The London General Omnibus Company

A BTP Constituent Force or Not?

by Viv Head

Ed Thompson is currently researching a number of different aspects on behalf of the Group. One of these is to gather information on various BTP constituent police forces. And he is doing rather well – to date he has a list of around 170 confirmed railway, dock and canal police forces that may rightfully be considered to be part of the BTP family. With another hat on, Ed has been looking at Old Bailey trials that are available and searchable on-line. Some of these are now on the BTPHG web site in the StoryBank section. Recently, Ed stumbled across a trial that spanned both these areas of research. It concerned a couple of canal bargees allegedly stealing goods from the company their employer was contracted to.

Joseph Bransgrove, George Juett and John Juson were charged with stealing a sack value at 2s. (10p) and sixteen bushels of oats, value £2. 6s. (£2.30p.) the property of the London General Omnibus Company, from a barge on 9th May 1859.

Bransgrove and Juett were employed by James Thomas, a carrier contracted to the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) who had premises at Paddington. Thomas reluctantly gave evidence at the trial saying that he had no complaint about the men and that Bransgrove in particular had been in his employ for seven or eight years and had always been honest and trustworthy. But Metropolitan policeman Thomas Potter had been keeping watch and had seen Bransgrove and another carry three sacks from a barge and into a shed kept by Juson, the third defendant. A search of the barge and the shed recovered some sacks and oats and the men were arrested. Other witnesses gave evidence about the suspicious behaviour of the defendants. John Trevitt, Superintendent of Police for the London General Omnibus Company gave evidence of ownership and value.  Branson and Jusen were found guilty. The jury recommended mercy for Bransgrove owing to his previous good character and he was sentenced to be confined for two months. Juson was confined for nine months and Juett was found not guilty.

We know of course, that a number of canal police forces subsequently became part of BTP either through merger or when BTC, as it then was, took on policing the British Waterways canal network when the force came into being in 1949. But what is not clear from the trial report is who owned (and policed) the particular canal where the offences took place in 1859. But in this case, the complainant, The London General Omnibus Company, had their own police and it was the superintendent – John Trevitt, who gave evidence at the trial.

The LGOC were formed in 1855 and remained in being until 1912 when it was taken over by the Underground Group who owned most of the London underground by this time. We do not know how many police the LGOC employed, probably rather few, but they too would have become part of the Underground Group police until, in turn, they were absorbed into the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933. So do the London General Omnibus Company police qualify as a constituent force – are they part of the BTP family? Yes, I rather think they are.


This article originally appeared in the BTPHG Year Book 2012.

There is a full transcript of this case in the Trial Reports section.