Crime and PunishmentConstables and the Watch Return to the main page
Case Study - How effective were local crime prevention official? Task Glossary
   
 

The petty constable was a local official whose origins date back to Anglo-Saxon times. They were unpaid, and were elected from local men. On the whole they were chosen from respectable tradesmen, craftsmen and shopkeepers, not ordinary labourers. They served for one year only. Their job was arrest criminals and to carry out instructions passed down from the JPs or the County Assize Justices. This could be awkward, as the petty constable found himself having to report on, even arrest, his neighbours. For this reason, they often used their discretion in applying the law and could get into trouble with higher authorities as a result. However, most petty constables did their duties as best as they could, alongside their full-time employment. It also meant that local people were involved in enforcing the law.
Watchmen had long been employed by local communities, more often in towns, to patrol the streets at night. Each one had a lantern, and a stick, and traditionally called out the hours and the weather. Because they were regulated by an Act of Charles II they were known as "Charleys".

 
Case Study 1 Sources
 
Source 1 Source 2 Source 3