The Bobby Policeman: Why are policemen called Bobbies?

England is famous for many things: Double decker red buses, red telephone boxes, soldiers with tall black furry hats and their “bobbies”, (or policemen to the rest of the world!) How did the Bobby policeman get his name?

The term originates from the 1800s. Around this time, cities like London were growing in size due to advances in transportation, and along with the influx of people came an influx of crime. In London, maintaining law and order was becoming an increasingly stronger public concern.

In the 1820s a Conservative member of the British government, Sir Robert Peel, took matters into his own hands and set about planning a way of making policing better and more effective. He came up with a plan of creating an organized police service in London and in 1829 this plan led to the founding of the Metropolitan Police Force. This organization meant that the police were divided into divisions, each with four inspectors and 144 constables. The headquarters were established as Scotland Yard and they had to answer to the Home Secretary, who was Peel at the time.

After his establishment of the Metropolitan Police, Robert Peel became known as the father of modern policing, and the policemen became known as Bobbies or Peelers in his honour. The British Bobby was born.

Peel’s passion for political reform and innovation eventually led him to become the British Prime minister in 1834-1835 and then again in 1841-1846.

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2 Responses to The Bobby Policeman: Why are policemen called Bobbies?

  1. Bobby Laver says:

    good to know I share my name with the guy who set up the police!

  2. Amos says:

    I’ve been a serious enthusiast of your site for a while now and just wanted to say that a handful of your writes in the health and psych section have really helped me out and others like this one have just been good entertainment to read. Awaiting more to come!

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