Much attention is given to the Fourth Plinth in the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square. Do you know the distinction of the world record holding southeast corner of Trafalgar?
Avoiding almost all attention at the south-east corner of Trafalgar Square is a peculiar and often overlooked world record holder; Britain’s Smallest Police Station. It’s said this tiny box can accommodate up to two prisoners at a time. Its main purpose was to hold a single police officer. Think of it as a 1920’s CCTV camera! Yes, you were being watched even before 1984 reality set in.
You can be forgiven for missing the world’s smallest police station. It looks more like a neoclassical Tardis than a police station. There won’t be a crowd of curious tourists gathered around it happily snapping selfies.
The tiny police station was built in 1926 so the Metropolitan Police could keep a close eye on dubious characters creating mischief during demonstrations prevalent at the time. Back in the day, Trafalgar Square was a magnet for London’s protestors, rioters, marchers and pigeons. The story behind its construction is also a wee bit secretive.
At the end of World War I, a temporary police box outside Trafalgar Square tube station was due for renovation. Authorities wanted a permanent post to survey the area. The public was having none of that and objected profusely, so the plans were scrapped. Instead, the Metropolitan Police decided to build a less obvious police box. Where? Inside an ornamental light post.
Once the light post was hollowed out, it was then installed with a set of castle-style narrow windows in order to provide a 360-degree vista primarily across Trafalgar Square. If it looked like a lamppost and acted like a lamppost, it must be nothing more, right? Cleverly, the designers went a step further and installed a direct phone line back to Scotland Yard. If reinforcements were needed in times of serious trouble, the authorities could easily be alerted.
In fact, whenever the police phone was picked up, a clandestine signal flashed. The signal? The ornamental light fighting at the top of the police box. Nearby officers could rush in to break up any melee that might take place.
Once the light fitting was hollowed out, it was then installed with a set of narrow windows in order to provide a vista across the main square. Also installed was a direct phone line back to Scotland Yard in case reinforcements were needed in times of trouble. In fact, whenever the police phone was picked up, the ornamental light fitting at the top of the box started to flash, alerting any nearby officers on duty that trouble was near.
Though not confirmed, London legend tells us the ornamental light on top of the box, installed in 1826, is originally from Nelson’s historic HMS Victory.
Is London’s smallest police station used today? Yes, but not for Trafalgar Square security reasons. The box is not used by the police today but is instead used as a broom closet for Westminster Council cleaners.
Next time you’re in Trafalgar Square, be sure to pass by Trafalgar Square and see this tiny marvel for yourself, brooms and all.
Map Showing the Location of London’s Smallest Police Station ::