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The Gripes of Mr Williamson (part 1)

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  • The Gripes of Mr Williamson (part 1)

    In the Secrets of the Special Reports thread, I posted an extract from the Globe of 10 September 1888 as follows:

    "It seems hardly credible, and yet it is perfectly true, that when the first of the three recent diabolical murders in Whitechapel occurred about a month ago, Mr Superintendent Williamson, though attending daily at Scotland-yard, in charge of the Detective Department, received no notice whatever for a whole week that any such crime had been committed, and that this happened not accidentally or through carelessness, but in accordance with a deliberate plan on the part of the Commissioner of Police."

    I mentioned that the Globe had got Williamson’s rank wrong, with him being the Chief Constable at the C.I.D. at the time and, indeed, most sources, including this site, state that he was promoted to Chief Constable in 1886.

    While this cannot be said to be wrong, having now looked a bit more closely at the point, I can see that the historical reality is a little bit more nuanced.

    District Superintendent or Chief Constable?

    On 23 June 1886, the Secretary of State agreed to a request from Sir Charles Warren for a "Confidential Assistant" to James Monro, the Assistant Commissioner, C.I.D. (MEPO 2/210). On 1 July 1886, Sir Charles wrote to the Secretary of State to submit his recommendation that the post of confidential assistant "be conferred on Ch. Supt Williamson with the rank and pay of Dist. Supt for the C.I. Dept" (MEPO 2/210 & MEPO 1/48).

    The appointment was confirmed by a letter from the Secretary of State on 8 July 1886 (MEPO 2/210) in the following terms:

    "Referring to your communication of the 1st instant, I am directed by Mr. Secretary Childers to convey to you his sanction of your proposal that Chief Supt. Williamson be appointed Confidential Assistant to Mr. Monro, with the rank of District Superintendent of the C.I. Dept., and salary of £700 rising by annual increments of £25 to the maximum of £800."

    Subsequently, on 10 July 1886, the following appointment was published in Police Orders (MEPO 7/48):

    "DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT – On the recommendation of the Commissioner the Secretary of State has been pleased, by letter dated 8th inst., to appoint Chief Superintendent Williamson District Superintendent for the Criminal Investigation Department."

    It is clear, therefore, that Williamson’s new rank was District Superintendent. This was in addition to four already existing District Superintendents, one for each of the four police districts.

    The Change of Rank

    On 1 October 1886, a report into the administration and organisation of the Metropolitan Police (dated 19 July 1886) was issued by a government appointed committee which suggested that the name "district superintendent" should be disused, due to confusion with the rank of "divisional superintendent", with those officers being nominated "chief constables" instead.

    This change of name was formally effected a few weeks later, in a Police Order dated 27 October 1886 (MEPO 7/48) which stated:

    "DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS – The Secretary of State has, by letter dated 23rd inst., approved of the designation of District Superintendent, being altered to Chief Constable."

    On 12 August 1887, in the House of Commons, the Secretary of State, in response to a question from the Member of Parliament for St Pancras as to why the post of District Superintendent had been abolished, replied that, "The office of District Superintendent has not been abolished; but the name has been changed to that of Chief Constable. All the present Chief Constables—five in number— were District Superintendents."

    To me that is confusing and it seems that, while Mr Williamson was now more properly referred to as Chief Constable, C.I.D. (which was how he was now referred to in internal documents and in the press), he was also, apparently, still the holder of the office of District Superintendent.

    Sir Charles Attempts to Clarify

    That there was some confusion within the Metropolitan Police itself on the subject is evident from Office Regulation 262 (MEPO 4/10), issued by Sir Charles Warren on 20 July 1888, which states:

    "A question having arisen as to the exact position of the several chief constables the following notifications are made

    [lists four chief constables of the 4 districts]

    Confidential Assistant to Asst Commr, C.I.D. – Mr A.F. Williamson with rank of Chief Constable of the C.I.D and a special salary.

    In the first four cases the appointments are as Chief Constables, Metropolitan Police: - in the last case the appointment is that of Confidential Assistant, and the rank of Chief Constable is personal to Mr Williamson."

    While I’m not sure what exact issue Sir Charles was trying to address, it is hard to see how this announcement could really have clarified the situation.

    Certainly, there appears to have been some lingering issue over Williamson’s role for the remainder of 1888.

    The Undermining of Mr Williamson

    On 23 January 1889, less than two months after Sir Charles Warren’s resignation, the then Commissioner, James Monro, wrote as follows to the Secretary of State:

    "Practically the appointment has been recognised as the appointment of Mr. Williamson to one of the Chief Constables of the Metropolitan Police, employed in the C.I. Dept. His position as Chief Constable has been officially recognized – and for some time after his appointment he was employed very much to the benefit of the public service as Chief Constable.

    Latterly, however, for reasons which I need not here enter his status as Chief Constable has not been officially recognized, he has practically been deprived of all authority and as a consequence the assistance which he has been able to afford to the A.C. has very materially been diminished

    Now, I don’t know quite how Williamson was deprived "of all authority" – something that was presumably done by Sir Charles Warren – or whether there is any connection between this and the Globe report from September 1888. Nor do I know how his status as Chief Constable was not "officially recognized" or what this really means.

    I intend to follow this post in due course with part 2 in a new thread relating to the procedure for submitting Special Reports to Scotland Yard (and I think that the new system introduced in 1888 might well have formed part of Williamson’s complaints) but, that issue aside, does anyone know what Williamson (via Monro) was complaining about when he (Monro) spoke of Williamson being deprived of his authority and of his rank not being officially recognized?

    One possible issue that might have annoyed Williamson is a memorandum issued by Sir Charles on 27 March 1888 (while he was on sick leave) which said (at para 3):

    "The Chief Constable of C.I.D is appointed for duties in the Commissioner’s Office, though available for any other duties under the Commr. In cases in which he sends directions to Divisions or to Chief Constables it is to be understood that they are sent by direction of the Asst Commr, C.I.D., and he has no power to give orders himself in a Division either verbally or in writing." (MEPO 7/134)

    Mr Williamson is finally "appointed" Chief Constable

    Anyway, the final event in this sequence is that on 29 January 1889 the Home Office replied to Monro’s letter of 23 January stating:

    "In answer to your letter of the 23rd instant, I am directed by the S of S to inform you that he has been pleased to approve the appointment of Mr. Williamson to the Chief Constable, C.I. Dept.

    This appointment will date from the 8th July, 1886, and being personal to Mr. Williamson will be subject to re-consideration on his retirement." (MEPO 2/210)

    So, in this rather Alice in Wonderland world, Mr Williamson was a Chief Constable from 8 July 1886 but was only appointed to this position on 29 January 1889!!!

    In calling him "Superintendent" in September 1888, the Globe was wrong but, perhaps, not quite as wrong as it might first have appeared.

  • #2
    Have you looked at his pension David? And if it was paid to his widow?


    Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.


    • #3
      Hi Monty,

      Williamson's widow did not receive a pension from the Metropolitan Police. Nor from a grateful nation.

      Instead she received £907 15s 8d, scraped together by voluntary contributions to the "Williamson Memorial Fund."

      The Pinkertons gave £10.00.


      Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.


      • #4
        Hi Simon,

        Thanks for that.

        I am surprised. Surely she was entitled to take on his pension until her death.


        Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.


        • #5
          Hi Monty,

          Click image for larger version

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          Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.


          • #6
            Thanks for clarifying Simon,

            When writing about City PC Louis Robinson, I came across a reference in his files where his widow was entitled to his pension upon his death, irrelevant of how he died. It ceased when she reached the age of 66.

            However, a change in law in 1956 meant she was entitled until her death, so it was reinstated to her at the age of 82.

            Of course Williamson is Met, not City. And it has been some years since I ventured down the Superannuation path. Its not as interesting as 28 1/2 inch rubber capes.



            Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.



            • #7
              I don't understand what relevant information his pension could have revealed. Is the point that his rank of chief constable was back-dated to 1886 for pension reasons? Or am I missing something??