Regency Street, London, SW1. Photo © Roger Dean 2013
Sketches in London – James Grant, 1838:
The constabulary system which now exists is only, as most of my readers are aware, of recent origin. It was introduced by Sir Robert Peel in 1829. Previous to that time, the police of the metropolis was in a most defective and inefficient state. It was the subject of loud and general complaint. For upwards of a quarter of a century the principles on which the old police force were established, had been unqualifiedly condemned by every one who had ever turned his attention to the subject. And no wonder: for the number of felonies, and other offences of every kind against property, which were weekly committed without the parties being detected, or, at all events, without being brought to justice, was almost incredible. Nor could it have been otherwise; for, in the first place, no attention was paid to the character of the persons chosen to the office of constables. They were almost, without exception, Irishmen of the very worst class in point of moral character; and, in addition to this, the smallness of their wages—from 13s. 6d. to 17s. per week—necessarily rendered them more liable to be bribed, than if they had been better paid.