This newspaper article details the appearance of the celebrated highwayman John Rann at Bow Street magistrate’s office in 1774. First established in 1740, Bow Street Office became famous as the primary seat of summary justice in Westminster, where magistrates sat in judgement on an array of alleged crimes and misdemeanours. Magistrates had the authority to acquit or fine defendants accused of committing lesser crimes, but were also responsible for committing those accused of more serious felonies for trial at the Old Bailey.
Bow Street’s most famous resident was novelist and moral reformer Henry Fielding, who was appointed a Westminster magistrate in 1748 at a time of rising crime in the capital. One of Fielding’s major achievements was to establish his office as the seat of the country’s first professional police force: the Bow Street ‘Runners’. Formed initially of six ‘Principal Officers’, this highly trained band of investigators earned a reputation for professionalism and honesty, and became the country’s first genuine detective police force, decades before the establishment of a permanent system of policing.