Posted by Kristen Hyde on June 29, 2017 in Collections, United Kingdom

Did your ancestors walk the beat and help keep the peace in London? You could find them in our Metropolitan Police Pension Registers, 1852-1932 collection, digitised from original records held by The National Archives.

The collection consists of registers of pensions awarded to Metropolitan Police officers who retired or resigned from the force between 1852 and 1932, and who were granted, or who (after 1890) qualified for, a police pension.

Among the notable names of inspectors, officers and constables which make up the records are also some important members of the force’s history – including the most senior members of the Jack the Ripper investigation unit and the man who inspired some of popular culture’s own detectives.

Jack the Ripper Investigation Unit
Frederick Abberline, who had been the chief inspector on the Jack the Ripper case
, resigned in 1892 aged 49 with an annual pension of £206, 13 shillings and four pence (the equivalent of £24,018.67 today). His superintendent Donald Swanson, who had overall command, retired in 1903 with a pension of £280, (the equivalent of £31,242 today) while inspector Edmund Reid retired in 1896 with a pension of £117 (the equivalent of £14,161.55 today) aged 49.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Jonathon (Jack) Whicher was one of the founding members of Scotland Yard’s Detective Branch in 1842. Involved in high profile cases of the day his actions would go on to inspire writers such as Charles Dickens, and the creators of Inspector Morse, and Jack Frost.

Whicher was a key detective in the 1860 Constance Kent murder case, and would be the subject of Kate Summerscale’s 2008 book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and film of the same name. The records show that Whicher was discharged from his division on account of ‘congestion to the brain’. He received £133, 6 shillings and 8 pence per year for his service (the equivalent of £14,951.91 today).
Searching for your ancestors
The Metropolitan Police Pension Registers are not only useful for adding detail to your tree, but building out a more colourful picture of what life was like as a police worker during this period in history.

The registers include information about the officer’s length of service, whether he retired or was discharged, his pension amount and who the next of kin beneficiaries were. Also included is the place of birth, marital status and parents; from 1923, the records also give the birth and marriage details of the spouse.

The collection reveals how the Metropolitan Police was made up of men from across the country and even further afield: Cornwall, Wales, Lancashire, Ireland, the Isle of Wight and even Australia are listed as places of birth.

The collections can also point to what police work was like during this period. Many policemen were injured while out on the beat, and some wounds could bring their career to an end. For example:

• Constable Frederick Bonike – Bonike, originally from Ireland, was 46 when he was discharged after a serious fall left him disabled. He received a pension of £29 per year and gave his marital status as single.
• Constable James Batten – Aged just 31 when he was discharged in 1855, Batten’s pension record shows that a fell through grating, injuring his leg. He received a pension of £18 per year.
• Constable William Percy Croft – Croft died in the line of duty after falling while chasing two burglars from a crime scene. He was only 25 and his widow, Edith Croft, was the beneficiary of his pension of 49 pounds, 11 shillings and 6 pence per year.

Others suffered from maladies such as lung disease, infirmity, ‘giddiness in the head’ and loss of vision. Old age could often see people deemed unfit for service, like Richard Sawyer who was pensioned off in 1855 at the age of 45 for ‘being worn out and unfit for further service’ after 15 years on active duty.

Start exploring the Metropolitan Police Pension Registers, 1852-1932 now on

Kristen Hyde

Kristen is Ancestry's Social Media Manager for the United Kingdom.

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