• Behind the Blue Lamp


Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Bow Street started its road to fame in the history of maintaining law and order in 1739, when Thomas de Veil occupied a house at No. 4, on the west side, and began work as London’s first notably honest magistrate. In 1749 the police office was opened. Later, Henry and John Fielding took over as magistrates and established permanent officers employed as constables by the court to investigate complaints of crime and to execute warrants. In 1803 No. 3 was acquired to extend No. 4.

In 1832 the Metropolitan Police moved to 33-34 Bow Street, opposite the court, into a brick and slate-built house leased from the Duke of Bedford.

Plans were first discussed for a new, larger police station in 1876, and a new building was completed towards the end of 1880. The fine stone façade, opposite the Royal Opera House, has led to the building being Grade II listed. It is one of the few examples in London of a police station and court being built together.

Alongside the world-famous Bow Street Magistrates’ Court, Bow Street is a famous police station and several cases reflected its high-profile name. In 1961 ‘Identikit’ was used for the first time in the investigation into the murder of Elsie Batten at 22 Cecil Court, on Bow Street’s ground. In 1973 Constable Michael Whiting QPM was killed after clinging to a car that had driven off as he was questioning the occupants, and in 1984 a Bow Street officer, Constable Yvonne Fletcher, was killed in St. James’s Square by shots fired from the Libyan People’s Bureau during a demonstration against the regime of Colonel Gadaffi. The case created enormous controversy after the ‘diplomats’ were allowed to leave the Embassy and the case is still open today after tireless campaigning by Yvonne Fletcher’s colleague John Murray.

Famous people who have passed through the doors of Bow Street Police Station include Dr Crippen, William Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and the Kray twins.

Although Bow Street Police Station was replaced by the new Charing Cross Police Station in October 1992, the magistrates' court continued to be used until its last case was heard on 14th July 2006. The building had been put up for sale in 2004. A plan to open the building as a police museum was suggested, but the Metropolitan Police Authority declined to support the scheme, citing legal reasons. It was due to open in the summer of 2020 as a boutique hotel, featuring a small Police museum.

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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