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THE POLICE GAZETTE

Part 2: Issues for 1797-1810, 1828 and 1830-1840 from the State Library of New South Wales

Publisher's Note

The Police Gazette originated from the work of Sir John Fielding (d1780), and his half-brother, the novelist, Henry Fielding (1707-1754) in Eighteenth Century London. As well as serving as magistrates and presiding over the introduction of a small number of paid constables - the Bow Street Runners - they experimented in the apprehension of criminals through the use of public advertising and the circulation of details of offenders to other justices throughout the country.


In 1752, Henry Fielding used his own publication, The Covent Garden Journal, to invite victims of crimes to contact him with details of the crimes committed against them, properties stolen, and descriptions of the criminals involved. Advertisements were then placed in the journal, usually with a reward attached, for the recovery of the property and the apprehension of the criminals. The advertisements proved to be a success and paved the way for a succession of journals specifically devoted to the description of criminals and offences. These range from Sir John Fielding’s Public Advertiser, to the Quarterly Pursuit and Weekly Pursuit, which were distributed to Mayors and Chief Magistrates far and wide. Shortly afterwards, Lord North persuaded George III that the journal deserved to be published on an official basis and there followed, in succession, the Public Hue and Cry, The Hue and Cry and Police Gazette and, finally, the Police Gazette. Approximately 150,000 copies were printed of each issue. The Metropolitan Police took over the publication of the Police Gazette from 1883, and from the same date illustrations start to appear in the text. The journal continues today.


Despite the large number of copies produced of the Police Gazette and its predecessors, no complete run exists anywhere in the world. The aim of this microfilm project is to assemble a 149 year run of the journal from 1752 through to 1900 by filming various scattered holdings.


Part 1 made available issues for 1866-1869, 1871-1878, 1882-1897 & 1899-1900 from the holdings of the Cambridgeshire Police Archive (covering 30 years, representing 20% of the total run).
This second part, bringing together copies formerly addressed to the Colonial Secretary, now held at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, makes available issues for 1797-1810, 1828 & 1830-1840 (covering a further 26 years, representing 17% of the total run).

It allows comparisons to be made between the types of crimes occuring in the 1790’s, 1810’s, 1820’s, 1830’s, 1840’s and those of the 1860’s, 1870’s, 1880’s & 1890’s. The reports will be of great interest to the literary scholar, who can examine highway robbery in the age of Tom Jones and escapees from the Marshalsea prison in the age of Dickens. They will also be valued by the social historian, who can use the volumes to examine aspects of class, criminality and material culture. This is a prime source for information on the transportation of convicts, and on deserters from the army, and also provides a clear indication of government fears concerning public disorder from the French Revolution onwards.

The issues covered in this second part are:


The Hue and Cry, and Police Gazette (issued once every three weeks)
Nos 136, 138, 140-339 30 Sep 1797 - 22 Dec 1810

Police Gazette; or, Hue and Cry (issued twice a week)
Nos 1-62, 64-84, 87-100 18 Jan 1828 - 30 Dec 1828


Police Gazette; or, Hue and Cry (issued twice a week)
Nos 205-207, 209-256 2 Jan 1830 - 30 Jun 1830


Police Gazette; or, Hue and Cry (issued twice a week)
Nos 309-415, 417-517, 521-525, 527-533, 540-542, 544-693, 696-776, 778-882, 936-970, 972-1091,
1096-1106, 1108-1115, 1123-1169 1 Jan 1831 - 30 Mar 1839


Police Gazette (issued three times a week)
1-24, 26-34, 36-38, 40-62, 64-235, 237-275 1 Apr 1839 - 30 Dec 1840


There are reports of footpads, highwaymen, smugglers, house-breakers, murderers, forgers, larcenists, arsonists, rustlers, deserters and escaped convicts. Detailed descriptions are given of shops’ goods that have been looted, possessions taken from houses, clothes that have been taken from unfortunate travellers, and horses and cattle stolen from farmers. The thousands of particulars given build up a vivid picture of serious and petty crime in Hanoverian and Victorian Britain.


The early issues (1797-1810) consist of two pages. On the front page are a series of public announcements, notices of rewards offered and reports of offences committed and property stolen. These mostly relate to London (areas such as Bow Street, Whitechapel and Shadwell), but there are also reports from as far afield as Bristol and Newcastle. The back page is given over entirely to a War Office list of deserters from the armed forces. This list provides names, descriptions, dates of desertion and unit deserted, providing valuable evidence of military morale during war, peace and periods of instability at home.


Later issues extend to four pages. Reports of individual crimes are more detailed and are broken down under sub-headings for Murder and Maliciously Shooting and Stabbing, Arson and Wilful Burning, Forgery, Robbery, House-breaking, Horse and Cattle Stealing, Larceny and Embezzlement, Frauds and Aggravated Misdemeanors and Property Stolen. The War Office list of deserters is moved to the inside pages and there are also descriptions of escaped convicts and prisoners ordered for transportation to Australia. The back page generally includes reports of felons charged.


Public Announcements include notices of new government initiatives to curtail the sale of “loose and licentious prints, books and publications” (3 Feb 1798), to suppress “Seditious and Treasonable Societies” (16 Nov 1799) and to enforce “a publick Day of Fasting and Humiliation ... in order to obtain Pardon of Our Sins and in the most devout and solemn manner send up Our Prayers and Supplications ... for the Restoration of Peace, and Prosperity to Us and Our Dominions.” (7 Jan 1809). It is particularly interesting to see how the authorities reacted to unrest in England, following the Irish Rebellion and the French Revolution.


There are announcements concerning chartists, machine-breakers and aliens suspected of sabotage or spying.


A sample of some of the reports will give a better idea of the character of the journal:


WOUNDED FOOTPAD Saturday, 11 November, 1797

Whereas, on Friday Night, October 27 about Eight o’Clock, Two Gentlemen, in a Post-Chaise, from Staines, were attacked and robbed, near the Barracks, on Hounslow Heath, by Three Footpads, one of whom the Gentlemen fired at and he is supposed to be mortally wounded, from the Blood which appeared on the Chaise and the Road.


If any Surgeon or Apothecary should be applied to, to attend such a Person, it is hoped, for the Sake of Public Justice, he will send immediate Notice thereof, to the above Office; and any other Person who may know where the wounded Footpad may be found, shall, upon giving immediate Notice as above, receive a Reward of FIVE GUINEAS.


ESCAPE Saturday, 30 June, 1798
Escaped from the Prison of Newgate, in Newcastle upon Tyne, on the 6th of June, where he had been committed as a desrter from th 60th Regt. of Foot. CHRISTOPHER HODGSON, alias HUDSON, alias, HUTSON, aged about 50, 5 feet 11 inches, or 6 feet high, dark complexion, pitted with the small pox, wears his own hair short, and dark, turning grey; a broad brimmed round hat, a copper colored coat, a chocolate striped waistcoat, and thick olive breeches. He frequents fairs, horse-racing, and cock-fighting, and gambles &c. and is well known by the nickname of Duke, owing to his having been in the service of the late Duke of Northumberland, and usually wears a ring on one of his little fingers.
A Reward of TEN GUINEAS will be paid on his apprehension and being lodged in any of His Majesty’s Prisons, by the Gaoler of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, independent of what is due by Act of Parliament.

Stolen possesions are described in great detail. For instance, a list of Watches, Plate & Various Articles in the issue for 25 December, 1802, features over 50 items including:

A double case gold watch, horizontal, capped and jewelled, maker’s name , Toulmin, Strand, number 3469, has the arms on the back of the outer case, 3 birds, and a bird for the crest. ... A silver pint mug, marked P E I K ... A pair of pistols, Spanish, fluted, the barrels browned, with the name “Wogdon” inlaid in the barrels with gold, and the same name also engraved on the locks ... A quantity of black lace worth 50 pounds.... Several sofa and cushion covers of different sizes, all of them numbered with thread 108 ... A silver snuff-box with a Vinegreat on the top and the initials I C.

Such descriptions tell us much about the period described, the articles that were valued, and the type of offences that occured routinely. They detail the contents of shops and describe the goings on at country fairs; they report the possessions of a gentleman travelling by coach, and the fate of a common thief who has stolen a handkerchief.


This source will enrich our understanding of the perils of living and the nature of justice in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Britain. Through it, we will better understand both the police and the policed.

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