Victorian Policing

Tramp Sleeping under a Hedge

Tramp Sleeping under a Hedge

Pencil drawing by Ford Madox Brown. undated.

My academic research has concentrated upon the policing of petty crime. I am interested in discretionary policing, the ways in which the men on the beat tackled problems such as vagrants, fairs, blood sports, traditional recreations, drunkenness, pick pocketing, violence and gambling. The police invariably defined and targeted those whom they considered ‘needed arresting’ and in so doing the police often decided who were the outsiders or deviants. The police identified and dealt with problems on the streets and lanes of Cumbria.

My research uses the neglected minutiae of police and court records to deconstruct the role of the police, to do which I address the public expectations of the police, the opinions, decisions and orders of the chief constable and the magistrates, and the growth of police bureaucracy. Discretionary policing was culturally determined and rooted in the working class cultures of Cumbria. The historiography and nature of Victorian policing are tested by my study of Cumbria, a remote and unique region which was culturally, economically and agriculturally quite atypical of Victorian England. My work examines the police’s role at a time of social, economic and bureaucratic change and links the development of police expertise and professionalism with the process of state formation.



I also blog on teaching. For this, I draw upon my many years’ experience as a classroom teacher. Issues which catch my attention include the teaching of history. I have been a  cyclist and runner for many years, and allow myself to blog on these subjects whenever an item of news catches my attention. If this eclectic set of interests puzzles you, it will be a relief for you to know that my Latin blogging is not on this site, but at:

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3 thoughts on “Victorian Policing

  1. Hi,
    We are a group who research and portray the working/street life/lower classes of Victorian society. I personally was a police officer for 27 years and ended up portraying the “peeler” of the period (about 1851). Thanks for your informative article, if you visit our webpage and click on “at your service” then “educational” there is a 60 page article, written by myself, regarding the formation/life and uniform of the Victorian police force. I hope it is of interest and value to you.

  2. Hi Guy.

    Glad to see you got your doctorate at long last…
    You might like to know that my book Sir John Dunne, the Biography of Cumbria’s first chief constable is currently being printed
    and should be available within the next 3-4 weeks.

    Alan Bryant
    November 2014

  3. I have recently discovered that an ancestor of mine, John Vart, was the first police officer resident in Brough (According to the Westmoreland Gazette 4th Feb 1860). I wondered if you could suggest where & how I might discover more information about this man & his roll.

    Thank you,
    Jackie Thorburn (Edinburgh)

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