James Harriot

Founder of the Thames River Police

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James Harriott was born in 1745. In his book ‘Struggles Through Life’ he describes how on his way to school, he had to pass the house in Stambridge Road where the witch lived, the old crone could be seen in her garden collecting poppies which she fed to her imps. He later became friendly with the old lady.

James had a varied and troubled life, much of which he spent abroad partly in the Royal and later the Merchant navy and later as a soldier of fortune with the East India Company. Here he was seriously wounded while quelling an uprising. He returned to Stambridge, took up farming, reclaimed land from the sea but sadly this enterprise was ruined by fire and flood. His wife and son died. He abandoned farming and became a broker at Lloyd’s. Then he went into the wine trade and when that failed he returned to farming      

It was Harriott who was mainly responsible for bringing back the market to Rochford, he also started the Rochford Hundred Association against Murderer, Felons and Thieves

Perhaps his most important feat was, after seeing the tremendous amount of thieving and skulduggery that went on in the London docks, contacting the Lord Mayor and the Home Secretary to no avail. Eventually he and fellow magistrate Patrick Colquhoun set up an office next to the police station at Wapping and trained a group of watermen to quell the gangs that virtually ruled the Thames. Thus the Thames River Police was formed.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'James Harriot' page

The extraordinary man lived at Broomhills where the members of the Rochford Historical Society were responsible for placing the Blue Plaque on the building. Broomhills is now a Nursing Home.

This page was added by Mave Sipple on 25/03/2013.
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Require more information re James Harriot's life e.g. are there any books, autobiography?

By Peter Frier
On 20/12/2016
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