From the 12th to the 19th centuries, local communities relied on parish constables for peace keeping and law enforcement.  The job of the parish constable was unpaid and was occupied in turn by each member of the community (unless they were able to avoid the responsibility by paying a fine or finding a deputy).

During the late 18th century, some towns obtained private acts of parliament which gave them the power to levy rates to provide constables.  During this period, associations for the prosecution of felons were established in some localities by groups of landowners or householders.   These associations put up rewards, employed policemen and prosecuted criminals, financed by subscriptions of their members.

The first move towards a professional police force came with the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829.  Following the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, boroughs were required to have a watch committee which appointed constables.  The 1839 County Police Act gave justices of the peace the power to set up a paid police force (they could levy a rate for that purpose).  The 1856 County and Borough Police Act required justices of the peace to establish police forces in areas of the country still without one.  Small borough police forces were obliged to amalgamate with county forces at this date.

Links to online catalogues of holdings:

Barrow-in-Furness Borough Constabulary

Cumberland and Westmorland Constabulary (including north and east Cumbria stations)

Cumbria Constabulary: Western Division (including west Cumbria stations)

Kendal Borough Constabulary

Westmorland Constabulary