Police & Bailiffs


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Lee Conservancy Police and Water Bailiffs.


To look up individuals use the A to K and L to Z buttons to the left. 

(although Constables Ross, Fordham and Hencher are also mentioned below)


Minutes and Items of General Interest.


16.5.1848 "...ordered that Mr Griggs be authorised to obtain the assistance of two Policemen and pay them to prevent Bathing in the Hackney Cut and the Workpeople of the Trust to be sworn in as Special Constables for the same purpose" (NA Rail 845/13)


11.1.1871 "...the growing traffic through Limehouse Lock from the Thames to the Wharves, Factories and Works along the Cut....remove the great discontent which prevails amongst the Barge owners....if a Police Officer were appointed to regulate the Traffic....An energetic man clothed in a neat uniform acting under your Engineer with orders to deal promptly in all cases requiring his interference would be productive of great good...With an energetic regulation of the Traffic - a proper supply of water - a reasonable amount of dredging ...it is not too much to expect that these blocks which have frequently lasted four days in the summer season, will not occur again.  (NA Rail 845/18)


25.1.1871  "I beg to report that William Ross late of the Thames Police Force is a man who appears to be well qualified to perform the duties of Barge Inspector and Police Officer to the Conservancy"


22.3.1871 "In arranging the Traffic during the last month one Bargemen refused to obey the instructions of the Police Officer (Ross) and threatened him with personal violence.  The man was at once taken into Custody, walked off to the Police Court, and within a few hours on the same day brought before the the magistrate and fined. -  This transaction which had numerous observers on the River will have good effect" (NA Rail 845/18)


1.10.1875 "....Appointment of Special Constables to Protect Traders Property in Bow District. 

1. Two or more men to be sworn in as Special Constables of the Lee Conservancy Board

2. To be entirely under the supervision and control of the Board.

3. The Board to find and pay for them a Uniform which they are to wear; and also to find them a boat for use.

4. The Traders Association to advance and pay over to the Board previous to the appointment of the men half a year's Wages and expenses of such men and so on at the end of every Six Months.

5. If the amount for such Six Months Wages be not so forthcoming and paid at any time when it may be due, the Board be at liberty to dismiss the men and withdraw their Warrants..... (NA Rail 845/56)


The 1891 Census recorded that George Judge, aged 37, a Constable to the River Lee Conservancy, was living at 11, Lockside, Limehouse. He had joined the Conservancy on 7th December 1888, transferring from the Traders Association police.

He later moved to the Conservancy house at Britannia Lock He handed in his notice on Friday 21st January 1898 which took effect on Saturday 29th January.  His daughter Edith Louise was born on 10th February while he was still living at the house.

His brother James Judge and his nephew Albert Judge both worked for the Conservancy as Lock keepers and Constables.  Their stories can be followed at Old Ford Lock and Marshgate Lock


Photo courtesy of George Judge's great grandson, Eric Last.  Also this cutting from The Morning Post of September 14th 1885 - 18 months after the offence!



3.1898  Duties of Police Constable at Limehouse

To attend at Limehouse Lock at least half an hour before the commencement of locking at every tide and arrange and marshall the craft in order both in and out and remain and pass the same  and not to leave the lock until the trade is clear and permission to do so has been given by the collector on duty.

To sign the attendance book at the time he goes on duty and also when he goes off duty.

To go up the Cut as frequently as possible or necessary but certainly not less than once a day as far as Bow Locks to have his card signed, and to take note of all the barges lying at the different wharves or unloading in the Cut and in case of any suspicion to at once report it to the Collector at Limehouse

To report in the attendance book the times and hours when up the Cut or otherwise on duty also anything of importance that he may observe such as an excess in the number of barges at any particular wharf, damage to any of the property of the Navigation, loading or unloading of barges and generally to use his best endeavours to prevent any evasion of toll or infringement of the Bye laws.

To keep the Cut or waterway clear for the passage of Barges etc., to remove all blocks and to generally carry out the Byelaws, particularly Nos 9, 15, 16, 30,  31, 32 & 33 and any breach of such to be reported to the Collector at Limehouse and also to be entered in the attendance book.

To report at once to the collector any damage done to barges, sunken barges,  subsidences in the towpath or anything affecting Conservancy property.

All charges for mooring barges found adrift &c to be at once forwarded to the Collector who will give the printed receipt.  The Constable not to take any fees, gratuities or to make any charges


23.11.1900.  It was resolved:   that the two Constables who are employed in the lower end of the River, be continued and paid by the Board for a time, their duties being to properly patrol the Towing Paths, day and night,  to keep the Navigation clear of blocks, and to devote their whole time to the Service of the Conservancy and not to watch private wharves or property on the Back Rivers, and that they be paid wages of 27/6 and 23/6 per week respectively with uniform, and no rent to be charged to them for the cottages on Bow Wharf.  (NA Rail 845/29)


23.1.1908 Our four River Constables have asked me if the Board would grant them an overcoat each, as they have to do patrol duty at night in all weathers.  I think they would cost about 37/6 to 40/- each.  I shall be glad if the Board would grant their request. - C Tween (LMA/ACC 2423/011)


11.12.1908  A letter from Mr A E Narlian, stating that the premises at Limehouse occupied by his Company,  “had been broken into by burglars six times during the past few years, and refusing to pay the annual acknowledgement of 1s. due from him last Michaelmas in respect of a doorway opening on to the tow-path at Limehouse, on the ground that the Board’s police had been negligent in performing their duty in the neighbourhood of his company’s premises.”

In this respect the Engineer and Manager reported that it was not the duty of the Board’s police to protect the premises of private persons, their principal duty being to protect barges and the Board’s  property.

It was resolved “that Mr Narlian be informed that unless he pays the rent due from him… forthwith, the Board will cause (the doorway) to be closed up”  (NA Rail 845/35)


31.1.1913 Report from the Engineer and Manager.


  “We have at present five Constables, viz. : on for the Old Ford to Tottenham district, two for the Bow district and two for the Limehouse district.


Constable Fordham, who resides at Brick Lock Cottage, Homerton, looks after the districts between Old Ford and Tottenham; he is also Weir keeper at Lee Bridge.  During all flood times e is solely engaged at this Weir, and I have to send assistance to relieve him as of course he cannot attend to the Weir all day and night as well, and it is absolutely necessary to have a man constantly in attendance.  When there is no flood Fordham visits the Weir once or twice a day and patrols the River between Old Ford and Tottenham.


We have two Constables for the Bow district and one of these has to attend at Bow Locks for about four hours each tide to regulate the traffic passing through the Locks and also attend to the flood gates at Bow. 

There is only one Lock keeper at Bow and during flood time one of these Constables has to be in constant attendance at the Flood-gate Sluices.

During their spare time they patrol the Bow district and the Stratford Back Rivers.


Hencher, who is one of the Constables for the Limehouse district looks after the Limehouse Cut and at times has to assist the Constables at Bow Locks and the flood gates.  It takes two men to move the sluices at the flood-gates as there are twelve of these connected in sets of three.  He also has to look after Bromley Lock at the entrance to Limehouse Cut and assist generally.

Frequently all these men are engaged in Navigation duties;  they are Constables, however, and as far as time permits patrol the River and moor up any Barges that may be found adrift, etc.


Marshgate Lane Lock.  We have a lock keeper at this lock about four to five hours during each tide (night and day).  He has to superintend the unloading of barges at Bow Wharf and see that the wharfage charges have been paid, regulate the traffic so that no stoppage takes place, keeps the books at Marsh Gate Lane, recording the number of barges passing through the lock and the number entering Bow Back River and report to Superintendent Lawrence at Bow Locks. This man is not a Constable but I suggest he should be one.


Limehouse Lock.  At this  Lock we have two Collectors and two Lock keepers and a Constable (Porter), whose duty it is to regulate the traffic, to see that no stoppages occur between Limehouse and and  Bow Common Bridge.  He resides at Britannia Lock Cottage.


I recommend that one extra Constable be appointed so that Limehouse Cut and district can be more efficiently patrolled and undesirable persons kept off the Conservancy’s premises, and I also recommend that all the Constables be provided with police uniforms and helmets. (NA Rail 845/40)


28.2.1913   That the Scale of Wages of Collectors, Lock keepers, Weir keepers, Police Constables and Water Bailiffs on the Lee Navigation be not reconsidered by the Board during the next five years (NA Rail 845/40)


The following Police Call Sheets were provided by Eric Last.  Constable Albert Judge, four of whose Call Sheets are reproduced here, was the nephew of George Judge whose photograph is further up this page. His name also appears as the check signature on three others, while his father James has check-signed the remaining sheet
























These call sheets detail the duties carried out on the 12 hour shifts worked, both day and night.


They confirm the attendance not only at locks and tidal duties but also at other wharves along the River.


The constables were required to obtain a check signature at each visit






4.3.1915     Wages of all Constables and Water Bailiffs be increased by 2/- per week


22.2.1918   All Police Constables and Water Bailiffs to receive a war bonus of 3/- per week


1.11.1918   All Police Constables and Water Bailiffs to receive 2/- per week each


11.7.1919   All Police Constables and Water Bailiffs to receive 5/- per week each


31.10.1919  BOOTS FOR POLICE CONSTABLES.  Boots are required for the Police Constables.  Last year the Board allowed them 25/- in lieu of boots, but they now ask that they may be allowed the same as the Metropolitan Police, viz:- 1/- per week.  Agreed (LMA ACC 2423/017) 


4.2.1921  ….no action should be taken with regard to the wages or the Police, but that the wages of each of the Water Bailiffs should be increased  by 5s per week until some substantial reduction is made in the cost of living.  (NA Rail 845/48)


14.10.1921  The General Manager reported that , in his opinion, the only way to stop the thieving and the damage was to appoint four extra police constables when the extra tolls are imposed, but that he did not think it to be the Board’s duty to hold themselves responsible for the safe custody of Trader’s barges or merchandise therein. (NA Rail 845/48)





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