Hello, good evening and welcome to a new series on the blog: hidden London. And the first article in this brand new series will cover everything you need to know about London’s smallest police station; located in the very heart of where you’d least expect…
This set of articles is designed to showcase the quirkiest places in the city, and hopefully the kind of places you won’t find in any guidebook. It’s a new branch of a wider range of posts I’m planning, of offbeat and unusual places in cities I particularly love (and have lived in).
Hidden London is the twin series to Obscure Paris, of which you may have already noticed a number of articles already on the blog. You’ll find these Hidden London posts under the usual travel tab, as well as the culture tab of the menu. I hope you enjoy the first installment!
In search of London’s smallest police station
I once heard that there’s at least one off duty police officer on any busy street you’re walking along, at any given time. And that got me thinking: that’s quite a few police officers! As a result, it would stand to reason that there are also plenty of stations, call boxes and the like to house all of these officers. And it turns out that some of them are located in the most unlikely of places, like the one we’re discussing today.
For, located in the very middle of Trafalgar Square, no less, you’ll find London’s smallest police station. Blink and you might miss it. It’s easy to pass by without even noticing this oddity. But then again, the police station is disguised to look like a lamp post.
Wanting to see this historical curiosity for myself, I set about trying to find it. Approaching from the Canada House side of the square, I passed children playing on the lions and people dipping their fingers in the fountains. Luckily, I didn’t need detective skills of my own to find the station and the police ‘lamp’ soon came into view. It may be disguised a lamp, but it’s also the only lamp in the square wide enough to fit a person (and a little equipment). Want exact directions? Well, I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself…
Formerly a light stand, the station is little bigger than a telephone box, with room for just one or two officers at a time. It was rather surreptitiously installed at some point in 1926, to ensure that police could have a set of eyes trained on Trafalgar Square at all times. During the time of the Great Depression, there were a number of protests, some of them violent.
The little police station was originally installed as a replacement for a police box that had once stood nearby. Although no one knows the exact dates for which it was in use, it was definitely in use during the 1930s. And the police officer stationed here probably had a direct line to Scotland Yard. Furthermore, the ‘decorative’ light at the top had the ability to flash- just like a real police siren.
Visiting and other curios information
Sounds cramped, you say? Well, with little more space than a closet (and little room to get claustrophobic), London’s smallest police station (or rather, most unusual Police Box in the city) has been transformed into just that: a rather convenient space for cleaning supplies! Although you can’t visit the interior of the Police Box, it’s possible to peek in the windows and get a quick glance!
Local legend tells that the flashing light atop of the lamp post was from the HMS Victory, Nelson’s own ship. The lamp was first installed in 1826 and although this myth is false, it is easy to see why it came about. After all, the police station sits in the very shadow of Nelson’s column.
This little London curiosity is also incorporated into Alex Grecian’s book, the Yard. The nearest tube stop is Charing Cross, located less than a five minute walk away. A visit to the outside of the station can easily be combined with a trip to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Both galleries are free to visit and well worth a look, if only to check out the interior architecture of the buildings…