Cathedral constables have a long history and can trace their lineage back to the 13th Century. They have played an important, if little known, contribution in the development of policing in the United Kingdom.
Before the onset of professional policing something often overlooked is the close relationship which once existed between the church and the imposition of law and order. In the Middle Ages the parish was the smallest unit of local government in the country. Every parish was centred around the local church and after the Reformation was responsible for administering civil and religious government at a local level. Many parishes developed a Vestry - a small body of village officials, answerable only to the bishop and the local justices, and who were responsible for the ecclesiastical and secular well being of the parish they served.
Parish constables, sometimes referred to as petty constables, were attested by justices of the peace but accountable to the local churchwardens. Like parish constables, church wardens were locally appointed and oversaw the administration of the parish, good order during services, and the upkeep of the church fabric and property. Similarly, many cathedrals employed constables to keep watch and maintain law and order within the cathedral and its precincts; an area often known as the Close. These officers were appointed by, and answerable to, the cathedral Dean and Chapter.
Today constables are employed at Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster, Hereford Cathedral, Liverpool Cathedral, and Chester Cathedral. A small number of officers are sworn in and hold the office of constable within the cathedral's curtilage, although most remain unattested. Constables who are attested wear a royal blue and white Sillitoe tartan chequered cap band to distinguish them from their Home Office police colleagues.
In order to preserve the history and traditions, and more importantly professionally develop the constabularies, the Cathedral Constables' Association was formed by senior officers; their motto 'In Deo Speramus,' simply means, 'In God we trust.' The association has published a short book 'Cathedral Bobbies,' of the history, traditions and work of cathedral's constables.
- Law enforcement in the United Kingdom
- List of law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom
- Washington National Cathedral Police
- Pontifical Swiss Guard/Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City