We are so used to reading about London policemen when it comes to studying the history of the Jack the Ripper case.
We read about constables discovering the bodies of the victims; we read about officers patrolling the streets of the Victorian metropolis at all hours of the day and night.
What we don’t tend to hear too much about is the off-duty situation of those police officers.
Where did they live?
What was their accommodation like?
How did they spend their leisure times, and what sort of pastimes were available to them to help them s they whiled away their off-duty hours?
Come to think of it, we don’t often get details of what sort of duties they worked. What were their shift patterns? How long were they expected to work on a particular shift, such as, say, the night shift?
ALL IS REVEALED!
Well, on Saturday, 8th March, 1890, an article appeared in The Dundee Evening Telegraph, that answered many of those questions, and several more besides.
The article read:-
ABOUT THE LONDON POLICE FORCE
“The London police force numbers over 15,000. You cannot go far in any direction without seeing a constable, and yet those you notice are not by any means all of those who are on duty.
A great many policemen go about in plain clothes – that is, these men walk about the streets dressed like anyone else, so that they may observe what is going without difficulty.
BUSIEST TIME FOR ROBBERIES
More policemen are on duty in London between the hours of seven and ten in the evening than at any other time of the day or night, for it has been found that most robberies are committed then.
WHERE THEY LIVE
Many policemen are married, and live with their families in houses of their own.
The unmarried ones live together like soldiers in barracks, only the places where they live are called “section houses,” instead of barracks.
In these “section houses” the single policemen sleep and have their meals, and here also are the cells in which people who have been misbehaving themselves are locked up.
INSIDE A SECTION HOUSE
“Section-houses” usually consist of a basement and two storeys.
In the basement are lavatories, rooms where stores of clothing are kept, bathroom, and the kitchen.
The cooks are the widows of policemen.
On the first floor is a big mess-room, where the policemen have their meals together; a library and a reading-room, and perhaps another room fitted with bagatelle-boards and other games for the amusement of the men when off duty.
The rest of the house is taken with bedrooms.
Some of these are in use from ten o’clock at night until two o’clock the next day.
This sounds as though policemen were a very lazy set of people, doesn’t it?
NIGHT DUTY OFFICERS
But the men who go on sleeping until the afternoon did not go to bed at ten the night before.
Policemen are on duty all night long, and those who, like the newspaper men, work when others are in bed, naturally want to rest when others are up and about.
THE POLICEMAN’S LEISURE TIME
When policemen are off duty, and amusing themselves in their “section-house,” they do not wear their blue uniform, but dress like ordinary mortals.
Each man provides his own food for breakfast, tea, and supper, but dinner is provided by a caterer, who attends to the needs of a “mess,” to which a number of men belong.
THE SHIFTS THAT OFFICERS WORK
Metropolitan policemen work for a month during the day and the next month at night, and so on, taking day and night duty alternately.”