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The Bobbie's Helmet

This bobbie’s helmet sat on the bookshelf beside my desk as I wrote the three Victorian mysteries in the Dr. Julia Lewis series. While on the force, my father once played NYPD tour guide to a visiting London constable who sent his old helmet as a thank you. Dad gave it to me.


For the first thirty years or so, London’s Metropolitan Police constables wore a uniform version of everyday male attire: a swallow-tail coat and a reinforced top hat. In 1863, my fictional bobbie, Paddy O’Malley, would have switched to the familiar blue tunic and “custodian” helmet like the one in the picture. The original was a foot high, made of felt-covered cork, and had a raised “cockscomb” ridge down the center. The modern, more streamlined version is nearly three inches shorter and made of a synthetic polycarbon material.


As for a plain-clothes branch, at first, Londoners resisted the creation of an investigative arm of policemen “snoops” operating undercover in civilian clothes. The 1842 assassination attempt on Queen Victoria changed minds. The detective department that employs Murder by Lamplight’s Detective Inspector Richard Tennant was born.

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