and George Stentiford were brothers who joined the Devon Constabulary in
1872 and 1874 respectively. They entered a service with strict rules and
tight discipline and, certainly in their early days with the Force, it
was a very hard life.
Until 1880 when 8-hour shifts were introduced, they would have worked
a 12 hour shift, seven days a week with no time off for holidays. The
day shift started at 6.45 am with a military-style parade and inspection
and ended at 7.0pm. The night shift paraded at 6.45 pm and ended work at
Helmets were introduced in the 1860s - before that, policemen wore
top hats to make them seem taller. The collar of their uniform was
reinforced with leather so that they could not be strangled from behind
and they had to wear a complete uniform at all times, even when off
All kit and clothing were inspected once a week and, once a month, all
police officers had to parade in order to have their hair and beards
trimmed in the regulation style.
No police officer was allowed to marry until he had served in the
force for at least a year and then only with the Police Commissioner's
permission. Amazingly, this rule continued to be observed in some areas
of the United Kingdom until the early 1950s! The families and
backgrounds of both Mary Ann Cross and Sarah Martin were thoroughly
investigated before their marriages could take place.
Each police officer had his own beat and was required to be in a
certain place at a certain time. This was checked by an Inspector and
recorded on a beat card. While going round, the duties ranged from
"removing orange peel from the footpath" to "impounding
stray cattle". A Police circular of 1881, asked that a special look out be
kept "for the employment of children in sweeping
chimneys". On the night shift, duties included calling at each shop
several times to make sure it was still securely locked. A man on the
beat could travel 25 miles during a night and this had to be walked at a
set speed of 2˝ miles per hour.