• Behind the Blue Lamp


The history of Bethnal Green and its division is an interesting if not complex example, because planners made errors when considering how the local area was going to be policed.

Records show permission was granted to build a police station on a plot of land at ‪243 Bethnal Green Road, in December 1860. When the station was built it was a fine example of a Victorian police station, situated within K Division with a strength of one Inspector, nine sergeants and 66 constables.

However, the building of such a station did present a problem, as there appears to have been two police stations in Bethnal Green albeit on different divisions. The Orders stated “The police of H Division are to take up and occupy the new police station at Church Street Bethnal Green on the 9th January.” This is strange, as Church Street is the Shoreditch end of Bethnal Green whilst the other station is located near the junction with the Cambridge Road at the other end of the Bethnal Green Road.

Research indicates that there was a station at the Church Street site because the K Divisional superintendent makes mention of the fact in his Divisional account published in the Commissioners Annual Report of 1871. The Bethnal Green Road of today was only half its length in 1860, with the Shoreditch end being called Church Street. The Church Street Police Station was located on the south side of the road opposite Turville Street, between Club Row and Swan Street.

Therefore, not only were there two police stations in Bethnal Green in 1871, but they were situated along the same road and were within one mile of each other.

The Divisional Superintendent in 1888 was James Keating, who had control over 38 Inspectors, 56 Sergeants and 522 constables – a total 612 officers.

In February 1894 the new station at Bethnal Green was completed and opened for business. In 1917 an administration section was completed at the new police station and was occupied in June of the same year.

The records show that Bethnal Green Police Station was located at ‪458 Bethnal Green Road, and it consisted of a station and a section house together with three sets of quarters. The section house is shown to occupy a site at the rear of the station and it would appear that there was also a stable. Bethnal Green lost its Headquarters status when in 1933 it became a sectional station of Bow Police Station after being transferred from J to H Division.

During the Second World War an entrance was made in the yard of the police station to provide access to an air raid shelter belonging to the British United Shoe Machinery Company. The entrance was blocked up in 1948.

In January 1994 the Divisions of Leman Street and Bethnal Green merged to become Whitechapel Division, without any revision of boundaries. In November 1995 both stations at Leman Street and Bethnal Green closed permanently and all officers and functions transferred to the new station located at 12 Victoria Park Square, E2. The new station retained Bethnal Green as its title, with the code letters HT as its call sign.

In 2019 this was the only station left open for public access in Tower Hamlets.

Information taken from the new book BEHIND THE BLUE LAMP. Click here to learn more.

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© 2020 ADAM WOOD.
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