The Metropolitan Police how it all began

Sir Robert Peel

In 1829, when Sir Robert Peel was Home Secretary, the first Metropolitan Police Act was passed and the Metropolitan Police Force was established.

This new force superseded the local Watch in the London area but the City of London was not covered. Even within the Metropolitan Police District there still remained certain police establishments, organised during the eighteenth century, outside the control of the Metropolitan Police Office, viz:-

  • The Bow Street Patrols, mounted and foot, the latter commonly called the "Bow Street runners".
  • Police Office constables attached to the offices of, and under the control of, the Magistrates.
  • The Marine or River Police.

By 1839 all these establishments had been absorbed by the Metropolitan Police Force. The City of London Police, which was set up in 1839, remains an independent force to this day.

Until 1829, law enforcement had been lacking in organisation. As London expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries the whole question of maintaining law and order had become a matter of public concern.

In 1812, 1818 and 1822, Parliamentary committees were appointed to investigate the subject of crime and policing. By 1826 Sir Robert Peel was outlining a plan for six police districts to cover a 16 km (10 mile) radius from St Paul's, excluding the City of London.

But it was not until 1828 when he set up his committee that the findings paved the way for his police Bill, which led to the setting up of an organised police service in London.

The formation of the Metropolitan Police Force by Sir Robert Peel occurred on the 29th September 1829

Peel appointed Col. Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne to establish the force as much as they saw fit. On 20 July he approved the establishment of a force of 895 constables, 88 sergeants, 20 inspectors and 8 superintendents.

Sir Richard Mayne, Joint Commissioner Peel stressed that the principal duty of the police was to be crime prevention (rather than detection.) The nicknames 'Peelers' and 'Bobbies' were uncomplimentary results of his decision to make the force directly responsible to himself in the Home Office.

Peel's proposal that senior uniformed ranks should be filled from below and not brought in from the higher social classes has been followed to this day. Peel himself said that he accepted low pay for the men as he did not want any policeman feeling superior to the job or his colleagues. Sir Robert Peel is commemorated in the MPS by the training schools' names (first Peel House, now Peel Centre); by a bronze statue acquired by the Hendon training school in 1873 and by a marble bust.