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The Square Mile, its crime and policing history The Square Mile, its crime and policing history

“Proficiency in the art of self defence gives the individual policeman confidence in facing the odds he has often to meet single-handed in the execution of his duties, and in restraining the violence of a prisoner”. 
Sir Howard Vincent’s Police Code, 16th Edition

In 1906, Sir Howard Vincent MP visited the City of London Police station at Snow Hill.  He was there to witness a demonstration of new police self defence techniques developed by a Police Sergeant in the force, George H Wheeldon.   These techniques, based on Jiu Jitsu and Cumberland and Cornish wrestling, and supplemented by Wheeldon’s knowledge of human anatomy, were heralded as providing very effective methods for dealing with potentially – and actually – violent prisoners.

And so gone were the days of numerous officers being required to deal with a reluctant  suspect and of prisoners being physically carried to police stations – Wheeldon’s techniques required only two officers who, within just a couple of minutes it was claimed, could easily reduce the most violent of men “to howl for mercy”.

The methods taught also extended not just to restraint, but how to disarm those armed with weapons, including those who might have managed to relieve the police constable of his own truncheon.

So impressed was Captain Nott Bower, the City Commissioner, with Wheeldon’s self defence methods that he directed that all the officers in the force should be taught them. It took only a course of eight lessons of an hour and a half each until each man was proficient.  It is likely that the instruction took place on the roof of Snow Hill Police Station: many photographs of the training – more of which can be seen here (together with an interesting 1947 video of Metropolitan Police practising wrestling) – are obviously taken there.

And Wheeldon’s techniques were not just taught to City Police Officers. Men from Bradford, Kent, Hertfordshire and even the East Indies came to London to train in his form of police self defence. A pamphlet outlining his methods, complete with instructive photographs, was published by the Police Review, and can be read here.

By the 1920s, all City Police recruits were given, as part of their probationary instruction, a full course of training in the art of Jiu Jitsu, following a course based on the techniques of a man who, in today’s language, would be called a staff safety trainer, Inspector George Wheeldon.

George Edwin Henry Wheeldon

Born in 1866 in Manchester to John and Isabella Wheeldon.

Joined the City of London Police on 20th August 1885 aged 19 years 2 months.

Issued Warrant Number 5843.

Retired in the rank of Inspector on 9 October 1913.

Died 30th July 1928.


Sir Howard Vincent’s Police Code, 16th Edition
Police Review, 25th May 1906
The Police Encyclopaedia, Hargrave L Adam
Fifty Years a Policeman, Sir William Nott-Bower

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