19th Century Northamptonshire Policing

The County Police Act 1839 provided the opportunity for English and Welsh counties to form full time police forces, headed by a Chief Constable appointed by the local magistrates. These new police forces were to replace parish constables who were generally unpaid and part time enforcers of the law.

James Bold

This article is about James Bold who joined Northamptonshire Police, one of the earliest county forces.

James Bold was born in Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire on 28th February 1814, and was baptised the following month, 27th March. The birth date has been added in the margin of the parish register by the vicar. His parents were James and Mary Bold.

James, the elder, a Yeoman, died in Titchmarsh, on 28 April 1860. His sole executor was another yeoman, Philip Allen. (Effects under £100)

Police Officer

James joined the newly formed Northamptonshire County Police Force in June 1840, aged 26 years having spent the previous 8 years in public service. The exact nature of that earlier work has not been identified but it could have been as a parish constable.

A report in the local newspaper, Northampton Mercury, 5th January 1850 recorded James’ promotion.

The Chief Constable reported to the Quarter Sessions that he had to dis-rate, i.e. fire, both a first class and a second class inspector for neglect of duty and disobedience of orders. He said that the vacancy for the second class inspector had been filled by first class constable James Bold.

At the time of that report there were 49 policemen of all ranks in the Police Force.

Superintendents (3)

Inspectors 1st class (3)

Inspectors 2nd class (4)

Constables 1st class (22)

Constables 2nd class (17)

Well Regarded Police Officer

By all accounts James’ was a good reliable policeman who was promoted swiftly through the ranks in recognition of his outstanding work. As his health was failing him he continued to work but the Chief Constable was concerned that he was not only becoming less able to perform his duties but also that he deserved to have a comfortable retirement.

These reports from the local paper, the Northampton Mercury, Saturday 11th April 1863, tell the story of James’ retirement from the police.

The magistrates at the Northamptonshire Quarter Sessions heard that Superintendent Bold, who had been in the force since June 1840, had submitted a medical certificate certifying that he was incapable, from infirmity of the body, to discharge the duties of his office.

The magistrates were told that Superintendent Bold had, within the last few years, acted for the Chief Constable during his temporary absence. The Chief Constable spoke in the highest terms of the services of Superintendent Bold, and certified that he had, for almost 20 years, served the county as constable with diligence and fidelity.

The magistrates were recommended to grant Superintendent Bold a superannuation allowance of £80 per annum, being two-thirds of his pay, which was £120 per annum.

The Chief Constable’s Report described how Superintendent Bold’s health had been failing for some time and had seriously impeded the performance of his duties. He had therefore asked Doctor Terry to examine Supt. Bold, and as a result he was declared unfit for further service.

The Chief Constable also said that Supt. Bold had served the county with zeal and ability for nearly 23 years so he therefore recommended to the magistrates that Bold should receive a pension for the rest of his life out of the Superannuation Fund.

The medical certificate stated that Superintendent Bold had been in the public service upwards of 30 years, of which 22 were spent in this force. He had been, for some years, suffering from chronic asthma, which rendered him unfit for night duty or for any very active or laborious employment. He also had a hernia.

The local paper later reported that James Bold had received £40 superannuation (now retired) in the 6 months period ending 30 Sept 1864.

Family Life

James married Mary Ann Pratt in Oundle, Northamptonshire, March Quarter 1840. Mary was born in Benefield, near Oundle in1819.

James and Mary had four children, all born in Brigstock, Northamptonshire which is where James was based for most of his police career.

James D (born c1841),

John R (born c1844),

Catherine (born c1846 but died aged 14 years)

Frances E (born c1858).


Family Information

1851 Census

(Class: HO107; Piece: 1745; Folio: 37; Page: 24;)

James and Mary are living in Brigstock with their children James, John and Catherine.

James is listed as Superintendent of Police.


1861 Census

(Class: RG 9; Piece: 959; Folio: 54; Page: 6;)

James is described as Superintendent of Police.

Mary Ann, his wife and Frances his daughter are living with him in Bridge Street, Brigstock.


1871 Census

(Class: RG10; Piece: 1508; Folio: 69; Page: 22;)

James and Mary are living together in North Street, Titchmarsh and he is listed as a

retired Superintendent of Police. On his retirement, James and Mary had moved back to his birth place.


James died on 4 October 1872 in Titchmarsh, and was buried 4 days later. His sole executor was his wife, Mary Ann. (Effects under £200)


1881 Census

(Class: RG11; Piece: 95; Folio: 93; Page: 40;)

In 1881, Mary Ann Bold, a widow, is listed as living with her brother Israel Pratt who ran a private hotel in Mayfair, London.


1891 Census

(Class: RG12; Piece: 677; Folio: 69; Page: 12;)

Their son John R, established himself as a grocer in Tunbridge Wells, and latterly as a commercial traveller. His mother, Mary Bold, is listed as living with him and his family in 1891, aged 74 years.


1871 Census  and  1881 Census

(Class: RG10; Piece: 3280; Folio: 48; Page: 11;)       (Class: RG11; Piece: 630; Folio: 53; Page: 12;)

Their other son, James D Bold, was a draper and Silk Merchant but he may have received a legacy from his father because by 1881 he was living on an annuity. He had married Emma Farley in 1866 and they both emigrated to Australia in 1886 where he died in 1922 followed by Emma in 1927. Australian descendants of James and Emma have recently been investigating their English roots.

1871 Census

(Class: RG10; Piece: 1508; Folio: 48; Page: 36;)

Frances, their daughter, was educated at a young ladies boarding school, Huntingdon Road , Thrapston, Northamptonshire.

Frances married Thomas Russel in Tunbridge Wells in 1879 and they subsequently moved to Whittlesea, Cambridgeshire. Thomas was a Chemist and registered Dentist. Frances died, a widow, November 1911 in Surrey.



James Bold was a career policeman but no other member of the family followed in his footsteps. He was well regarded by the Chief Constable and clearly carried out his duties well. It would not have been any easy job to deal with crime in the 19th century when violence was common amongst criminals.