History of the Metropolitan Police
Bow Street Police Station
Possibly London's most famous police station, Bow Street was the site of the first Police Office, and subsequently the premier London magistrates' court.
When the Metropolitan Police was founded in 1829, the two Commissioners placed the station house on the site of numbers 25 and 27. Bow Street Station became the Divisional Station of the original F Division (Covent Garden), and remained the Divisional Station for Holborn and Covent Garden when E and F Divisions were merged in 1869 and F Division ceased to exist for several years.
The Bow Street magistrates' had developed an anomalous legal independence, with no statutory basis for its authority. This was ended by the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act, which defined them as Stipendiary Magistrates like the others. Nevertheless, Bow Street continued to be seen as the premier London Magistrates Court, and committal proceedings for great criminal cases such as that of Dr Crippen continued to take place at Bow Street.
Bow Street Police Station and Court. In the foreground a horse drawn prison van (Black Maria) pulls away to the interest of the bystanders
In 1861 blue lamps were introduced outside police stations, but Queen Victoria objected to having this distressing reminder of the blue room in which Albert died confronting her whenever she visited the Opera House. Bow Street therefore became the major London police station which famously did not have a blue lamp but a white one.
Construction of the new purpose-built Bow Street police court and station, with a section house for the 106 PCs was started in 1878 and completed in 1881.
The Metropolitan Police Historical Collection was originally housed at Bow Street, but transferred to temporary storage accommodation in Brixton in 1983, and subsequently to Charlton. Items from the current collection are now on view at Lillie Road, London.