Bullers and Proggers

November 7, 2016


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His brow was black, his eye beneath

Shone like a wrathful bulldog’s teeth;

And still amid the darkness rung

The accents of his well-known tongue:

‘Your name and college!’


College rhymes, Volume 3 1892


Meet Lindsey Mills (pictured above, left), one of two remaining Proctor's Officers who were once 
bone fide police officers acting for the University. Known as Bulldogs, they were, for many years, universally feared and ridiculed. 


Still wearing their famous bowler-hats as they guard the gates of the Sheldonian Theatre at University events, from 1829 up to 2003, Lindsey and her predecessors were Police Constables in the University Police, and a force to be reckoned with. But how times, and attitudes, have changed since their inception over a 160 years ago. No black brows and wrathful teeth but a very sunny smile of welcome from Lindsey.


Capping a Proctor

Thanks to: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/oxford-freshman-1825.htm


Under the Universities Act of 1825, the University was granted the power to confirm constables by Parliament. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary, and Vice-Chancellor, signed a "Plan for the Establishment of an Efficient University Police", formalising the powers and duties of the University Constables and thereby creating one of the oldest Police Services in Britain.


With warrant card and power of arrest after dark at the ready, the constables began to prowl the gloomy streets of Oxford on the look out for miscreant students to apprehend, as well as a troublesome townie or two. Within weeks they became the object of much ridicule and loathing in the student community, the sobriquet Bulldog or ‘Bullers’ for such a pestilence, quickly adopted. Much bad doggerel - as seen above -followed, as did the odd fight, the ongoing ruckus fully exploited by both cartoonist and post card manufacturer alike.


Bulldogs were supervised by the University Proctors (‘Proggers’), men charged with maintaining and enforcing, where necessary, discipline within the University. Above them all, Svengali like, lurked the dread ‘Vice’, the Vice Chancellor, who ‘makes his powers felt in characteristically dark and tortuous ways.’ Proggers and Bulldogs are often portrayed hunting in packs, loitering in dark alleyways awaiting their student prey, toddling innocently towards them.

Waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting student

Postcard 1904




In 2002, a group of local traders in Oxford wrote to their MP, requesting the removal of the police powers of the Constables over citizens who were not members of the University. They argued that the Constables were "not accountable to any public authority" and described their role as an "anachronism". After a policy review by the University Council in 2003, the University Police was disbanded. 

Today, Proctor's Officers, as they have been officially designated since 2003, still retain, so it is claimed, some 95% of their previous powers. You have been warned!



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