The Cells panel

You are standing in the prisoners' exercise yard. Now step into the cells and find out what it was like to be a police officer - or accused of a crime - in 1858

Policing display case text


Male police officer’s uniform, 1890 – 1910

The idea of a uniformed police force in Britain originally aroused suspicion thanks to secret police organisations abroad. To increase public confidence in the police, the first uniforms were based on clothing worn by Victorian men.

Unless otherwise stated, all objects in this showcase are on loan from Hampshire Constabulary History Society.


Police helmet, 1890 – 1910

The first item of police headgear was known as a stovepipe hat. It resembled a top hat and had a reinforced top so the wearer could use it as a step. But they weren’t practical in a police chase, and were soon replaced by the more recognisable police helmet.


Original keys to the cells at Petersfield police station, 1858


World War Two steel police helmet, 1938 – 1945


Hard hat, Criminal Investigation Department, early 1950s

Would you have known the person wearing this reinforced flat cap was an undercover CID officer?


‘Corker’ motorcycle helmet, early 1950s

Corker lining adds a layer of protection to these standard issue motorcycle helmets.


Police helmet, 1952 – 1967


Figure of eight handcuffs, around 1900


‘Nipper’ or ‘Come along’ handcuffs, around 1900

With his hand in the larger loop, a policeman could encourage his prisoner to ‘come along’ or drop to the ground.


Type 104 ‘Darby’ handcuffs, 1900 – 1970


1960 pattern handcuffs

These handcuffs were easy to tighten around a prisoner’s wrist but couldn’t be loosened without a key. Overtightening led to painful injuries.


Speedcuffs, 1990s onwards

With just a flick of the wrist, today’s police officers secure suspected offenders using speedcuffs.


George IV police truncheon, 1820 – 1830

More than a just defensive weapon, the truncheon was also the Victorian policeman’s ID. It was usually decorated with the monarch’s initials and crown and gave the holder the authority to commit an arrest.


William IV police truncheon, 1830 – 1837


William IV police truncheon, 1832


Painted police truncheon


Victorian police truncheon, 1837 – 1901


Victorian police truncheon, 1837 – 1901


Victorian police truncheon, 1837 – 1901


Victorian police truncheon, 1837 – 1901

Petersfield Museum collection

The owner of this truncheon lived nearby, at Ramsdean Road in Stroud.


Victorian police truncheon, 1837 – 1901


Victorian police truncheon, 1837 – 1901


Victorian Special Constables’ police truncheon, 1837 – 1901

Special Constables are volunteers who have the same powers as serving police officers.


Special Constable’s police truncheon


Torpedo style police truncheon


Police truncheon with chequered crest


George V police truncheon, 1910 – 1936


Mounted police officer’s truncheon


Police truncheon


Hampshire Constabulary police truncheon


Police sword

Petersfield Museum collection

This sword was ceremonial and wasn’t used as a weapon. We think it belonged to a former Hampshire Chief Constable.


Police rattle, 1840 – 1870

Petersfield Museum collection

Swinging this rattle made a loud noise which policemen used to call for help. It also made a handy weapon.


Police rattle, 1840 – 1870

Petersfield Museum collection


‘The Metropolitan’ police whistle, 1938 – 1970s

By the 1880s, most police forces had stopped using rattles. Whistles became standard issue after the Metropolitan Police discovered the sound from a whistle reached twice as far as from a rattle.


 ‘The Metropolitan’ police whistle, 1937 – 1970s


PRP 74 police radio, 1991 onwards

After 100 years of use, whistles were phased out in the 1970s and officers were issued with personal radios.


Bullseye lantern, 1914

Petersfield Museum collection

The centre of this oil-fuelled lantern could be rotated to hide the flame, turning the light off and on again like a torch. This allowed policemen to sneak up on offenders under cover of darkness. But they had to be careful – many officers set their uniform ablaze after tripping and dropping the lantern.   


Battery powered lamp used at Hayling Island, 1920s – 1970s


Fleet Goldsmith challenge cup, 1908

In 1908 the Petersfield police beat local tradespeople at cricket. They won this silver cup, presented by local auctioneer Mr Fleet Goldsmith.


The curse of the ‘station cat’

In the 1980s, this cat-shaped hand puppet was handed into lost property at Petersfield police station. Nobody claimed it, and so it was placed on top of the hand bell at reception. Since then, it was said that anyone who removed the cat from the bell would be cursed to leave Petersfield and serve elsewhere.


Police pocket notebook, 1965-1966

Petersfield Museum collection

Pocket notebooks were first issued to the police in 1884. This one was used by a Petersfield police constable in the 1960s.


Female police officer’s bowler hat, 1980s onwards


Female police officer’s uniform, 1970s

Women’s uniform in the 1970s wasn’t very practical. Skirts were the norm and instead of pockets, women police constables were issued with an official police handbag. It was not until the 1990s that male and female police officers were offered the same uniform.  

The Police cells panel

Welcome to Petersfield's historic police cells, the first stop on the road to justice.

This wasn't a prison; people held here hadn't been sentenced yet. The police could keep suspected criminals in the cells for up to 40 hours, until a magistrate heard their case. A dinner of bread and butter and shelter for the night was enough for some to demand to be locked up.

Before locking them in the cells, police officers searched their suspects. Officers then took details including name, age, height and physical description. This consisted of distinguishing features like birthmarks, tattoos or scars and was the only means of identifying prisoners. Nowadays, the police take photographs, fingerprints and even DNA samples to produce an accurate criminal record. 

Did you know?

Take a look inside the Victorian police cell. Imagine the damp walls, hard bed and smell of the slop bucket. This was a prisoner's experience when the station was first opened in 1858, though the room didn't change until the 1990s. 

Wall quotes 

"It was the first time, and I would never pick anything else up." - Elizabeth Ray, 1889.

Elizabeth Ray was fined 5 shillings for stealing a far of marmalade.

"I would rather have three months than tramp about the country like this." - Walter Harris, 1895.

Walter Harris received two months imprisonment for tearing up his clothes in his police cell, after breaking a shop window and stealing sweets.

"I don't know what happened." - William Mitchell, 1906.

William Mitchell was detained as a criminal lunatic after shooting his rifle indiscriminately around Petersfield, killing Margaret Treble.