People and Places gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census People and Places

The Metropolitan Policeman

The Metropolitan Policeman  

Walter William Hawkins joined the Metropolitan Police in 1889 at the age of 19 and served until 1914. He was promoted to sergeant in 1899.

Hawkins was the London-born son of a Metropolitan police officer, Charles Hawkins, who had migrated from Dorset to join the force in 1863. Charles also reached the rank of sergeant before he retired at the age of 48. Walter's own son, Horace, who was born in 1900, would also later join the Metropolitan Police.

PC Walter William Hawkins - link to an enlarged version
  Certificate of Service of PC Walter William Hawkins - link to an enlarged version

This extract from a certificate of service is typical of Metropolitan Police service records held by The National Archives. The service records of most other police forces in England and Wales, where they survive, will either still be held by the force itself or at the appropriate county record office.

Follow this link for more on tracing Metropolitan Police service records.

In 1901, as today, police pay was a controversial issue and it was argued that police officers could not afford to live in London on their existing salaries. Early in 1901, the starting salary for Metropolitan police constables was raised to 25s 6d a week, higher than any other English force except for the City of London. Recruits in 1901 could expect a maximum weekly salary of 33s 6d.

  Police constables also received allowances for coal, clothing if not in uniform, and medical care. In addition, they had pension rights described as 'the envy of omnibus drivers and road-scrapers'. A rent allowance, of 1s 6d a week, was also introduced for the first time in February 1901 for all officers below the rank of station sergeant. There were reasonable opportunities for promotion with about 15% of the force above the rank of constable. A 10s prize bonus was introduced in 1904 for those who passed an examination in Yiddish.

The 1901 Census records the names of 44,904 policemen in England and Wales i.e.1 to every 724 of the population, a figure that had risen slightly from 1 to every 726 in 1891. By November 2000, despite media stories of falling police force numbers, the trend towards an ever more heavily-policed society had taken this figure to 1 police officer to every 419 of the population.

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