Constable Chamberlain Shot

The Suffolk and Essex Free Press, on Wednesday, 25th June, 1884, published the following story, which demonstrated the risks taken by the constable on the beat who patrolled the streets of the Victorian Metropolis by night:-


“Considerable excitement was caused early this (Wednesday) morning in the immediate neighbourhood of Upper-street, Islington, by the report of firearms.

It appears that two men who were suspected of attempting to commit, burglary, were being watched by constables.

The men, seeing this, immediately made off, and were chased by the police.

On reaching Park-street, one of the men turned and fired point-blank at his pursuers, the result being that Police-constable Chamberlain, 416 N, fell to the ground.

His comrade blew his whistle, and several persons gave chase, following the men into Liverpool-road, and then into Thornhill-road, Barnbury, where they were ultimately lost sight of.


The injured constable was placed in a cab and was conveyed to the Upper-street, Police Station, where he received medical treatment, and was stated to be in a dying condition, the bullet having penetrated the groin.

Upon the information of the outrage reaching Inspector Fuller, he immediately sent out a dozen men to scour the neighbourhood, but no arrests have been made.


London, 5 p.m.

The policeman, Chamberlain, shot by burglars in Islington early this morning, lies in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in a critical state.

No arrests have been made, but the police have a good description of the burglars.”

Illustrations showing the shooting of Constable Chamberlain.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 2nd July, 1884. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The Montgomeryshire Express, on Tuesday, 1st July 1884, provided its readers with a detailed account on the crime and its immediate aftermath:-

“A policeman named Chamberlain was seriously wounded by a burglar at Islington at an early hour on Wednesday.

Owing to the number of burglaries that had been committed in the north of London recently, an extra police force has been sent out at nights, and on Tuesday evening, at ten o clock, Police-constables Chamberlain and Muller were sent out at extra patrols in Highbury Grove.

About eleven o’clock, they saw two men loitering in the neighbourhood, and, their suspicions being aroused, they watched them for nearly an hour, and saw them try several doors.


Suddenly the men, seeing that they were being watched, ran away, the officers following them, and just as Police Constable Chamberlain, who had got within arm’s reach of one of the men, was going to catch hold of him, the man turned round sharply and fired at him. The bullet struck Chamberlain in the groin and he fell to the ground.

Police Constable Muller followed the men, after blowing his whistle to summon assistance.


Several persons who had heard the report of firearms went to the assistance of Chamberlain, and others followed Muller to capture the men, who, after being pursued as far as College-street, Barnsbury, were lost sight of.

Inspector Fuller (at the Upper-street police station), on hearing of the affair, sent out a number of plain and uniform men about the neighbourhood in search of the burglars, while information by telegram and a full description of the men wanted was sent to other police-stations.

The wounded man was removed to St. Bartholomew s Hospital, and, upon inquiries being made in the afternoon, it was ascertained that, although a little better, was in a precarious state.”


The Penny Illustrated Paper, on Saturday the 5th of July, 1884, wondered if the attack on Police Constable Chamberlain meant that it was now high time to arm the police:-

“The issue of arming the London police has been forcibly pointed out more than once of late to the Scotland-yard authorities, who must by this time see the wisdom of placing our guardians in blue on equality, as far as weapons go, with the murderous burglars of the Metropolis – the outcome of London’s deplorable neglect of the “Bitter Cry Outcast London,” in the face of the countless appeals made by such noble philanthropists as the Earl o Shaftesbury.

The shot fired at Constable Chamberlain, in Islington, was a signal that should conclusively show to Colonel Sir Edmund Henderson (the Metropolitan Police Commissioner) that the hour has arrived to place one of the handy and effective new revolvers in the hand of every member of the Police engaged in the night beats – within the metropolitan radius, well as in the suburbs.


The facts of this outrage plead eloquently for our imperilled Police.

Considerable excitement was caused early on Wednesday morning, June 25th in the immediate neighbourhood of Upper-street, Islington by the report of firearms.

It appears that two men, who were suspected of attempting to commit a burglary at Highbury, were being watched by constables.

The men, seeing this, immediately made off, and were chased by the police. On reaching Park-street in Upper-street, one of the men turned and fired at his pursuers, the result being that Police Constable Chamberlain, 416 N, fell to the ground.

His comrade, Miller, blew his whistle, and several persons gave chase, following the men into Liverpool-street and then into Thornhill-road, Barnsbury, where they were ultimately lost sight of.

The injured constable was, with the aid of a cabman near, placed in a cab and conveyed to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, and there it was discovered that a bullet had penetrated the groin.


The following description has been issued by Police:-

Wanted, for shooting at the police on the morning of June 25, a man about twenty-three years of age, height 5ft 7, complexion, hair, and moustache, dark, stout build; was wearing at the time a long dark overcoat, dark trousers, greasy down the front.

The other man is described as of about twenty years of age. 5 ft. 6 in height; complexion, hair, and slight moustache, fair; stout build was wearing a long grey overcoat and light trousers.

Both men wearing a black hard felt hat, and having a military appearance.


We regret to say that Chamberlain, who was most dangerously wounded, lay for several days in great pain at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.

The intelligence of the attack made on him was kept from his wife, she being in an asylum, and near the period of child-birth,

Residents in and near Upper-street, Islington, will naturally be prompt to offer some testimonial of their warm admiration for the pluck displayed by poor Chamberlain in his gallant endeavour to protect their property from a brace of ruffians.

Before these lines will be read, indeed, a substantial subscription for Chamberlain will no doubt have been opened by the Islingtononains.

At the commencement of the week, the superintendent of Police was not without hope that the perpetrator of the murderous outrage on Constable Chamberlain would be brought to justice.

Two men, supposed to resemble the suspicious characters Chamberlain and Miller followed from Highbury were arrested and detained in custody for identification.”