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History of the force

Learn about the history of policing in the Avon and Somerset area.

There has been a police force serving the Avon and Somerset area for more than 180 years.

In 1835, the Municipal Corporation Act gave towns and cities the power to create their own professional police forces.

Bath and Bristol were among the first cities in the country to form their own police forces.

Our first police officers would have worn a uniform of a top hat, blue swallow-tailed coat and white dress trousers, with a cape or greatcoat.

They were equipped with a rattle, a wooden truncheon and a wicker lunch basket with access to cutlasses and handcuffs in case they got into some serious trouble.

Bath Constabulary was the first to form in 1836, followed later the same year by Bristol. Bridgwater and Chard formed a constabulary in 1839 and in 1940 they become part of the Somerset Constabulary.

Avon and Somerset Police as we know it today formed in 1974 from the merger of the former Somerset and Bath Constabulary with the Bristol police force and the Staple Hill division of Gloucestershire Constabulary.

View a selection of photographs from the force’s past on the Avon and Somerset Police Flickr group managed by our History and Heritage group.

In our time

Learn about the important dates in local policing history.

A timeline of the force’s history
  • 1835 – The Municipal Corporation Act gave towns and cities the power to create their own professional police forces
  • 1836 – Bath and Bristol Constabulary were formed
  • 1836 – the old Bristol Guard House was converted into a police station, while three new stations were built, in Bedminster, Brandon Hill and St Philips
  • 1839 – Bridgwater and Chard Constabulary were formed
  • 1844 – the River Police were formed
  • 1879 – the first River Police Station opens in a converted brigantine hulk
  • 1889 – the Mounted Section was formed
  • 1900 – a purpose-built River Police Station opens by Prince Street Bridge
  • 1915 – policemen were called up to serve in the First World War and
  • 1915 – ‘lady clerks’ were employed in the administrative department
  • 1931 – motor patrols were introduced to enforce the Road Traffic Act
  • 1932 – police telephone boxes (pillars) come into use
  • 1940 – Bridgwater and Chard Constabulary become part of Somerset Constabulary.
  • 1946 – the 999 telephone system was introduced
  • 1946 – specialist units come into force, including the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the South Western Forensic Science Laboratory, Fingerprint Branch, Special Branch, and the Photographic Department
  • 1955 – the River Station at the Grove opened (which closed in 1975)
  • 1957 – our first police dogs Kudos and Kylow joined up
  • 1968 – officers were issued with personal radios
  • 1974 – Avon and Somerset Police was formed by merging Somerset and Bath Constabulary with Bristol Police and Gloucestershire Constabulary
  • 1986 – the computerisation of the control and major incident rooms
A force of firsts

We have always been a force that leads the way.

  • 1916 – Bristol Police were one of the first police forces in the country to appoint women police officers
  • 1948 – the first burglar alarm to be connected directly by telephone to the police was installed in Bristol
  • 1966 – the first force to set up a Crime Prevention Panel, which included residents, business, and insurance companies.
  • 1974 – a victim support scheme was set up by the Bristol Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders

If you would like to know more about the history of Avon and Somerset Police email our History and Heritage group.

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