For my culture day out this week, my London Shoes had me seeking out a topic that I knew very little about, but a subject that played a massive part in the mechanics around how the City was policed, in times gone by……….the subject matter being “Police-Call Posts”!!!!
I personally had no idea of the existence of these ‘police-call posts’, and having now done a day of exploring, I can understand why, as most of them are so well hidden you would probably never even notice them.
Back in the day from the late 1920’s and right through to the late 1960’s, these Police ‘call-posts’ (along with Police Telephone Boxes), were an extremely important and an essential tool for the Metropolitan Police right up until the time when advancements in technology saw the introduction of personal radios and walkie-talkies etc.
Police ‘call-post’s were not just for officers on the beat, they were also a means for the public to use to contact the police – an alternative to 999 when people didn’t have access to their own telephones, and years before the advent of mobiles.
Police ‘call-posts’ in appearance, were small cast-iron towers that were manufactured in the late 1920’s and sited throughout the City of London. The posts enabled the public to call a Police station and were also used for the station to contact the ‘Bobbies’ on the beat in that area. They had a red signal light on the top, which would flash if the Constable were required to contact the station. They had an upper hatch that opened to give access to the telephone; a middle door that opened horizontally to provide a writing surface, and lower door opened to a storage cupboard containing first aid kit and other useful items.
They were originally painted light blue in colour, (which was the ‘City of London’s official colour) so that they could be easily identified and located on the busy London streets– but as time progressed, there was a trend to paint them dark blue, in line with the Metropolitan Police brandings.
In 1953, and at their peak, there were over 600 police ‘call-posts’ and police telephone boxes scattered all over London – but following their decommissioning in the 1960’s – there are only a handful left on London’s city streets, as a historic reminder of a world, before mobile phones and radios came along and changed modern policing.
The “8” ‘call-posts’ that remain today, were granted Grade II listed status and were fully renovated, and restored to their original design, and even re-painted to their original light-blue colour – They can be seen at the following locations:
> Victoria Embankment – (close to the City boundary dragons)
> Aldgate – (outside St Botolph’s Church)
> Liverpool Street – (the east side of the station)
> Friday Street – (at the corner of Queen Victoria Street)
> Walbrook – (close to the Mansion House)
> Guildhall Yard – (just off Gresham Street)
> St Martin’s le Grand – (at the entrance to Postman’s Park)
> Old Broad Street – (right by Adam’s Court)
Turning specifically to the old iconic larger blue Police Telephone boxes, then most people are likely to immediately think of the Tardis from the Doctor Who TV series. Whilst the inside of Dr.Who’s Tardis is a huge time travelling machine with lots of space inside to move around in – the reality is that police Phone Boxes themselves were extremely cramped inside, only big enough to squeeze in a policeman, telephone, first aid kit, fire extinguisher a small heater, a stool.
Again, these telephone boxes were decommissioned in the 1960’s following advancements in radio transmission – and although some of these old blue boxes were bought up by private collectors – there is now only 1 that remains standing on London’s streets, and that is just outside Earls Court tube station – where it was erected there in 1997 purely for nostalgia purposes – and it has become a major attraction for Doctor Who enthusiasts.
So – my challenge for this week’s culture gig, was for my London Shoes to seek out these particular landmarks – from a bygone time – and appreciate the history behind them.
Having sought out all these iconic landmarks, I stopped off at the “The Counting House” in the Cornhill district of the City – for the mandatory ‘cheeky’ beer.The building itself has only been a boozer since 1998 – It was originally built in 1893 as Prescott’s Bank – which eventually following numerous mergers, ended up being taken over by Nat West Bank in 1970. The building’s actual foundations are said to sit on the north sleeper wall of a 2000 year-old Roman basilica!!!
Hope you enjoy the history and the accompanying photos