Last week was quite a unique one for ‘London Shoes’, when I received an invitation from 2 highly acclaimed ‘London Walking Tour’ guides, asking me if I would like to accompany them on a ‘new’ tour they’ve designed – as they would value my feedback of the tour, its content and its delivery – before letting it fully off the leash for the forthcoming Spring & Summer tourist influx.
David and Francis are both retired ex Metropolitan Police–Sergeants, who are now fully accredited London Walking Tour guides, and now conduct tours that cover-off a whole range of topics and themes of London’s historic past – something they have done for quite some time now.
As it just so happens, and unbeknown to me – they are also avid followers of my London Shoes website and its blog publications – hence the reason as to why they gave me a shout to see if I would accompany them on a ‘dry-run’ of their new walking tour, as they valued and welcomed my opinions.
Anyway – because of their extensive Met Police background these 2 gentlemen now work under the amusing title of “The Laughing Policemen” and as a result a their personal career experiences and first hand knowledge, David & Francis have designed a brand new and totally unique walking tour of their own, that they have entitled the “London Police & Crime–Walking Tour” – and it was the dry-run of this specific tour that I accompanied them on.
Their “London Police & Crime” Tour is crammed full of interesting material and historic facts relating to policing & crime in the Capital – which walks a punter through the crime ridden, gin soaked London prior to the formation and introduction of any organised policing set-up – and it then ‘walks’ on to London’s numerous historic crime locations throughout the past few centuries, and the infamous notorious criminals and characters that were involved in them.
The tour walks you through the history of how formal policing was created and introduced in London and the lead up to the eventual formation of the Metropolitan Police and the creation of Scotland Yard.
No stone is left unturned in terms of the tour’s content – as it touches on everything – from a poor fella getting arrested for wearing a top-hat – the violent stabbing of one of Britain’s top actors – the introduction of the very first policewoman – the history of the famous Bow Street Magistrates Court – the very first kidnap attempt on a member of the Royal Family – terrorist attacks on London & even the influence of fictional characters such as Sherlock Holmes.
For some of the ‘incidents’ in more recent decades, tour guides David & Francis often have first-hand knowledge and experience – and their input and recollections really help bring all these topics to life – offering something a little bit different from the other walking tours.
My ‘London Shoes’ certainly got a lot out of spending the day walking through the new ‘Police’ tour – as I found out loads of historic stuff that I never had a ‘scoobie’ about, which I can now refer to and cover-off in future blogs.
For example – summarised below are just a limited few of the interesting facts that I picked-up on throughout the tour:-
>>The term ‘Coppers’ comes from the copper plating that used to be on the tip of the very early designs of Police ‘truncheons’ way back in the early 1800’s.
>>The term ‘Old Bill’ comes from the time of the official formation of the Metropolitan Police back in 1829 when King ‘William’ IV was on the throne and was a big influence on London having its own Police Force.
>>In 1797 a well to do haberdasher by the name of ‘John Hetherington’ was arrested for wearing a ‘top-hat’ (a fashion style that hadn’t yet been introduced). Hetherington was sent ‘up before the beak’ for inciting a mini riot, that caused several women to faint and children to scream and dogs to yelp!!
>>Then there’s the brutal murder of William Terris in 1897 at the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre. Terris was the top superstar actor of the day, and was viciously knifed to death outside the stage door at the back of the theatre, by Richard Prince, another actor, but much lower league, who thought that Terris was having an affair with his wife.
Prince was tried and convicted of murder, but was saved from the death sentence, as the authorities declared him insane, and so he was banged up in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum – a decision that caused uproar in the media and throughout the acting profession.
>>In 1974 Ian Ball became the first person ever to attempt to kidnap a member of the Royal Family, when he forced a car carrying Princess Anne down the Mall, to a halt – shooting 3 people in the process. Ball demanded a £3m ransom which he claimed he wanted to give to the NHS to fund mental health care.
Ball was eventually felled by an ex East End boxer ‘Ronnie Russell’, who just happened to be strolling down the Mall at the time.
The victims of the shootings all survived and were awarded gallantry medals, including Ronnie Russell, who received the George Medal and also had his mortgage paid-off by the Queen. Ball was found guilty and jailed for life, but was judged insane and was initially banged-up in Rampton and is still doing porridge in ‘choky’.
There is a rather sad twist to this historic criminal incident, as only this month it was reported in the national press that the ex boxer Ronnie Russell, who is now an elderly man in very poor health, has had to auction off his George Medal to pay for his health care costs.
>>The tour also takes in the famous Bow Street Magistrates Court – the location of hundreds of high profile trials such as those of Oscar Wilde – Dr.Crippen – the Kray Twins – Emily & Christabel Pankhurst – just to name but a few, who have all been ‘up before the beak’ there.
This famous court house closed in 2006 and is currently in the process of being converted into a 99 room luxury boutique hotel.
>>Then there’s the fact that there have actually been 4 Scotland Yard’s – the original Met Police HQ building was at no.4 Whitehall Place, just off of Great Scotland Yard and is still there – and then further down the road is another old Met HQ that is now the Great Scotland Yard luxury hotel and further down the street there is another of the old Scotland Yard HQ’s that is now houses one of the stables used the Met’s mounted division – where the horses are stabled up on the 1st Floor !!!
>>The tour even nips into the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ pub in Northumberland Street, for a ‘cheeky’ one. The pub used to be called the Northumberland Arms – but in 1957 the it changed its name to the Sherlock Holmes and filled the place with loads of ‘Holmes’ memorabilia and artefacts rescued from the 1951 Festival of Britain.
On the 1st floor there is an entire replicated room dedicated to a typical scene from the novels of the world famous fictional detective.
The above are only a few snippets of what “The London Police & Crime”-Tour covers-off throughout the 2hr walk – there are loads more interesting criminally related historical facts, landmarks and locations within its content – great value for money-well worth the £20 cost – and I personally would have no hesitation in recommending the tour to anyone who is up for something just a little bit different in content from the other conventional walking tours.
All in all – I was honoured and well chuffed that the services of my London Shoes was called upon by ‘The Laughing Policemen’ and that the guys valued my feedback on this run through of this new tour venture, and I shall definitely be following its future progress with great interest.
Hope you enjoy viewing the photos accompanying this article – I’ve also attached the promo link to the actual tour itself, should anyone be interested in booking a place on it now or in the future.