coachman with blunderbuss

Civil Forces

Public servants such as police and prison officers, Customs and Excise officers and Royal Mail coachmen were armed with a variety of weapons including edged weapons and firearms.

Mail coach guards

Poor roads made communication slow and difficult and post boys and coaches were often robbed. In 1784 a fast, well-protected nationwide system of coaches was set up. Every coach had a guard armed with a pair of flintlock pistols and a blunderbuss, which proved an effective defence.

The Police

For many centuries law enforcement was the responsibility of the local community and their magistrates, who would appoint officers, such as parish constables.

In the 18th century, as towns increased this style of policing could not cope with the rise in crime and disorder.

The first attempts at professional policing was in London, and in 1829 Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police Force. By 1856 every local authority was required to have a police force.

The first police were armed with wooden truncheons and sometimes a short sword. As a reaction to the increased use of firearms in crime the police armed themselves and developed protective clothing.


To read PDF documents you will need Adobe Reader. Reader
If you do not currently have it installed you can download Adobe Reader for free.

Did you know?

Thunder birds are go!

Artillery pieces before about 1700 were often classified by names. A rare type of very big gun was known as a basilisk, a more common long powerful gun was known as a culverin while smaller versions were named after birds of prey such as saker and falcon.