How to look for records of... London Metropolitan Police

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

1. Why use this guide?

This guide provides advice on how to find records (primarily staff records) of the London Metropolitan Police. The National Archives has a substantial collection of Metropolitan Police staff records, but not all have survived.

The most recent staff records we hold are pension records dating up to 1993.

The Metropolitan Police Force, created in 1829, was the first modern police force in England (provincial police forces in England and Wales were not established until after the County Police Act of 1839). Its original area of jurisdiction covered a seven-mile radius from Charing Cross in central London. Today it consists of the 32 boroughs of Greater London, excluding the City of London.

Records of the City of London police are held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Metropolitan Police records held at The National Archives are identified by the department code MEPO (there are 46 separate record series within MEPO). You can browse the department and its composite series in our catalogue for an overview of what we hold.

2. Staff records – Online

Significant numbers of Metropolitan Police staff records are available online both through our own website and those of our commercial partners. In some instances there is a fee to view and download these records but there is free access at The National Archives building in Kew.

2.1 Metropolitan Police registers in Discovery

Many of the personnel records are in the series MEPO 4 and can be searched by name (using the keyword search box at MEPO 4) and downloaded from Discovery, our catalogue.

Not all records can be found by name searching. If you do not find a record by name searching you can still browse the various types of register listed below in Discovery, find an appropriate register, based on dates of joining or leaving, and download a digital copy to look through.

Some of these records contain more information than others and some information may be duplicated in different records. A summary of the typical contents of each sort of record is below.

MEPO 4/333-338 Registers of joiners, 1830-1857 and 1878-1933

The catalogue descriptions for each register entry contain more information than the registers themselves (information has been added from other records) and in most cases include, along with the full name:

  • warrant number (useful to distinguish between officers with the same name)
  • date of joining
  • date of leaving

MEPO 4/339-351 Registers of leavers, 1889-1947

The details included are:

  • warrant number
  • rank
  • dates of joining and leaving

MEPO 4/352-360 Attestation ledgers, 1869-1958

These registers of joiners contain:

  • warrant number
  • signature of the new recruit
  • the division to which they were assigned

MEPO 4/361-477 Certificates of service, 1889-1909

These records contain:

  • a physical description
  • date of birth
  • trade
  • marital status
  • residence
  • number of children
  • name and place of last employer
  • previous public service
  • surgeon’s certificate
  • postings to divisions
  • dates of promotion or demotion
  • cause of removal/departure from the force

2.2 Other downloadable records in Discovery

Some other records can be downloaded from Discovery but are not name searchable. These are

  • MEPO 4/2, Death returns for Metropolitan Police, 1829-1889
  • MEPO 4/31-32 Numerical registers of police warrant numbers, September 1829-March 1830. These are in ranges of warrant numbers.

2.3 Metropolitan Police pension registers, 1852-1932

Search Metropolitan Police pension registers by first and last name at Ancestry.co.uk (charges apply). The original records are held in series MEPO 21, whose contents stretch all the way up to 1993 – but records from 1932-1993 are not available online (see section 3.1).

2.4 Abbreviations in the records

You may find the following abbreviations in some of the above records (such as registers of leavers):

  • RP – resignation permitted
  • RR – required to resign
  • CO – Commissioner’s Office

3. Staff records – Beyond online records

There are still many Metropolitan Police Force records that are not available online. Searches for these records begin in our catalogue which contains descriptions of each record with its document reference. This section of the guide provides instructions on how to target your catalogue search to specific parts of the collection so that you can locate a document reference with greater ease.

For more speculative or broader searches you can try an advanced search of our catalogue using keywords (for example, the name of an officer or a police station, or broader terms such as ‘discipline’ or ‘promotion’) and dates, ensuring that you include MEPO in the reference field.

To see these original records you will either need to visit us or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (charges apply).

3.1 Metropolitan Police pension records, 1932-1993

Browse our catalogue in MEPO 21/67-210 for records of Metropolitan Police officers’ and officers’ widow’s pensions after 1932, arranged by date of retirement and pension number. Unless you know a pension number, you should select the record you need by date of retirement.

Records from 1957-1993 (MEPO 21/100-139) are closed and you will therefore need to submit a Freedom of Information request to have a chance of seeing them.  Click ‘Submit FOI request’ on the catalogue details page for the closed record.

3.2 Metropolitan Police register, 1829-1836

HO 65/26 is an alphabetical register of metropolitan police officers between 1829 and 1836.

3.3 Selected police files of distinguished officers in the Metropolitan Police Force, 1858-1933

Joining papers of a number of distinguished officers are at MEPO 3/2883-2922. The covering dates are for dates of service.

3.4 King’s Police Medal records, 1909-1951

The King’s Police Medal was awarded to officers for gallantry or distinguished service. It was introduced in 1909 and replaced by the King’s Police and Fire Services Medal in 1940, itself replaced by the Queen’s Police Medal in 1954.

There is a register of officers under consideration for the King’s Police Medal in MEPO 22/2 and files relating to the award of the medal in HO 45 (search with the term “King’s Police Medal”).

See also MEPO 2/1300 and MEPO 7 for mentions of officers who received the medal.

The London Gazette published notifications of awards of the King’s Police Medal – search The Gazette website.

3.5 Metropolitan Police orders, 1829-1989

Browse our catalogue in MEPO 7 for police orders.

Items included are:

  • staff news
  • promotions
  • awards
  • retirements
  • dismissals

Note that the records are closed for 50 years. If you already know the date of a particular event these might give you more information. The series includes some index volumes.

3.6 Nominal rolls of local constables appointed by Commissioner who hold warrants, January 1875

MEPO 2/143 contains returns, by division, of local constables sworn in and issued warrants. It gives names, date of appointment, place of work as a constable and name of sponsor. Appointments are to parishes, workhouses, canals, dockyards, parks and other places.

MEPO 2/141 contains correspondence relating to the appointments of individual local constables.

4. Special Branch records

The Metropolitan Police Special Branch was formed in 1883. Its remit included intelligence work, anti-terrorism and personal protection of prominent and public figures. It merged with the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch in 2006 to form Counter Terrorism Command.

Records from Special Branch are held in series MEPO 38. You can search the series for records using keywords connected to specific topics, such as ‘extremism’, ‘fascists’, ‘communism’, ‘Irish Republicanism’ and ‘protection’.

5. Other Metropolitan Police Records

MEPO record series also contain details of the administration and organisation of the Metropolitan Police Force. Search using dates and surnames or keywords, or browse using the series links below.

Records relating to police work and investigations can be found in series MEPO 2MEPO 3 and MEPO 4, and files created after 1969 can be found in MEPO 26 – MEPO 38.

MEPO 5 contains registered correspondence of the receiver, 1829-1974, on a variety of subjects. The files MEPO 5/1-90, 1829-1907, are in registered number order but a subject index is in the paper version of the catalogue for MEPO 5 in the reading room. Later files can be browsed or keyword searched.

MEPO 6 contains Registers of habitual criminals from 1834 to 1959. Documents in this series are generally subject to a 75 year closure period. Selected records are available through Findmypast.

MEPO 20 contains registers of Murders and Violent Deaths in the Metropolitan Police area from 1891 to 1966. Browse and select registers by date range, no records survive for 1910, 1911 and 1918.

Further information relating to the Metropolitan Police and other forces can also be found amongst records of the Home Office.

6. Plans and Photographs

The series MEPO 9 contains architectural plans and drawings of police buildings from 1847 to 1957 can be found in. Search using place names or browse.

The series MEPO 15 contains maps of police districts and their changing boundaries from 1894 to 1972.

MEPO 13 contains photographs originating from the force’s Publication Information Department dating back to 1901.

MEPO 14 contains photographs of police stations from 1857 to 1983. MEPO 14/26 are annotated with histories of the stations.

7. Records in other archives

Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre

The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre has a collection of personnel records including records of service and a name database. Contact HeritageCentre@met.police.uk for advice on the organisational history on the force as well as information on the Metropolitan Police’s own archives, which include records of individual officers. The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre has an incomplete set of divisional records for A, B, E, F, G, H, K, L, M, N, R and Y.

Women police officers

The Metropolitan Women Police Association holds a database of names of all women police officers from warrant No 1, issued in 1919, to warrant No 7474, issued in 1986.

Use their online contact form to find out more about how to locate records of service.

Women police patrols

Consult records of service and photographs of the women police patrols employed from 1919 at the Metropolitan Historical Collection.

Divisional and station records

The Open University has some online images of divisional and station records including some occurrence and charge books. The Wapping Police Station Museum holds Thames Division ledgers.

Police Roll of Honour Trust

Contact the Police Roll of Honour Trust which maintains the Police Roll of Honour and includes a section for the Metropolitan Police

8. Further reading

Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.

The books are all available in The National Archives’ reference library. You may also be able to find them in a local library. You can buy from a wide range of history titles in our bookshop.

Appendix 1: The London Metropolitan Police district

The area policed by the London Metropolitan Police has changed over the years:

  • The Metropolitan Police Act 1829 defined the Metropolitan Police District as an area about seven miles radius from Charing Cross, London
  • The second Act in 1839 extended this to about a 15-mile radius from Charing Cross and included all of Middlesex
  • In 1869 this area was divided into four districts, each of which had a number of divisions (see below)
  • From 1860 to 1934 the Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the police of the Royal Dockyards and military stations Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich
  • From 1914 to 1926 they also had responsibility for Rosyth in Scotland
  • Today it consists of the 32 boroughs of Greater London, excluding the City of London

Appendix 2: London Metropolitan Police divisions

If you know the division an officer worked in, you can extend your research to include looking at divisional records. Where records mention an officer’s division they often use the following letter codes:

  • No. 1 District: G – Finsbury; H – Whitechapel; K – Stepney; N – Islington; and Thames Division
  • No. 2 District: D – Marylebone; E – Holborn; S – Hampstead; X – Paddington; Y – Highgate
  • No. 3 District: A – Whitehall; B – Westminster; C – St James’s; T – Kensington; V – Wandsworth
  • No. 4 District: L – Lambeth; M – Southwark; P – Camberwell; R – Greenwich; W – Clapham
  • F Division – Covent Garden
  • J Division – Bethnal Green – added in 1886
  • Z Division – Croydon – was formed in 1921. Croydon had previously been included in W Division
  • Q Division – Wembley – was formed in 1965. Wembley was previously X Division
  • Division letter codes I, O and U were never used

Maps of the districts and their changing boundaries can be found in record series MEPO 15.