Peeler James Camp

The Camps are an old Devonshire family which had mostly lived in the South Hams area for centuries hardly moving more than a few miles every century. There is no record of any of them doing much more than farming until James Camp upped  and left Devon with his young wife to join the Metropolitan Police in 1850.

London in 1850 was about 40 years before Jack the Ripper or Sherlock Holmes. So imagine   what London was like in 1890 and then imagine it even 40 years more bleak and primitive.  Those of you who paid attention at school are bound to recall that it was also the year of the Great Exhibition which saw a huge influx of visitors for all over the British Empire. It also needed a lot more police to keep them all under control. For reasons lost in the mist of time young James answered the call and became a Peeler.

The Peelers in their Stove Pipe hats were not known for their kindness or their sobriety. It was a rough and tough society and the police had to be rougher and tougher but perhaps not as drunk.

Constable James Camp was a teetotaller so would have stood out from his colleagues on that front but I have no stories that tell me he wasn’t prepared to cudgel someone to the ground if circumstances required. From the way he pronounced the place of his birth in Devon to Census enumerators who spelt it phonetically it was clear he never lost his Devonshire accent.

While in London he raised a family and one his boys was Thomas the father of my Grandfather, Alf.

He served no doubt dutifully and honourably because his long service earned him a pension on retirement and he and his wife Sarah and all the family returned to her home village, East Allington, where he became the landlord of The Ring O’Bells.

The Camps returned to Devon but brought a lot of London Pride with them and set the scene for the appearance of Grandad Alf, The Black Sheep of the family.


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