Police Constable 95 James James joined the Glamorgan Constabulary on the 17th September 1860 at Merthyr Tydfil. He was just seventeen years old.
Unusually for this period in history which offered a hard life to a policeman, PC James James was extremely committed to his chosen career, even given misleading information about his age to secure an appointment.
Conditions of service for a Victorian Policeman
"When constabulary duty’s to be done, The policeman’s lot is not a happy one." (Pirates of Penzance, 1879)
Candidates for the Victorian police had to be between 18 and 27 years of age, and if married were allowed to have no more than two children when joining. The standard of height was 5ft 9in. Only one day off per fortnight was allowed. No Sunday or public holiday entitlement was given, with Constables and Sergeants allowed just one weeks holiday per annum. The bulk of the recruits were countrymen, to whom the starting salary of 18 shillings per week appeared wealth!
PC James James joined the Glamorgan Constabulary at a time of great uncertainty for the fledging police forces of the United Kingdom. Britain was a very disorderly and undisciplined country, with crime, especially theft of all kinds, commonplace, and many people fearing that the nation was on the brink of revolution. However, despite this, the introduction of formal police forces was met with stiff resistance. British people prided themselves on being freemen and were fearful that an efficient police force, potentially modelled on the army which was used to quell incidents of public disorder, would turn them into slaves.
PC James James would have witnessed a dramatic shift in attitude by the end of his service. In 1837, the year Queen Victoria came to power, there was only one formal police force in Great Britain – the Metropolitan Police Force in London. The next thirty years would see every county and sizeable town establish a similar force, with the Glamorgan Constabulary beginning in the year 1841. Changes in the police were paralleled by changes in the punishment system. For example, in the 1820s and 1830s the death sentence was abolished for minor crimes such as shop lifting, and the modern prison system with its emphasis on reform as opposed to punishment was born. By the time of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, a system of law and order, very similar to that in existence today, was in place. Britain became a more orderly and less crime-ridden society than it was 100 years previously.
Police Uniform in the Victorian Era
PC James James received his uniform on 22 September 1860
He was given the following:
1 Staff (truncheon)
1 Cape and Strap
1 Pair Leggings
2 Great Coats
2 Dress Coats
5 Pairs Trousers
2 Leather Neck Stocks
3 Button Brushes
3 Button Sticks
1 Pair of Handcuffs No. 124
When PC 95 James James joined the Glamorgan Constabulary in 1860, he looked like a Metropolitan policeman. He was issued with a reinforced top hat, white trousers and a blue tailed coat. This was the fashion of dress for gentlemen of that period. It was hoped that the blue and white would make him instantly recognisable but that he would not resemble a soldier!
After 1864, changes in fashionable civilian dress and a growing sense of acceptance of police presence by the general public, meant the police began to model their uniforms on that of the Military. A photograph depicting PC James James wearing this new style of uniform is shown above. 1864 would also have been the year that he was issued with his first helmet.
PC James James was supplied with four essential items of equipment to assist him in carrying out his duties.
He would have been given a decorated truncheon, or staff, made of wood, as proof of his identification, which would have featured a coat of arms, the reigning monarch’s crown and the name of the police force issuing the truncheon. He would have carried his truncheon in a long pocket concealed inside his trousers. He retained his decorated truncheon until the 1890s when warrant cards began to be allocated, as they proved to be a far better means of identification. Early warrant cards, unlike those of today, did not contain a picture of the officer concerned.
The style of truncheon, however, was to remain the same until the 1980s with the introduction of the polycarbonate "PR24" baton which allowed the police officer to defend himself as well as to restrain a prisoner. This type of baton has recently been replaced by the "ASP" baton style. The ASP baton, made from metal developed for the aerospace industry, expands with a flick of the wrist from 7ins to its full 26 ins length.
PC James James used handcuffs to arrest a wrong doer. These would have been carried in a trouser pocket. He would have been supplied with two pairs of wrought-iron "D" Cuffs, so called because they resembled the letter "D," out on duty – one with the purpose of arresting adults and the other, children! There would be no Education Act ensuring that every child had a school place until 1870, 10 years after PC James joined the Glamorgan Constabulary, and PC James had to arrest minors for various offences such as theft of food and coal and vandalism.
Operational with a large key which had to be screwed in and out a hole at the edge of each cuff to open and lock it, "D" Cuffs took too long to handcuff the prisoner and had the added disadvantage of being non-adjustable. Incredibly this style of handcuff remained in use in the Glamorgan Constabulary until the 1970s, when it was finally replaced by the aluminium "Quick Cuff," a precursor for the modern handcuff in use today.
"Snips" or "Figures of Eight" were used unofficially in place of "D" Cuffs to restrain prisoners who would not come quietly. The police officer would push an unruly criminal’s hand up behind his back, slide on the Snips and twist if the prisoner struggled. This method of arrest was eventually banned in the 1950s because it often resulted in sprained or broken wrists.
PC James was issued with a rattle to enable him to contact other officers, if he needed their assistance. The rattle was made of wood and was carried in his coat pocket. Disadvantages of the rattle included that it could be used as a weapon against police officers. Certainly PC James was attacked with his own rattle and had to retire from the Glamorgan Constabulary partly because of the injuries he sustained. As the rattle was carried in a uniform pocket it was awkward to get at in an emergency and because it was made out of wood, they had the tendency to wear quite quickly (not many have survived).
Metal whistles replaced rattles in the 1890s. PC James hung his from a button-hole on his tunic. The whistle had several advantages over the rattle, namely that it was easier to carry, was louder than the rattle and could not be used as a weapon against a police officer. Whistles were eventually replaced by personal radios. Today of course police officers can also keep in contact via mobile phones.
PC James wrote in his notebook that he had a conversation with Superintendent Wrenn in 1861 requesting a new lantern. He complained that his lantern burnt his fingers, and stained his uniform. He also stated that his face would be covered in soot in the mornings and that this could be difficult to remove. Such complaints were not unusual, but nevertheless, the Bull’s Eye Lantern remained in use until the 1920s. If PC James was to join South Wales Police today, he would be issued with a "Maglite," battery operated torch.
Bull’s Eye Lantern
Finally PC James was issued with a "Bull’s Eye Lantern" to allow him to see where he was going at night, given that only limited or no street lighting existed at this time.
He operated his lantern by lighting a wick in an oil filled container that fitted inside the lantern.
The lantern also had a shutter facility that could be used if desired. "Bull’s Eye Lanterns" were so called because it was thought that they resembled the eye of a bull.