This painted truncheon, dating from around 1890, is a symbol of authority. All types of police forces in the Victorian era used painted truncheons as a way of showing that they were official police officers.
During the period there were hundreds of different police forces all over the country, each having a different design painted onto their truncheons. This truncheon belonged to a Military Police Sergeant named Sergeant William F. Barnes. We know this because his identification number 336 has been painted on the truncheon.
Today our police forces carry warrant cards which hold their name, number and other details the public need to identify them. In the Victorian era all this information would be carried on their painted truncheon. The sight of a truncheon often got the message across much quicker than any warrant card could.
Later, as more of the population learned to read and write, the warrant card was favoured over the painted truncheon. Finally, when photographs were added there was simply no further need for the police to decorate their truncheons. The truncheon quickly went from being a symbol of authority, to just another tool in the fight against crime.
The VR painted on the truncheon stood for “Victoria Regina”. This is known as a royal cipher and changes with each monarch. The cipher would be painted on the truncheon to show that the police officer represented the authority of the crown.
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