the Bow Street men from London—for, this happened in the days of the extinct red-waistcoated police

Category: People | Type: Historical | Title: Great Expectations (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: Chapter XVI

The Bow-Street Men or Runners were formed in 1749, initially a cadre of just six men. The novelist Henry Fielding, who was also a London chief magistrate, conceived of the idea of the Runners. There were as yet no metropolitan police—the Bow-Street Men were their precursors—yet their mission was not to prevent crimes but, more like Scotland Yard, to solve them, at which they distinguished themselves. 

The men in brilliant red waistcoats were the Bow Street Horse Patrol, which was instituted in 1805.

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