The history of the Met Police in Redbridge

The tram terminus at Barkingside High Street, showing the Barkingside Police Station on the right, c

The tram terminus at Barkingside High Street, showing the Barkingside Police Station on the right, circa 1905. Photo: Norman Gunby - Credit: Archant

Policing across London has changed a lot since the Metropolitan Police Service was first formed 189 years ago, here’s a look at how they started in Redbridge

London’s police force as we would know it today was formed in 1829, when the Metropolitan Police Act was introduced by the government of Sir Robert Peel.

In fact, it is prime minister Peel’s first name which is the reason police officers are today known as bobbies.

But Ilford and its surrounding neighbourhoods were not served by these officers until 1839, when the London limits were extended to 15 miles from Charing Cross.

It was then that Ilford, Barkingside and Chadwell Heath then fell under the jurisdiction of the newly former K Division.

The men policing the area then were dressed in a uniform consisting of a high-necked tailed jacket and trousers which were blue in winter and white in summer.

The collars of their jackets could be reinforced by the addition of a four-inch high leather stock designed to prevent garroting – a method of attack that was quite popular at the time.

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To defend themselves, officers were equipped with a truncheon, rattle and cutlass.

Officers on night duty were allowed to carry firearms, when signed off by senior officers.

Pay started at the equivalent of £1.05 per week, and wouldn’t go up until 1869. For such small remuneration they were expected to work 12-hour shifts every day of the week.

The first police station in Ilford was opened in 1839 – the same year in which the railway first came to the town.

In January 1840, records show that “60 of the best men the force possessed” were marched out to patrol the Outer District of K Division.

Ilford Police Station, which was situated to the north of Ilford Hill, had two sergeants and eight constables ring-fenced for “local peace-keeping”.

The first documented mention of a police station in Barkingside dates back to Police Orders dated January 11, 1864.

A sergeant and eight constables were based at the station, which had no cells and did not take any charges.

In those days, Hainault Forest was still pressing at the boundaries of Barkingside, and these officers spent most of their time tackling poachers, who would steal deer from the forest on a daily basis.

“Black mutton” as it was known, was a staple of most people’s diets.