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The ICHCPJ hosts a number of key resources in the history of crime and justice, both archival and online. For further detailed information, please see the descriptions below and follow the links. Members of the centre are currently engaged in other projects generating further online resources which in time will be made available on this site.

Prison History hosts resources created by historians in this research centre which further our knowledge of the practice and experience of imprisonment in the British Isles from c.1500 to the twentieth century. The first, 19th Century Prisons, is a database which contains critical information (operational dates, location, jurisdiction, population statistics, and appearances in primary and secondary sources) on, and lists of surviving archives for, 843 English local prisons (418), convict prisons (17), prison hulks (30) and lock ups (378) used to confine those accused and convicted of crime in the period 1800-1899. 19th Century Prisons has also been published as an e-book in the style of a traditional finding aid with an extended introduction providing an historiographical overview and an account of the preliminary results from the collection of the data. This 'Guide to the Criminal Prisons of Nineteenth-Century England' can be downloaded from this page.

The second, Your Local Lock-Up, aims to recover as many lock-ups as possible that existed in the British Isles between the 16th and the 20th century. Our definition of a lock-up is broad. We include any structure used for the termporary confinement of those accused of crime, of convicted prisoners being moved between institutions, and of the local riff raff, from standalone roundhouses and cages to cells in town halls and police stations, to stocks. There are currently around 600 in the database. We know there are many more, and we are inviting members of the public to submit details of any lock-ups we don't know about, and to tell us more about the lock-ups we do know about. We are also collecting stories about the use and preservation of local lock-ups, in the past and the present. We want to better understand the local experience of criminal justice in the past, and to encourage local communities to make use of their historical monuments today.

The Centre holds a substantial collection of international police-related journals, newsletters and articles, but mainly it contains documentation on the British police, for instance the Metropolitan Police Force, Commissioners Reports, Policing on Scottish Burghs, etc. It also keeps copies of Metropolitan Police Orders dating from 1865 to the 1950s and Justice of the Peace dating from 1863 to 1965. The private papers of Eric St. Johnston and Robert Bartlett are also kept in the Centre, which is open to visitors interested in the topic of policing and for research purposes. Work has started on cataloguing seven of these collections. The Centre has recently been grateful to receive several memoirs and collections of policing documents donated by ex-officers. For further information about the archive, please contact Dr Paul Lawrence (

A series of grants from the National Lottery and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have made possible the development of a new resource: History from Police Archives: Study Courses and Resource Material for Students of Social History. This website provides study courses for students of social history working towards Key Stage 3 and higher. These include 'Police in Wartime and Citizenship' and the 'Metropolitan Police'. Each of the courses is broken down into short chapters illustrated with documents selected from archives. A set of questions accompanies each study course. All of this material can be printed either for reference or to provide handouts. The website also features a large collection of resource material. The first, MHPC, is hitherto unused material from the Metropolitan Police archives including scrap books investigating complaints kept by the first two commissioners, beat books, police station ledgers and district maps. The second, Bartlett, is a study of the Surrey Constabulary from 1851 to 1992 compiled by Robert Bartlett, former Chief Superintendent Operations Surrey Police. The resource material is presented as a number of collections of images: documents from the archives have been scanned in their entirety. Save for a brief introduction on each type of document, no narrative is provided with this material allowing the reader a similar experience to that of reading the document in an archive. Documents which feature in this resource are unedited reproductions of the source material. Any reproduction is provided for educational and information purposes only and should not be relied upon. Views, thoughts and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the original author(s), and not The Open University. The Open University does not necessarily agree with, support or promote any opinion or representation expressed and cannot vouch for the accuracy, completeness or fitness of any information provided.

In 1991, Ian Bridgeman and Clive Emsley complied the 'Guide to the Archives of Police Forces of England and Wales' for the Police History Society. In 2006, a facsimile version of the 'Guide' was put online and made freely available. The 'Guide' remains an important starting point for research on individual police forces in England and Wales.

Policeman photo

Contact us

Please direct enquiries about the Centre, including its facilities and access to its resources, to Dr Chris A. Williams:

Department of History
Faculty of Arts
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Telephone: +44 (0)1908 652477
Fax: +44 (0)1908 653750