Liverpool City Police

Maurice Mathew George Dowling

By Norman Fairfax


Following the passing of the Police Act that established the London Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary, appointed two commissioners one of whom was Sir Richard Mayne. He, in turn, began selecting a small number of young gentlemen to be responsible for clerical and executive matters.

For the position of chief clerk he chose Maurice Matthew George Dowling. Born about 1795 in Fulham, London, he was the eldest son of Maurice William Dowling. Although nothing is known about his early days he was obviously well educated. One paper at the time stated he was a barrister but this is incorrect although he may well have had some knowledge of the law. His pay for the most senior position was, for those days, above average. He was to be paid £200 per annum with an annual increment of £10 rising to a maximum of £400. The same pay as for a police superintendent.

Mayne meantime was busy drafting the first General Instruction Book that itemised and explained in simple language the major statutes, police powers of arrest, etc. Copies were to be issued to each constable when they took to the streets on 29 September 1829. The book was intended to be confidential for police use only partly because experience would dictate which paragraphs would need revision, etc. But despite this clear ruling Dowling, for reasons unknown, released some of the passages to the press, much to the annoyance of Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary, who immediately wrote to Dowling

“After the breach of trust which you have committed and considering the injurious effect which it is calculated to have on the new police establishment, I do not consider myself justified in retaining you in an office of so confidential a nature as that of Chief Clerk in the Metropolitan Police Office.” 

Dowling’s actions have never been explained and, so far as is known, there was no investigation into the matter.

However, it is interesting that Vincent George Dowling, who may have been a distant relation, was a journalist working for several publications at the time and may have been the person to whom the information was originally passed. He has often been described as being a radical. He always claimed that he was the first person to outline a method of policing the Metropolis and that Peel copied all his theories: for this reason Vincent was aggrieved that he never received any official recognition.

But, curiously, despite this incident which indicated his untrustworthiness, Maurice Dowling was appointed as a police superintendent on 10th February, 1830 to be in charge of L (Lambeth) Division. In 1833 he transferred to the newly formed Liverpool Dockyards Police Force until 1845 when he was appointed the Head (Chief) Constable of the Liverpool City Police where, for some unknown reason his first name is shown as Mathew. But once again he blotted his copybook. It was reported that in 1852 in an effort to preserve an unblemished record he removed a portion of a critical report from the north Division Police Book. The matter was discovered and both Dowling and the Superintendent in charge of the division were dismissed.

Dowling was a curious individual who could not be said to lack intelligence. On 10th January 1838 he became a barrister in Liverpool and was called to the bar on 30 January 1841 prior to being appointed head constable of Liverpool.

A final point of interest is that in the 1851 census when he had returned to live in London he wrote on the census form that he was a “barrister for the Metropolitan Police” which was untrue as the force did not employ barristers!

Norman Fairfax, March 2012

On Thursday 4th. March 1852 Head Constable Dowling and Superintendent John Towerson were dismissed from Liverpool City Police for removing a report from a bridewell book and replacing it with another. The report had been submitted by a Sergeant Tomlinson over an incident at the Holy Cross Chapel, Standish Street in February 1852.

A meeting was held in the Chapel that attracted many members of the public. During the course of the meeting a roof beam cracked and fearing the building was about to collapse the congregation ran out of the Chapel. Police in attendance mistook the evacuation as being a large scale disturbance and baton charged the crowd injuring many.

Sergeant Tomlinson tried to prevent the other police officers from using such violence and in his report he identified those officers who used force. Head Constable Dowling and Superintendent Towerson persuaded Sergeant Tomlinson to alter his report, leaving out the identity of the officers concerned and playing down the fact that they had used batons. During an investigation into the Chapel incident the cover up was discovered. Below are extracts from the media at the time.

Brian Starkey

Dowling died on 20th. November 1853 aged 61yrs

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