In 1839, Peel’s County Police Act was enacted and a force was immediately formed for Shropshire with separate forces for Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Much Wenlock and Oswestry.
The Local Government Act of 1888 transferred the responsibility for the police from the Quarter Sessions to the newly created County Council and the Justices of the Peace and the Council governed the police through a Standing Joint Committee. The Police Committee and Standing Joint Committee minutes are at 1818, which includes rules for the governance and guidance of the Shropshire Constabulary.
The Shropshire Constabulary was merged to form the West Mercia Police force created in October 1967 with the police forces in Herefordshire, Worcester City and Worcestershire.
The records at Shropshire Archives cover up to the creation of the West Mercia Police force.
The earliest Shropshire Constabulary General Order book dates from 1859 and comes from the Chief Constable’s office 7175/1/1. The General Order books are a good source for the routine administration of the force and the earlier records show an increase in the need for the police to demonstrate sober and authoritative behaviour. The General Orders also include execution on points of law, arrangements for public events, uniform and appointments. Other general orders books can be found in 1818/31-54.
Personnel and accommodation
Registers of police officers are a good source for appointments, promotions, removals and discipline and include physical description and previous appointments: most police officers were recruited from the armed services. These can be seen at 1904/1 and 7175/7.
The index cards at 9380 compiled by D J Elliott’s in research for his book “Policing Shropshire 1939-1967” are a good alternative point of access for researching policemen. They are arranged by force and then alphabetically. There are two series of alphabetical orders from the late C19th to c.1920 and a second series up to 1970. The information in these index cards is not referenced, so it is not possible to verify the information, but they do provide a useful starting point.
Recruitment of police officers to Shropshire was notoriously difficult, owing to the relatively low pay and poor accommodation. Records in 7175/8 on police property dating to 1913 record poor living conditions of police officers: the Shropshire Constabulary rented private accommodation of varying quality, until a review in the 1940s led to the building of dedicated police housing. Police houses may be found in the property deeds at 7939. Other records of police accommodation can be found at 3403; and police offices and lock-ups at 2924.
Some personal papers of police officers can be found at 7175/5 which include police notebooks and personal diaries and recollections.
Registers of persons contained in the divisional records are a good source for criminals, and some include photographs and physical description. There are some in 7175/11 and 1904/54-57.
Records of investigations do not feature heavily, though a few items have been transferred from the West Mercia Police museum, formerly at Hindlip Hall, Worcester.
The training of police officers during the 1940s-1970’s is covered in the papers of Richard Noel Blythe 9303. Richard Blythe was heavily engaged in delivering training and his papers include lecture notes and training materials.
Photographs of police events and officers can be found at 1904/96-109 includes photographs of Chief Constables in C19 & C20th. 7842 includes a number of formal group portraits, parades and processions and social events.
Finding and viewing records at Shropshire Archives
Search our online catalogue for further details or consult the printed catalogue when you visit. You can view these records in our searchroom.
Please be mindful that the Data Protection Act will apply to these collections and that access to some of the material will be by individual application. See our restricted access policy for further details.
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Parish records and manorial records are also worth consulting for records of constables before police forces were established. See also the Highways Boards until 1889 when the Superintendent of Police was responsible main road inspections.
Earlier records, especially those relating to administration and finance, rather the individual officers, are within the Quarter Sessions papers ref QF/4 and QA/6 and records of borough and district authorities.
Elliott, D J “Policing in Shropshire 1836 – 1967” (Warwickshire, 1984)
Purnell and Roberts “Shropshire Constabulary” (unpublished, 1963)
Cox, D C “Law and Order after 1889” in Victoria County History Vol III (Oxford University Press, 1982)
Information in other places
West Mercia Police records are held at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.