Birmingham City Police

Birmingham City Police was the police service responsible for general policing in the city of Birmingham from 1839 to 1974. The force was established by a special Act of Parliament in 1839, and was amalgamated as of 1 April 1974 with the West Midlands Constabulary and parts of other forces to form the West Midlands Police by the Local Government Act 1972.

Birmingham City Police
Hat badge of the type in use on the last day of the service
Hat badge of the type in use on the last day of the service
Agency overview
Formed20 November 1839 (1839-11-20)
Dissolved31 March 1974 (1974-03-31)
Superseding agencyWest Midlands Police
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionBirmingham, England, UK
Legal jurisdictionEngland & Wales
General nature
Operational structure
Parent agencyHome Office


Early historyEdit

As early as 1786, watchmen were paid to patrol the streets at night, although this seems to have lapsed on occasion.[1] Special constables were sworn in when required.[1]

In 1800, James Bisset wrote:[2]

In 1789, the Author had the honor, in conjunction with George Simcox, Esq. (now one of our worthy Magistrates), and several Gentlemen in the neighbourhood of St. Paul's, of forming the first Committee, and establishing a Nightly Patrole in that district, for preserving the peace, and securing the property of the inhabitants. The laws and regulations were approved of and soon after adopted throughout the town, which was afterwards divided into 13 districts, each governed by a Committee of their own. The utility and advantages resulting from these Institutions, and the good order and regularity which has since prevailed, in such districts where the Patrole is continued, has fully evinced their beneficial effects; and as one of the Committee always attends the Patrole, in their nocturnal perambulation's, every Member of the Society cheerfully obeys the summons of the Night Constable, whenever it comes to his turn.

In 1812, Joseph Chirm was the "Head Borough Constable".[3]

Birmingham Town PoliceEdit

Birmingham Police Act 1839

Following Chartist rioting in 1839, when one hundred police had to be brought from London, an Act of Parliament was passed on 26 August 1839 "for improving the Police in Birmingham". Birmingham was required to have at least 250 constables and 50 officers, [4] funded by a rate imposed on the town of Birmingham, but serving all of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.[1] A commissioner was to be appointed by the Home Secretary and report to him.[4] The Birmingham force came into being on 20 November 1839 with 260 men. Francis Burgess, a local barrister, was appointed as the first police commissioner for Birmingham.[5] On 12 August 1842 a new Police Act transferred responsibility to the Birmingham Town Council and another removed doubts as to the authority of the council.[4] Burgess was succeeded by Richard Stephens, as the first Superintendent of the Birmingham Borough Police.[1]

Birmingham City PoliceEdit

When Birmingham became a city in 1889 the town police became the Birmingham City Police.

World War IEdit

Five hundred and seventy one officers from Birmingham City Police served in the military during World War I, of whom 50 were killed. All 571 are named on a memorial which is located in Lloyd House, the headquarters of the BCP's successor, the West Midlands Police, and on an accompanying website.[6]


Appleby Matthews conducting a Birmingham Police Band recording session in 1921

The Birmingham City Police Band was, at one period, conducted by Appleby Matthews,[7] organist of the city's St. Philip's Cathedral and the first conductor of the City of Birmingham Orchestra (later the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra). Members of the band would sometimes supplement the orchestra's numbers.[8] Subsequently The band was conducted by Richard Wassell, with whom they performed a number of BBC Radio broadcasts.

The City of Birmingham Orchestra held its first-ever rehearsal at 9.30am on 4 September 1920, in the band room at the Birmingham City Police's Steelhouse Lane station.[8]

Chief ConstablesEdit

Chief Constables of Birmingham City Police (some under other titles) included:[9]

  • 1839 (1839) – 1842 (1842): Captain Francis Burgess (as "Police Commissioner")
  • 1842 (1842) – 1860 (1860): Richard Stephens (as "Superintendent")
  • 1860 (1860) – 1876 (1876): George Glossop
  • 1876 (1876) – 1881 (1881): Major Edwin Bond
  • 1882 (1882) – 1899 (1899): Joseph Farndale
  • 1899 (1899) – 1935 (1935): Sir Charles Haughton Rafter KBE KPM
  • 1935 (1935) – 1941 (1941): Cecil Charles Hudson Moriarty CBE CStJ
  • 1941 (1941) – 1945 (1945): Sir William Johnson
  • 1945 (1945) – 1963 (1963): Sir Edward Dodd
  • 1963 (1963) – 1974 (1974): Sir William Derrick Capper


  1. ^ a b c d Thomas T. Harman (1885), Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham: A history and guide, arranged alphabetically: containing thousands of dates and references to matters of interest connected with the past and present history of the town – its public buildings, chapels, churches and clubs – its Friendly Societies and Benevolent Associations, philanthropic and philosophical institutions – its colleges and schools, parks, gardens, theatres, and places of amusement – its men of worth and noteworthy men, manufactures and trades, population, rates, statistics of progress, &c., &c., Cornish Brothers, p. 245, Wikidata Q66438509
  2. ^ James Bisset (1800), Poetic survey round Birmingham, p. 23, Wikidata Q105672953
  3. ^ The trial and execution of William Booth Who was Executed at Stafford, on Saturday Aug. 15, 1812. For Counterfeiting Forged Bank of England Notes., 15 August 1812, Wikidata Q97932637
  4. ^ a b c Gill, Conrad (1952). History of Birmingham Volume I. Birmingham City Council, Geoffrey Cumberledge, Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ "History of the Force". West Midlands Police. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Police Memorial". West Midlands Police Military History Society. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  7. ^ "City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra". Sinfini Music. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b Morley, Christopher (4 November 2010). "A glorious 90 years". The Birmingham Post. p. 4.
  9. ^ "Birmingham City Police 1839 - 1974". West Midlands Police Museum. Retrieved 10 February 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • Weaver, Michael (1989). Crime, Chartism, Community and the New Police: The Birmingham Police Act, 1839-1842 (PhD). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Michael Weaver (1994). "The New Science of Policing: Crime and the Birmingham Police Force, 1839-1842". Albion. 26 (2): 289–308. ISSN 0095-1390. JSTOR 4052309. Wikidata Q106310987.

External linksEdit