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Force unveils country's oldest custody shots

In Birmingham, 1839, the chartist movement spread from the capital and convention members fought tirelessly for more legal rights for working-class skilled craftsmen.

Members gathered at Bull Ring on July 4 – despite their meetings being banned in May due to them being deemed as a disturbance and irritated local business men – where a riot soon broke out.

The meeting at the Bull Ring was considered a peaceful gathering. Women and children were among the crowd, however, the Mayor of Birmingham at the time called in the Metropolitan Police.

Sixty metropolitan police members arrived lightly armed with staffs, who tried to disperse the meeting, with the crowd shortly turning on the police. This led to the Army being brought in to control the crowd, allowing the police to arrest the speakers who had organised the meeting.

Birmingham was required to have at least 250 constables and 50 officers following the incident, leading to the creation of Birmingham City Police on November 20, 1839.

Recent research conducted by the West Midlands Police Heritage Project has revealed the force was the first in the country to start taking prisoner photographs- apparently only beaten in the world by the Swiss Police.

WMP has shared its oldest custody shots with Police Oracle, one being potentially the oldest in the country from 1858.

In the 1860s the Birmingham central police used the Moor Street Public Office cells and marched prisoners round to the photographic studio where they would pose for pictures amongst paying customers.

Taking mugshots, using a standard format became mandatory across all police forces in 1871.

Credit: West Midlands Police

Published 25 Mar 2018

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