasion.

In the absence of exceptional incidents to detain him, he is to walk his beat regularly, so as to be found at any given spot by any one waiting there for a certain time.

He is to prevent all interruptions in the traffic, to see that pavements are duly swept, and that rubbish is regularly carted away.

But he is to avoid all unnecessary interference, and to interpose when he does act with decision and discretion.

Should a fire break out, he is to spring his rattle and send information immediately to the station.

He has to help the ailing and destitute to the relieving officer, and to take charge of the drunken.

He must never walk or gossip with a comrade he is told that his first duty is absolute obedience, and he is reminded that perfect control of the temper is indispensable.

So, considering the trying lives they lead and the irritating conditions of their service, it will be seen that much is expected of the constables; and in the rarity of serious complaints against them, it will be confessed that they must be literally picked men.

A city policeman watching a prisoner arrive for trial at the Old Bailey Court.
A City Constable On Duty At Old Bailey.


We can imagine no career so full of emotional interest to a man of mental and physical energy, with a natural talent for the profession, as that of the detective.

It was not for nothing that M. Émile Gaboriau made his Lecocqs and his Tabarets tend irresistibly to the Rue Jerusalem. [This is a reference to Émile Gaboriau (1832 – 1873), the French writer, journalist and pioneer of detective fiction who created the character of the amateur detective Monsieur Lecoq, one of the most popular fictional detectives of the 19th century whose fame and popularity were both eclipsed when Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes to the reading public.]

The celebrated detective has all the excitement of the Queen’s messenger, who is kept perpetually on the move, changing scenery, surroundings, and climate, between Calais and Constantinople.

Moreover, he is always playing a peripatetic game of chess against some clever antagonist, who is only to be checkmated by profundity of thought and promptitude of decision.

And when, like a brilliant Queen’s counsel, he has risen to the top of the tree, he is one of the few industrious City men who are always having agreeable outings. Not only are all his expenses paid, but for the indispensable necessities of the case he has almost carte blanche.

On the spur of the moment he may have to take a special train, or to bid high for a bit of information which may prove invaluable.

Generally, the gentlemen for whom his services are retained advance a considerable sum to begin with; while he can easily obtain all credit beyond that, as everywhere he is “personally introduced” to the police by presenting his credentials.

Then, if anything beyond professional pride is needed to stimulate his energies, he has the hope of a generous gratuity in the event of success. Not unfrequently the amount of the reward is named beforehand.

As to outlay, he may exercise his own discretion, on the understanding that he is to render a faithful account of his intromissions on his return, and that he is to receive no reward without the approval of the Chief Commissioner.

With one exception, the account is believed to have always been fairly given in; and that exception, though remarkable, rather proved the rule.

An agent, whom the Commissioner believed to be thoroughly honest, stood on his dignity and refused any details as to the suns total of his bills. As such a breach of discipline could not be tolerated, he forfeited all claim for the repayment of any portion of them.”