Sir Thomas de Veil and the Fieldings
IT WAS ALMOST BY CHANCE that the germ of the modern Scotland Yard planted itself in Bow Street, which was the first and most famous of the police offices. It chanced that a certain retired colonel, Sir Thomas de Veil, the son of a Huguenot minister, born in 1684, had been apprenticed to a mercer in Cheapside. The business failed, and he joined the army for a livelihood. He rose to be a captain, but on his return to civil life he was too poor to indulge his rather extravagant tastes. Accordingly, he set up an office in Scotland Yard, leading out of Whitehall, where he transacted business such as preparing memorials to the public offices and drawing petitions at fixed fees. In 1729 we find him appointed to the Commission of the Peace for Middlesex and Westminster. It was exactly one century before the passing of Peel's Metropolitan Police Act.
He was now forty-five, well educated, and well travelled during his military service, and he had won a good reputation in business after leaving the army. He was thus well fitted for the responsible work he had undertaken. Throughout his career his guiding principle was to better himself; to stand well with his superiors, and to do all that tact, sagacity, and conscientiousness could accomplish. As his biographer says of him:
The case was this. The captain was a very nice economist, and though he was willing to give his friends any assistance that might be