LONDON – A disused London police station has opened up its old detention cells to visitors as it reinvents itself as a museum, the latest addition to the British capital’s varied cultural offerings.
Bow Street Police Museum is located in the Covent Garden area, inside premises that used to house a police station and a magistrates’ court where defendants ranging from writer Oscar Wilde to suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst once appeared.
It tells the story of the Bow Street Runners, often called London’s first professional police force, which was formed in 1749 and later merged with the Metropolitan Police. A long history of crimes and investigations is also explored.
“This building originally opened in 1881 as a police station and also as a magistrates’ court,” museum curator Jen Kavanagh told Reuters, adding there was a court on the street from 1740.
“We really wanted to ensure that an important piece of London history and such an iconic building was brought back to life and it gave us an opportunity to really showcase what was taking place within these four walls.”
Bow Street police station closed in 1992. The magistrates court, where past defendants also included notorious criminal brothers the Kray twins and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, shut in 2006.
Visitors can view the former station’s ground floor cells and offices. On show are old uniforms, handcuffs and the original dock from court number two.
The building has been restored with the floors above the former police station now a hotel.