Victorian truncheon part of fascinating police history

� Tony Bartholomew 07802 400651'
� Tony Bartholomew 07802 400651'

by Jeannie Swales

This wooden truncheon has the gilded letters VR (Victoria Regina) at the top, and NRC (North Riding Constabulary) near the handle.

The North Riding Constabulary was founded in 1856. A fascinating history of the first hundred years of the force, downloadable from the North Yorkshire Police website (, describes its formation:

“...there was no suitably organised police system. There were... many different forms of policing controlled by entirely unconnected local authorities and by private parties. There were the parish constable; the deputy of petty constable, who was paid by the parish constable to do his work; the constable and headborough appointed annually by the Court Leet; the constable appointed by the Justices; the special constable, sworn in during emergency; the paid night watchman; the paid street keeper; the paid night constable and so forth.”

In 1856, the government passed the County and Borough Police Act, and organised paid police forces in England and Wales came into being. The North Riding Constabulary dates from October 14 that year, and initially consisted of a Chief Constable, Captain Thomas Hill, formerly of the North York Militia, and just 50 men of all ranks - although, interestingly, the boroughs of Richmond and Scarborough had their own separate forces, of two and six men respectively.

In 1889, the history tells us, PC Robert Clark was paid 24 shillings and sixpence a week, with free uniform and a boot allowance of two shillings and sixpence a month. He was issued with ‘2 pairs of trousers, 2 tunics (frock-coat type), 2 greatcoats, 2 helmets, 1 cape, 1 whistle and chain, 1 pair of handcuffs, 1 truncheon and 1 oil lamp’.

It also has some wry observations on policing in Whitby: “There were minor riots every time an arrest had to be made. On account of the continual trouble policemen off duty could not leave the station without special permission. This ensured a good reserve in case of trouble.

“Legend has it that one day the reserve were playing cards and... an argument arose between the banker and one of the others. In the middle of it all the alarm sounded. Out they rushed and the first casualty was the banker, brought down from behind by having a truncheon tested on his head. He spent two days in hospital.

“A man who served any length of time at Whitby was looked on by his fellows as little more than half civilised; but the story, then current, that they ate their young is believed to be untrue.”

The truncheon is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects and artwork owned by the borough. For further information, please contact collections manager Jennifer Dunne on or (01723) 384510.