In the eighteenth and early 19th century the police were comprised of various regional defence forces and their truncheons were marked with the town or district that issued them. The truncheons often carried the Royal Arms of the reigning Monarch and were sometimes numbered for a particular constable.
The police force was fluid and could be enlarged in times of crisis. Among the 150,000 special constables sworn in during the 1848 Chartist riots, for example, was the exiled Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. Typically special constables were from privileged social backgrounds. Some were pressured into joining by their peers; others were motivated by romantic patriotism and fear of revolution. This collection of truncheons with its variety of origins brings with it an insight into British social history.