Bow Street Runners

Bow Street Runners

The Bow Street Runners have been called London's first professional police force. They were founded in 1749 by the author Henry Fielding and originally numbered just eight.

Similar to the unofficial 'thief-takers' (men who would solve petty crime for a fee), they represented a formalisation and regularisation of existing policing methods. What made them different from the thief-takers was their formal attachment to the Bow Street magistrates' office, and that they were paid by the magistrate with funds from central government. They worked out of Fielding's office and court at No. 4 Bow Street, and did not patrol but served writs and arrested offenders on the authority of the magistrates, travelling nationwide to apprehend criminals.

When Henry Fielding retired as 'court' or Chief Magistrate in 1754 he was succeeded by his brother John Fielding, who had previously been his assistant for four years. Known as the "Blind Beak of Bow Street", John Fielding refined the patrol into the first truly effective police force for the capital, later adding officers mounted on horseback.

Although the force was only funded intermittently in the years that followed, it did serve as the guiding principle for the way policing was to develop over the next eighty years: Bow Street was a manifestation of the move towards increasing professionalisation and state control of street life, beginning in London.

Contrary to several popular sources, the Bow Street Runners were not nicknamed "Robin Redbreasts", this epithet being reserved for the Bow Street Horse Patrol. The Horse Patrol, organised in 1805 by Sir John Fielding's successor at Bow Street, Richard Ford, wore a distinctive scarlet waistcoat under their blue greatcoats.

Bow Street Magistrates' Court closed in July 2006, breaking its long association with law enforcement. [cite web | url= | title=Bow Street court closes its doors | accessdate=2006-07-19 | date=2006-07-14 | work=BBC News ] The building is due to be converted to a boutique hotel.

In Culture

A fictional Bow Street Runner named Edmund 'Beau' Blackstone is the protagonist of the "Blackstone" series of historical thrillers by Richard Falkirk (Derek Lambert), set in 1820s London and comprising "Blackstone", "Blackstone's Fancy", "Beau Blackstone", "Blackstone and the Scourge of Europe", "Blackstone Underground" and "Blackstone on Broadway" (see [] )The Bow Street Runners feature in an episode of the popular "Carry On" comedy series—"Carry On Dick". In this episode they are made out to be a set of bungling idiots who are frequently outsmarted by Sid James, playing the legendary highwayman Dick Turpin. The Bow Street Runners are also mentioned briefly and with apparent regard in Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist". Andrew Pepper's "The Last Days of Newgate" (2006) describes a fictitious Bow Street Runner, Pyke, who tries to prove his innocence in a murder trial.

Bruce Alexander penned eleven "Sir John Fielding" historical mystery novels. The series, beginning with "Blind Justice" (1994), features a fictionalised "Blind Beak Of Bow Street", ingeniously solving murders, assisted by the Bow Street Runners.

Novelist James McGee has written a series about a Runner named Matthew Hawkwood.

Novelist Jayne Ann Krentz (writing as Amanda Quick) has the hero of her historical novel "I Thee Wed" (1999, second book in the Vanza series) use them as bodyguards for his fiancee.

The Bow Street Runners are depicted in a 2008 drama series on Channel 4 entitled "City of Vice", which featured Ian McDiarmid as Henry Fielding.

There is also a BBC Radio play "The Last of the Bow Street Runners", part of the "London Particulars" stories.

The movie "The Tale of Sweeney Todd" (1998) portrays a young American, Ben Carlyle, who comes to London in search of a diamond merchant who has defaulted on a payment of $50,000 worth of diamonds. Carlyle stops in at the Bow Street Runners' headquarters in search of the man.

Many historical romance novels, such as those written by Lisa Kleypas (particularly the Bow Street series), include the Bow Street Runners - Kleypas discusses her use of the runners in a [ note on her homepage] .

A novel entitled "Richmond : Scenes in the life of a Bow Street runner", author unknown, was originally published in 1827 in London, and republished by Dover Publications in 1976. It follows the adventures of the titular narrator Richmond, first his early wandering life, then cases he investigates when he later joins the Runners.

Channel 4's website has a point-and-click adventure game called "Bow Street Runner", where the player is a new runner put on a case and charged with solving it. There are five chapters. The game uses classic point-and-click gameplay elements as well as new styles of play similar to games such as for the Nintendo DS. The game attempts to be historically accurate.


External links

* [ Bow Street Runners in the Literary Encyclopedia]
* [ The Metropolitan Police Service Historical Archives]
* [ Game About the Bow Street Runners]

ee also

* Bow Street
* Bow Street Magistrates' Court

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