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Police badge

Police badge
What was it used for? Helmet badge
Where is it from? Guildford
When was it made? 1900 -1946
How was it made?  Cast
What was it made from? Tin
Size: H 89mm, W 76mm
Museum number: LG.2297

This badge would have been worn on a Guildford borough police officer's helmet. The borough police force was founded in 1836 but merged into a Surrey force in the 1940s. Guildford may not have a reputation as a hotspot of crime today but that wasn't the case in the 19th Century. There were riots every year for a time!

The first police station was at a cottage at Tunsgate but moved to a larger building on North Street in 1892 as both the town of Guildford and its police force grew. The badge shows the town's arms which are surrounded by olive wreathes which represent peace. It has two hooks at the back to attach it to the helmet.

Rioting around Guy Fawkes Night on the 5th November each year was a problem. Other towns across southern England had the same riots. Known as the 'Guy Riots', these disturbances severely tested the towns early police force. The cause of the riots is not clear but it may have been linked to stopping official celebrations early in the 19th century.

Abbot's hospital at the top of the High Street put in the stone balustrade and iron gates, which can still be seen today, to protect the building from the crowds. There were attempts to control the riots from time to time but these sometimes backfired as in 1857. The police charged the crowd resulting in several injuries and a man died the following day.

In 1863 a young constable was thrown onto a bonfire and nearly died. The authorities needed to put a stop to the riots. The police were armed with cutlasses and the army called out to help and the riots were stopped. Guildford became safer and more settled after this.