|Most of the visitors to
the Great Exhibition came on days when the tickets cost a shilling, or five
pence. About 4,500,000 people came on these 'shilling days'. These were working
people, who came from all over Britain. The first 'shilling day' was expected
to lead to a great deal of trouble. One MP, Colonel Sibthorpe warned that
there would be crime and disorder.
So on the first 'shilling day' there was a heavy police presence. But nothing
happened. In the five and a half months that the Great Exhibition was open,
only seven people were arrested and there was hardly any vandalism.
men who policed the Great Exhibition were members of the Metropolitan Police
This force had been established in 1829 and its police constables were given
the nickname 'Peelers' after Sir Robert Peel who was Home Secretary at the time.
Until the 1820s the
main emphasis in law and order was on punishment, because there were few police
were 400 offences that carried the death penalty, including picking someone's
pocket of anything worth one shilling (5p) or more and stealing anything worth
£2.00. Sir Robert Peel abolished almost all of the capital offences (those that
carried the death penalty) and also began to reform prisons, as well as setting
up the Metropolitan Police Force.
wanted to put the emphasis upon preventing crime, rather than punishing criminals.
Some of the novels of Charles Dickens, who was writing in the 1830s and 1840s,
show how lawless the streets of British cities could be.
In 'Oliver Twist' Fagin runs
a gang of pickpockets, and Bill Sykes is a violent and dangerous criminal. In
'Great Expectations', Pip is befriended by the convict Magwitch, who had escaped
from a hulk.
first the Police Force was not very popular. People were very concerned that
the new police should not be like the military and therefore great care was
taken to ensure that police constables did not look like soldiers.
This is why peelers wore top hats instead of helmets and carried truncheons
instead of rifles, although cutlasses were available for emergencies!
success of the Metropolitan Police Force, however, led other parts of the
country to set up their own forces. However, it did not become compulsory
for counties and boroughs to have police forces until 1856. The duties of
the police were extended as more and more laws were passed.
example the 1872 Licensing Act made them responsible for supervising public
drinking places. Policing was not the only aspect of law and order that changed
during the Victorian period.
ways in which criminals were punished were also changed. 1857 saw the end of
Hulk ships. These were anchored ships, which held prisoners who were either
awaiting transportation to the colonies, or were used to carry out public works,
such as clearing the River Thames.
transportation of criminals gradually declined and the last convict ship arrived
in Australia in 1868. These changes led to a new prison building programme
based upon the model prison at Pentonville. Inside these new prisons, prisoners
were separated, forbidden to communicate with each other and given meaningless
work to do. But did these changes make a difference?