Belfast Borough Police

The Belfast Borough Police was the police force for Belfast from 1800 to 1865, when it was abolished and replaced by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). Its members, nicknamed the Bulkies, had authority within the Belfast Police District.


A town watch was authorised under several acts of the Parliament of Ireland, the last in 1800, which also established town commissioners for lighting and paving.[n 1] The police and commissioners gained greater powers in 1816 under a local act of the UK Parliament.[n 2][5] The police area of jurisdiction, whose residents were liable for the police tax to fund the force, was not defined in the 1816 act;[3] at first the police area was taken to be the same as the lighting and paving area, but later it was extended.[3] The parliamentary borough and municipal borough had differing limits again.[6] By the time the force was abolished, its jurisdiction remained confined to County Antrim, excluding Ballymacarrett, the County Down portion of the borough of Belfast.[7] It then had 160 men.[7] The RIC had 70 men stationed in Belfast at the beginning of the August 1864 riots, with 800 reinforcements arriving over the next two weeks.[8]

By the 1800 act, the police commissioners were the thirteen members of the municipal corporation together with twelve town commissioners for lighting and paving. Although the borough sovereign was authorised to act as police magistrate, in 1816 he appointed a substitute at a salary of £200 per annum, which the 1835 municipal corporation commission considered one of several abuses concerning the police.[9] After the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 reformed the corporation, the Belfast Improvement Act 1845 replaced the 1800 and 1816 acts.[10]

Most of the Belfast Borough Police force were Protestants, and many local Roman Catholics regarded it as sectarian. An 1864 commission of inquiry examined the Belfast magistrate and police district, after serious communal rioting that year. The commission noted that most of the senior members of the force were members of the Orange Order and recommended abolishing the force, which was effected by the Constabulary (Ireland) Amendment Act 1865.[11]

See also


  1. 40 George III c.37 (Ir.)[1][2]
  2. 56 George III c.57 (local)[3][4]




  1. Comm Mun Corp 1835, p.702 §37; p.705 §45
  2. Butler, James Goddard; Ball, William (1801). "c.37 An act for paving, cleansing, lighting and improving the several streets, squares, lanes and passages within the town of Belfast in the county of Antrim, and for removing and preventing all encroachments, obstructions and annoyances therein, and also, for establishing and maintaining a nightly watch throughout the said town and precincts thereof, and for other purposes". Statutes passed in the fortieth year of George the Third. The statutes at large, passed in the Parliaments held in Ireland. 20. Printed by Boulter Grierson. pp. 402–447. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Comm Mun Corp 1835, p,697 §3
  4. "lvii. An Act to explain and amend an Act of His present Majesty, for paving, cleansing, lighting, and otherwise improving the Town of Belfast, in the County of Antrim, and for better effecting those Purposes." (PDF, 360MB). The local and personal acts passed in the fifty-sixth year of the reign of His Majesty King George the third. Eyre & Strahan. 1816. pp. 1217–42.
  5. Ireland Court of King's Bench; Jebb, Robert; Symes, Arthur R.; Ireland Court of Exchequer Chamber (1840). "1839: Tomb v. Belfast Commissioners". Reports of cases argued and determined in the courts of Queen's Bench and Exchequer Chamber in Ireland: with tables of the names of the cases and the principal matters. Milliken. p. 486. Retrieved 21 May 2015. the 56 Geo. III. c. 57, taken in connexion with the 40 Geo. III. c. 37, of which the fifty-sixth is an explanation and amendment
  6. Comm Mun Corp 1835, p,697 §§1,5
  7. 1 2 Belfast Commission Report 1869, p.4
  8. Belfast Commission Report 1869, p.362, Table C.
  9. Comm Mun Corp 1835 pp.702–705 §§36–41
  10. "8 & 9 Vict. c.142". The Belfast Local Acts. Belfast: Printed at News-Letter Steam-Printing House. 1867. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  11. Rickards, George Kettleby (1865). "c.70 An Act to alter the Distribution of the Constabulary Force in Ireland, and to make better Provision for the Police Force in the Borough of Belfast". 28 & 29 Victoria, 1865. The Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Eyre & Spottiswoode. pp. 142–146. Retrieved 21 May 2015.

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