15 March 2013

Constable staffs

This staff was purchased by Frederick Horniman at the end of the 19th century from another collector, J. Newton Moss. When they were first displayed, one of these staffs was believed to have been used during riots realting to Fenians or Chartists during the nineteenth century.

Constable staffs were used by a variety of police forces, including constables for large cities, parish communities, universities, railway police, prison guards, or dockyard companies. This staff (0.25) is from 1830-1837, and is decorated with the cipher 'WRIV', for William IV.

Staffs, or truncheons, were used by the police force for practical and ceremonial purposes. They were both a weapon and a badge of office. Constables did not begin wearing uniforms until 1829 or carrying warrant cards until the 1880s; before this time, the staff indicated the constable was acting under the authority of the crown by displaying the royal crown and cipher on the staff. The crown and cipher were standardised on constable staffs under William IV, but additional decoration could be added. Staffs might also have displayed the royal coat-of-arms, the coat-of-arms of the local town or village, and the owner’s initials. The main manufacturer of police staffs was Hiatt and Co. of Birmingham, but staffs were usually produced locally for small towns or parishes. Because the quantity of decoration was based on personal preference, constable staffs are often one-of-a-kind.
Image and text from the Horniman Museum, where there's lots of cool stuff.

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