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Go Back   Casebook Forums > Ripper Discussions > Police Officials and Procedures > General Police Discussion

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Old 05-25-2017, 10:50 AM
David Orsam David Orsam is offline
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Posts: 7,916
Default Knocking Up

A recent controversy over on JTR Forums might have gone unnoticed by most people.

In a thread entitled "Capturing Jack the Ripper by N.R.A. Bell", Ed Stow raised the question as to whether knocking up was a 'perk' or part of a beat constable’s duty. He noted that N.R.A. Bell had addressed the subject of knocking up in his 2014 book saying that constables on the beat were permitted by the authorities to supplement their wages by knocking up but had not included any source references. Stow also cited my research on this forum about knocking up:

N.R.A. Bell, posting as Monty, did not respond directly in that thread but started a new thread with the same title as his book, although the only two posts he has made in that thread relate to knocking up.

In his first post he said:

"For those interested re Knocking up duties, the sources are Dillnot, Emsley, Shpayer-Markov, Police Orders 1860 & 1875, Tempest Clarkson & Hall, Hale, Jackson, Taylor & Cavanagh.

The task of knocking up hailed from the old Watchman days, and was permitted to be continued in the new model force Peel created. Constables were permitted to take money for knocking up duties to supplement their wage as long as it did not impinge on their regular duties, and those he woke were part of his beat (Dillnot, Emsley, Shpayer-Markov, Tempest Clarkson & Hall, Hale, Jackson, Taylor & Cavanagh). Some constables kept a book noting who wished to be woken, and when (Hale) .

This was phased out over the mid 1800s, however some Bobbies bent the rules (yeah, I know) and kept it going. It wasn't official, and a blind eye was turned, as long as duty was done."

For anyone interested in the subject, as I am, the most disappointing part of this post was the list of names in the first sentence said to be source references. To the extent that these are recognisable authors, some of these individuals have written a number of books or articles about the police but Monty did not identify which publications he was referring to or which dates they were published, as one would expect. I have consulted books by Dilnot, Clarkson & Hall and Shpayer-Markov but cannot find any references to knocking up in them. I do not know who Hale and Jackson are (they do not appear to be George Wensley Hale or Sir Richard Jackson who have written about the police but it’s hard to say for sure). Most unusual of all is Monty’s reference to "Police Orders 1860 & 1875". It is strange for someone to refer to an entire year of police orders rather than identify the date of the relevant P.O.). Nevertheless, I have reviewed all Police Orders for 1860 and 1875 and am confident there is nothing about knocking up in them during those two entire years.

In his second post on the subject, Monty then appeared to contradict his first post in which he had said that a blind eye was turned to knocking up as long as duty was done because he revealed that, "Two Constables that I know were pulled up about it, one received a reprimand, the other forfeited a days leave." No source is provided for this and it is unclear if these are constables known to Monty personally or if he is referring to written punishments. Either way, this seems to mean that a blind eye was not always turned to the practice.

The first post had been somewhat ambiguous as to whether constables were permitted to receive payment in the latter part of the nineteenth century or not but in this second post he confirms that constables were not permitted to receive payment during this period when he says:

"Hale refers to the practice in the 1870's, Taylor 1890's and Dilnott during the Edwardian period. Yes, Constables were not permitted to receive payment, yet they did. And no, it was not free as payment would have to be made under Special Duties regulation. Going direct to the Bobby was better as their 'rates' were cheaper."

He seems to be suggesting here that there were official rates of payment for a practice which was not permitted, which seems odd. He does not explain how payment could possibly be made under the Special Duties regulation when such payments were normally calculated by the day. How could the special duties rate possibly have been translated into a job which might have taken a few seconds and for which the commercial rate during the nineteenth century was a penny a knock?

Ultimately, although he does not expressly say so, he appears to be reversing the position he took in his 2014 book in which he said the practice was permitted by the authorities. His position now seems to be that it was not permitted but a blind eye was adopted although some punishments were dished out for doing it.

Anyway, doing the best I could with Monty’s source references, and some additional references that I have located myself, I have prepared an article setting out all the known evidence relating to knocking up by the Metropolitan Police. This can be found here:

But I will update it should more information come to light.
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Old 06-19-2017, 11:24 AM
Bridewell Bridewell is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Bottesford, Leicestershire
Posts: 3,670
Default A Mea Culpa

Thanks, David.

I'm pleased to have found a thread on 'Knocking Up' as it means I don't have to start one myself! I'm not privy to Monty's sources on this topic but I do know that he has a copy of "Dickens's Dictionary of London 1888" which includes the following:


The following questions have been submitted to the Metropolitan Police Department and have received the annexed replies:

Whether the police on ordinary night duty are allowed to be made available for calling private individuals in time for early trains etc.

The police are not only allowed, but are taught that they are bound to render this or any other service in their power to the inhabitants."

(There are two other questions, both relating to unoccupied houses).

I have argued elsewhere that 'knocking-up' was 'nowhere' (I think that was the word I used) on the list of police duties. That view has to be revised as clearly it was seen as a requirement (though not one for which payment should have been received). I maintain my stance that Mizen should not have prioritised it over investigating the 'dead or drunk' woman reported to him by Cross & Paul, however, as the first duty (laid down by Rowan and Mayne) was, and indeed still is, the protection of life.

My view, with this new insight, is that Mizen's course of action should have been to obtain the names and addresses of the two men to whom he spoke and then to have made straight for Bucks Row. He was entitled to leave his beat in such circumstances but would need to justify having done so in the event of the report proving to be a false alarm. Recording the names and addresses of Cross and Paul (or persuading them to return with him) would have given him insurance against any claim that he had left his beat without good cause. I apologise (particularly to Fish & Ed) for not having discovered this sooner.
Regards, Bridewell.
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Old 08-07-2017, 11:29 AM
David Orsam David Orsam is offline
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 7,916

I've only just seen this post Bridewell.

I have two comments.

Firstly, the entry from the Dickens's Directory of London is no more than a summary of what was contained in Police Orders, although it is of interest that this was publicly available information.

Secondly, I don't see how being told that there is a drunk woman on another policeman's beat has got anything to do with the protection of life. You need to bear in mind that if he doesn't knock up someone who is expecting to be knocked up, that person may not get to work in time. And that person might lose their job. So, leaving aside the issue of whether he should have taken names, he seems to have done exactly the right thing. Finished his knocking up duties (to the extent that he did finish them) and then made his way to Bucks Row. The drunk woman would still be drunk and if she was dead she would still be dead.

But it could be argued that it was the fact that he had been told that another officer required his assistance (although not urgently) which was the determining factor in him deciding to leave his beat.
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