Victorian Leith Police truncheon is big hit as it goes under the hammer

With a starting bid of £200, Lot 454 of a recent Dreweatts​' auction​ was expected to fetch between £250 and £300 when it went under the hammer.

By Liam Rudden
Thursday, 27th May 2021, 7:00 am
The streets patrolled by the Leith Police in 1892
The streets patrolled by the Leith Police in 1892

However, the ornate Victorian Leith Police truncheon outdid even its upper estimate when it sold for an impressive £850, a total of £1,105 when VAT and premiums were added, earlier this month.

One of 50 truncheons and tipstaves sold at auction on May 12, the carved oak item once carried by a member of the Leith Police force as he walked the streets of the Port was decorated with a crown above a VR cypher and inscribed​ with the words​, 'Leith Police'.

Ashley Matthews a specialist valuer at Dreweatts Auctioneers​, Donnington, where the sale took place, says, "The Leith truncheon performed very well selling for a hammer price of £850 against the pre-auction estimate of £250-300. There was strong bidding on the lot including interest from all over the UK.​ ​Interestingly​,​ the Leith truncheon out-performed the other Scottish example, a very similarly decorated truncheon from Dundee."

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The ornate Victorian Leith Police truncheon that sold for £850

S​peaking, on condition of anonymity, the delighted seller adds, "I think the reason the Leith one did rather well is because of the Evening News article. I've seen one other Leith ​truncheon ​before and it was in the low hundreds​, £250-£330-ish. So ​when ​it fetched ​£850​ I thought, 'This is extraordinary’. I would guess it might have been two Leith fanatics who saw the article​ and bid against each other for it."​

The VR cypher on the Leith Police truncheon was used between 1837 and 1901​ said the seller prior to the sale, ​reflecting, "We have called the Leith truncheon Victorian, but you could narrow this down a bit as I think the Leith Police were established in 1859 and disbanded in 1920 when they amalgamated with Edinburgh. The truncheon clearly has a VR cypher so it won't be after 1901."

​Th​e​ item will prove a coveted addition to any collection. The seller observes, "I would imagine there must be a few ​out there ​but they are certainly very scarce otherwise the two people bidding ​here ​would have already had one.

​"​I have a few Scottish truncheons, a few Irish and a few Welsh and I​ always liked ​the ​Scottish ones​. I sold that Leith one because I had two. I was looking at​ them​ and looking at them, trying to decide which one... eventually I decided ​which one ​I would ​put into D​r​ew​eatt​s​ but I still have the other that is similar​, but slightly different.

A police officer and his truncheon in action

The seller is also sure the famous 'Leith Police Dismisseth Us' tongue-twister played a part in the assuring the collectability of the truncheon and explains that much of the attraction of collecting such items is about connecting with history.

"When I held the truncheon, which had what is called a ribbed handle, I would find myself, first, because it's to do with the police, thinking of DNA and wondering if there were any DNA on the handle; I'm holding the handle. I could be the first person after the police officer, and maybe the auctioneer, to hold it. I'm holding the very same thing that he held and thinking, 'Am I holding it the same way as he did?' and 'Who did he hit with it?' It's a very tactile object."

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