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Mounted Branch

Mounted Branch

Once, almost within living memory, the streets of the Square Mile teamed with horses. Virtually every vehicle on the streets of London was horse-drawn and more than 300,000 horses were needed to keep the city on the move, hauling everything from private carriages and cabs to buses, trams and delivery vans.

The sight, sound and bustle of these hard-working beasts would have been common-place and a part of every day life. Now, they have all but disappeared.

Today, it is believed that just nine working horses remain within the City. They are the horses of the City of London Police and they play a vital role in helping the force to fight crime.

Brief history and role today

Operating out of their base at Wood Street, the City of London Police horses carry on a proud tradition of service and duty which began in 1873, when horses were hired from a local livery stable for use in emergencies.

In those early days, mounted officers were usually retired cavalry men who had joined the force and the horses were used for certain events such as public order or escort duty. In 1904, the unit became a permanent branch of the force, under the auspices of Commissioner Sir William Nott-Bower. Sir William, in his attempts to set up a modern ambulance system for the City, persuaded the Corporation to invest in the mounted unit, with the argument that the horses could be used to pull the ambulance, as well as work on patrol.

Sir Willliam’s insistence that horses could add to the capabilities of the force was proved time and time again, not only in terms of adding visibility and reassurance, but in helping to control crowds and maintain order, particularly during the General Strike of 1926 and the 136 Cable Street demonstrations.

In 1947, the force was finally allowed to purchase its own horses and some 73 horses have gone on to serve the various and diverse communities within the Square Mile since then.

Throughout history, the sight of a highly visible mounted officer on horseback has offered reassurance on patrol and displayed a formidable presence at times of violent disorder. Today, that remit and reassurance has not changed. The horses play a major role in policing the City from hi-visibility patrols to state occasions, crowd control at demonstrations and sporting events and ceremonial duties such as Trooping the Colour and the Lord Mayor’s Show.

They are also invaluable out in the community, taking crime prevention messages out to local schools and organisations – most of the horses have been adopted by a school and will often call in for a chat and a pat during term time.

The horses helped to police the Olympic Games and Para Olympic Games in 2012, as well as Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

In short, the horses of the City of London Police are an integral part of the force and a familiar and much-loved sight in the historic City. They are part of the fabric and tradition of the Square Mile and, should they be lost, it is unlikely that they would return.

Why the horses are important

Highly visible policing is critical to protecting our communities and few police officer roles are more highly visible than the mounted branch officer. The officers and horses of the mounted branch have an extremely positive impact on reducing crime, nuisance and anti-social behaviour – particularly in the City’s burgeoning night-time economy. They also help to raise public confidence and reassurance levels and keep the potential for terrorist activity to a minimum.

Their work is not just confined to the City as they are often deployed to other areas to help police high profile music concerts and festivals, football matches and any other events where large crowds gather such as New Year’s Eve celebrations. In addition, the benefits to young people having access to police officers and horses in a positive environment cannot be over-emphasised.

The horses are real ambassadors for the force and are mobile throughout the City six days a week as well as being deployed across the country. They are seen by an estimated 5 million people a year from residents, workers and tourists in the City, to Royalty and foreign dignitaries and further afield at various sporting fixtures and events. Their community and public relations work also includes visiting schools and organisations and engaging with young and old alike. ​

Mounted Branch -  Photo gallery​​​​