City Uniforms: Fewer headaches for those who keep their eyes peeled: The second in a series features the police force, whose garb has changed little since 1865

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE helmets of the City of London police force have changed little since 1865, when they replaced the leather top hats of the 'Peeler' era, which cracked easily and gave the wearer severe headaches, writes Topaz Amoore.

At the same time, tunics replaced the heavy, blue tailcoats that held water and caused rheumatism.

Today, the 800-strong City of London police force patrols an area measuring just 677 acres, whose shifting population is calculated at 330,000 during the day and 4,800 at night.

It was formed in 1839, 10 years after the Metropolitan Police Act was introduced by Sir Robert Peel. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the powerful voice of the City of London had long opposed any regulated police force. The guilds that ran the City feared their jealously guarded powers would be diminished.

The public feared that any police force would be run along the lines of existing French forces, riddled with agents provocateurs, spies and undercover agents. The new policemen were ordered to wear their uniforms on and off duty in an effort to allay those fears.

Red and white striped armlets still displayed above the wrist today signalled that the policeman was on duty. By 1860, when there were 227 forces in England and Wales (by 1969 they had been cut to 46) the public had become accustomed to the police.

The Britannia, or combed helmet, had a wide brim similar to that of a bowler hat. The brim has gone but the distinctive ridged crest, moulded up the back of the head to give the helmet the 'centurion' look, remains.

The helmets worn in the City of London are unique in not bearing the Queen's crown.

(Photograph omitted)