• Behind the Blue Lamp


Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court began its famous role in dispensing justice in London’s West End under the 1792 Middlesex Justices Act when in 1793 21 Great Marlborough Street was adapted for use as one of the public or police offices created by the Act. The premises also covered ground to the rear, in Marlborough Mews (now Ramillies Place).

The Metropolitan Police undertook operations from Great Marlborough Street from 1829, but in 1856 the Receiver took a lease on the house at No. 20 and used the ground at the rear to extend the police station.

The freeholds were purchased in 1892 and a new police station was built at No. 20. No. 19 was purchased in 1912 and a new building, replacing numbers 19, 20 and 21, was designed by JD Butler and built by Patman and Fotheringham in the following year.

Like Bow Street, the new building enjoyed a distinguished stone frontage shared by the court and police station, and continued as a bustling, busy court until its final closure.

The court heard many cases involving famous people, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono (cannabis possession, 1968), Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull (cannabis possession, 1969) and Keith Richards (drugs possession and unlicensed firearms, 1973). Early in his career, Charles Dickens reported on the stream of characters that passed through the court, and it was here that Oscar Wilde began his infamous case against the Marquess of Queensbury that ended in Wilde’s downfall.

According to one London newspaper, one of the court’s famous magistrates, Mr St. John Harmsworth, once acquitted a political demonstrator on the basis that his egg throwing was ‘a time-honoured tradition of British political life’. Many call girls marked the occasion of his retirement by sending him cards, acknowledging his fair sense of justice; he responded by writing off many of their fines.

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

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© 2020 ADAM WOOD.
Book content ©Mango Books.