Site hosted by Build your free website today!


 If this page doesn't appear shortly please Reload

"A massive head,lion locks,close-lidded eye sockets." This describes the oil on canvas portrait by Nathaniel Hone of Sir John Fielding at the age of 41 is one of many that can be found in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Born during the hard London winter of 1721, and blind either at birth or blinded in an accident when he was 19 years of age, John Fielding was the the son of Gen. Fielding by his second wife and younger half brother of Henry Fielding.(Best remembered as the author of Tom Jones and a noted playwright, but also a magistrate of London's Bow Street Court)
In 1748, London was a hot bed of crime, filled with gangs of thieves and cut purses who operated in the light of day as well as the dark of night.
In response to these problems and as part of a plan to restore law and order to a crime-ridden London, Henry Fielding was made first a justice of the peace and later a magistrate. As magistrate, Henry with his blind half brother John,(Appointed magistrate as Henry's assistant in 1750) helped to build the first professionalized police organization. The Bow Street Runners.
Replacing watchmen who would just stay in their watch boxes, The Bow Street Runners actually patroled the streets.This was a huge advancement in policing because of their mobility.
Along with this came another innovation by the Fieldings, the circulation of a police gazette.These posters contained descriptions of known criminals throughout all of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. This idea was to evolve into the present Criminal Record Office of Scotland Yard. Added to this were the offerings of money and immunity to those who turned in their fellow criminals. As a result, many more criminals were brought to justice, and the streets and highways were made safer for the citizenry. They were also pioneers in the treatment of juvenile offenders, sought to analyze and remove the causes of crime, and advocated a system of stipendiary (paid magistrates.)
All of what they accomplished could not have been done other than for the fact that both the brothers were men of unquestioned honesty.
Henry Fielding died in 1754, at which time John ( who had been his assistant for 3-4 years), was appointed as magistrate. He would gain fame as The Blind Beak, and it is said that he could recognize the voices of 3000 criminals.
In 1761 John was knighted and died at Brompton Place 4 September 1780 as Sir John Fielding.(Henry had stepped on too many toes to receive this honor)
Bruce Alexander's stories about the 18th century Sir John Fielding bring the reader back through time and give the London magistrate new life, as did Robert van Gulik when he told of the Chinese magistrate Di Renjie, who lived more than 1300 years ago during the T'ang dynasty, in his Judge Dee stories.

Pringle, Patrick, Hue and Cry: The Story of Henry and John Fielding and the Bow Street runners,[1955]
Leslie-Melville,R.(Ronald),1905- The Life and Work of Sir John Fielding. [1934]
Babington,Anthony, A House in Bow Street:Crime and the Magistracy, London, 1740-1881,[1969]
Hay, Donald Crime and Society in Eighteenth- century England, London, Allen Lane [1975]
Rumbelow, Donald, I Spy Blue:the Police and Crime in London from Elizabeth 1 to Victoria, London, Macmillan,NY St. Martin's Press [1971]
Beattie, J.M., Crime and the Courts in England 1660-1800, London,Clarendon [1985]
Cockburn, J.(ed), Crime in England 1550-1800 London, H. Allen & Unwin,[1977]
Heppenstall, Rayner, Reflections on the Newgate Calendar, London, Constable [1981]
Sharp, J.A., Crime in Early Modern England 1550-1750, York, Longman, [1984]