Ello ello ello, what’s all this then? A museum about the police opens its (cell) doors in London early 2021 — and it’s inside one of the city’s first police stations.
Station cells and working rooms of the former Bow Street Police Station and Magistrates’ Court, in Covent Garden, have been transformed into galleries telling the story of the Bow Street Runners — the 18th century precursors to today’s Metropolitan Police.
Among Bow Street Police Museum’s collections will be early equipment used by the Runners, including a cutlass and a replica uniform (its blue double-breasted coat and red waistcoat gave officers the nickname ‘robin red breasts’).
The original dock from Court no. 2 will also be on show, as well as personal items from former officers, such as beat books and truncheons.
And if you’re game, there’s an opportunity to spend a (very small) stretch in ‘the Tank’ — where men were often held while sobering up, after bouts of drunken public behaviour.
The police station — which was based in this particularly grand Bow Street building from 1881-1992 — and the forerunning magistrates’ court dating back the mid 18th century — are at the heart of many of the museum’s stories, which centred around the vivacious, sometimes vicious, setting of Covent Garden.
Tim Workman, last serving Chief Magistrate at Bow Street, says, “It was the enormous variety that made Bow Street Court so interesting. From drunks in Covent Garden to mass murderers wanted by their home country appearing before you in court, you never knew what to expect.”
High profile cases which took place here are covered, included the trials of suffragettes, Oscar Wilde, the Krays, Dr Crippen, IRA terrorists and the Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.
The Museum also promises to “instigate discussions about many aspects of police history, modern policing and social justice” — certainly the type of discourse we need to be having in the wake of the 2020 killing of George Floyd, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
There should be a hunger for a permanent museum of this kind; after all there was huge interest in the Museum of London’s 2015 exhibition featuring objects from London’s infamous (and usually private) Crime Museum.
Bow Street Police Museum, on 28 Bow Street (part of the NoMad London Hotel) opens early 2021. Exact date determined on Covid regulations. Tickets £6/£3-£4.50 concessions.