History of The Office of Constable

The office of the Constable was introduced into British common law following the Norman invasion of the British Isle in 1066 AD. The Constable was one of many political institutions introduced into English Law by the Norman conquerors whose "Conestabulus" or "Count of the Stable" eventually evolved into the institution we know today.

Originally, the Constable was responsible for keeping the militia and armaments of the king and of individual villages. During the reign of King Stephen the office of Lord High Constable was established, giving the Constable an integral arm in the military throughout Britain. The Constable became the King's representative in all matters dealing with the military and oversaw the King's castle.

The Constable of the early New England settlements bore many of the same duties of his counterparts in England. He was the keeper of peace and a marshal of the early militias, established to protect the village in which he was administrator. Under common law the Constable became the primary official of the community and a village could not be established unless a Constable was present.

As the colonies grew, the office of the Constable took on new responsibilities. The Constable still had the duty of local peacekeeper, but also had to execute all warrants directed to them by the local justice and assure that no unruly crowds were allowed to gather. In the Borough of Bristol the Constable was also the clerk of the market and regulated the sale of beer and wine. In Lancaster the Constable was permitted to convene town meetings, pass local ordinances, and levy fines. If any Constable refused to perform his duties while he was in office, he could face heavy fines provided by law.