Britain's 'smallest police station'


Britain's 'smallest police station'

These days the police service has rationalised its police stations, and not been particularly concerned about its physical presence on the street. But in the past, the police were very keen to show their face right in the centre of things. Hence a tiny police building in Trafalgar Square.

Though frequently described as a police station, this was actually an observation box, which could only hold one police officer. It can be found tucked away in the southeast corner of the Square.

From the 19th century, following the invention of the telephone, but before the widespread use of police radios, the force began to put police telephone boxes all around the country. The standard blue-panelled wooden boxes with a signal light on top designed by Gilbert MacKenzie Trench became an iconic piece of street furniture, later adopted by the creators of television's Doctor Who in the 1960s.

Trafalgar Square was a focus of particular interest because it has always been a magnet for London’s protesters, rioters, and marchers. After using a temporary wooden box for a time, the police decided something more robust was required and had this stone watch-post built in the 1920s to suit the style of the area.

The 'station' had a direct telephone line to Scotland Yard a mile or so away, and castle-style slits in the walls to allow the single officer to keep an eye on any misbehaviour. When the officer picked up the phone to call for support, the light atop the tiny station would flash like a beacon, signalling to other nearby officers.

It was used up to the 1970s when radio communications rendered it superfluous to demand. If you peer through the windows these days, you won’t see a bored bobby—just lots and lots of mops. The station is now used as a storeroom for cleaners. 

Other unusual Central London police stations were located at the two ends of Park Lane in Marble Arch and the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner.

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