City of London Police Museum

I discovered this museum by chance earlier last year. I was running errands around City of London and came across it accidentally. The museum was located within the building of City of London Police Headquarters on Wood Street. The admission to the place was normally by appointment only. However, it must have been one of my lucky days and I was allowed to enter without it because a curator for the museum was happen to be on site that afternoon.

Police Headquarters on Wood Street EC2…

A folly stands in the middle of the street and I’m still regretting about forgetting to ask what it was for. At the entrance, I was told to wait until the curator became available as she was looking after a group of students then. After waiting at the reception for about 10 minutes, she came with a big smile on her face and invited me into the museum…

Behind the closed door, I found a very small museum. It was a breathtakingly tiny space packed with so many exhibits! And there is no image to convey how confined the space was because my iPhone camera could not be drawn back any further.

Basically, this museum exhibits artefacts which describe the history of City of London Police from its conception at the beginning of the Victorian era to the present time.

This is the very first uniform which the officers wore as they started policing the City of London…

In 1839, the City of London Police Act was passed and the police force, which was to be independent from the Metropolitan Police, was born. Prior to 1839, policing of the City did exist. The task was given to sheriffs to organise security and order. Crowd control during protests and riots was delegated to military force.

Let’s take a close look of the uniform…

The navy blue coat resembled a military uniform but not overtly so. The authority who designed the uniform was aware that policing by the army was not very popular amongst the general public because their appearance and demeanour was feared and resented. The new police force was to be the guardian of law and order, not the agent of oppressor. Therefore, the uniform would have to be respectable without being too intimidating. Unfortunately, the first uniform was too inconspicuous during a particular riot and as a result, one officer was killed by a mob, being mistaken as a member of the rival gang.

Victorian police mag-shots…

A police mascot tabby…

The distinctive design of the head gears worn by City of London Police is directly inspired by the helmet worn by the Roman soldiers who occupied the same location from 50 – 400AD.

This is a rattle which the officers used to carry. The instrument made a loud noise when it was swung so fellow officers in the vicinity could be alerted. It looked pretty weighty and might have been a bit cumbersome when pursuing criminals on foot? Issuing of the whistle must have been much appreciated by the officers…

A newspaper with the front cover, reporting the murder of a police officer…

This weekly was reporting about Jack the Ripper, the most famous cold case…

Next to the newspaper, there were photos of the serial killer’s victims taken by the coroner. One of the photos clearly showed how she was disembowelled and it made a rather nauseating sight. The curator of the museum asked me if I could refrain from taking a photo of this particular image as a mark of respect to the victim and I wholeheartedly agreed with her.
We all know that Jack the Ripper was never caught and the crime remained unsolved. However, the investigation into the case did help to develop a new way of crime-solving, forensics. For the first time, the police approached the analysis of the case by reconstructing the crime scenes and the evidence left by the killer. Even though they failed to catch him, the process had contributed to modernise the police investigation.

Weapons confiscated by the police…

From straightforward weapons – knives, daggers, swords, hummers, knucklebusters, to more unusual arms – a comb, an iron and a sock stuffed with a rock! Scary…

Here were tools for burglars…

These were batons and staffs…

The object in the top image contained a rolled up paper issued by the magistrate which would give an officer who carried it the authority to arrest a person. The officer would have to tap the suspect’s shoulder with it prior to the arrest, apparently.

Police IDs…

Police call box…

Whistles and medals…

The police outfit during WWII…

A silk scarf with instructions for how to bandage…

Old police switchboard…

A police horse saddle…

Epoulets showing the police ranks…

Ceremonial uniforms…

Award plaques…

The sixties police recruitment leaflets…

The way two female officers looking at their male colleague in front was so hilarious!

Even though the size of the museum was minuscule, the place was packed with so many interesting exhibits and I was throughly entertained.

Do you know what they are called? Are they police badges?

By the way, the museum is closed until October this year. They are in the process of being relocated to new accommodation. Let’s hope they will have a bigger space and with even more exhibits…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

7 thoughts on “City of London Police Museum

  1. Another London museum on my list that I haven’t got round to visiting yet! Looks intriguing. Incidentally, the ‘folly’ in the middle of the street is the tower of the church of St Alban, all but destroyed in the Blitz but never rebuilt. Someone lives in it now.

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for a lovely report on the museum. I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit! I was the curator for the museum until a couple of years ago, and I still work closely with the museum team, so it’s lovely to hear when visits go well!

    I can confirm that the museum is due to reopen on 7th November in it’s new home at the Guildhall Library, just around the corner.
    It will have more space and an updated series of information boards for visitors.

    Could I ask a favour? I’m giving a talk on the new museum in a couple of weeks, and I would love to use your image of the museum cabinets, as (would you believe it) it’s actually better than any of the ones we have on file! Please let me know if it would be ok.
    Thanks once again for your lovely comments.
    Cathy

    • Hi Cathy. Thank you for your comment. I am so happy to know that the museum is reopening soon. I would love to visit the new one once it is open and to write about it in my blog again. Yes, please feel free to use the images. However, you have to grab them from the screen as I no longer have the originals. I hope they won’t be too low resolution! Kaori

  3. Pingback: They are BACK! | twist & turn

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