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policemen in formal uniform
Improved discipline led to a force Middlesbrough could be proud of

© W.S.Hislox, Courtesy of Middlesbrough Reference Library
Policing the frontier: Middlesbrough c.1830s to 1860s

As thousands of people, many young single men, flooded into the early-Victorian boom town of Middlesbrough tensions were close to the surface. The town quickly acquired a reputation for violence, not least because of the dock riot of 1840 when Irish labourers were brought in to replace men, mainly from Lancashire, who were already at work. At its peak, a crowd of 400 men ‘hooted and pelted’ the Irishmen and it required the combined action of 50 special constables, sworn in for the purpose, the railway police and the nearby Stockton borough police to restore order. Drunkenness and brawls were commonplace, though less spectacular. Police work, arduous in itself, was also dangerous in a town were a significant minority of the working-class looked upon the constable as a tyrannous figure but also as a legitimate target to attack. It was not uncommon for large crowds to attack the town’s policemen and to rescue prisoners from their clutches. More...

Words: David Taylor

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