the coming of paid police forces, the main agents of local law enforcement
were the parish constables, who were local tradesmen or farmers
chosen annually by the inhabitants of each parish or township. People
of no fixed abode and visible means of support (or in the blunter
contemporary language “rogues and vagabonds”) were always
a bugbear to the authorities, and the constables were expected to
adopt a “zero tolerance” policy against them.
This is an order made in 1814 to the constables of
the county by magistrates meeting at the court of Quarter Sessions.
“The magistrates now assembled taking into
consideration the various depredations recently committed upon the
public: DO strictly charge and command all Constables and other
Peace Officers in this County, to perform their duty as by law required,
in apprehending all Rogues, Vagabonds, and other idle and disorderly
Persons, to give information to some one of his Majesty’s
Justices of the Peace, of all keepers of common Lodging and victualling
Houses, who shall knowingly permit any Rogue, Vagabond, or incorrigible
Rogue, to lodge or take shelter in his House, Barn, Out-house, or
Building, and to present all Ale-house-keepers who shall permit
any Journeyman, Apprentices, Colliers, Servants, or Labourers, to
remain drinking in their Houses, at any improper or unseasonable
hours, or who shall not in all things preserve good order therein,
agreeably to the tenor of their recognizances. And they do earnestly
recommend the Ministers, Churchwardens, and principal Inhabitants
of every parish, to enforce the Laws for the due observance of the
Sabbath. By order of the court, Hinckley.
Being a constable was often a difficult job.
For an illustration of this, click on A