Bow Street

I enjoy a good murder mystery. Most I read are historical, set anytime from antiquity to the early 20th century. The ones set in the 19th century are my favourites where Bow Street Runners are often mentioned. For those of you who aren’t particularly fans of Victorian whodunits (or historians of the 19th century), the term ‘Bow Street Runners’ was the nickname attached to the law enforcers of Henry Fieldings’ fledgling professional police force, first established in London in 1749. Because I had only encountered them in fiction, reality came as a surprise.

Recently, I had been shopping around Covent Garden and wanted to have a quick glimpse of the classical façade of the Royal Opera House, which turned out to be mostly blocked by construction vehicles and screens. It was a bit disappointing, but I stopped to admire these rather ornate lights flanking a door of an old building on the opposite side of the street. I really love the lion heads and feet in the metal stand plus the orb with the crown on the top.

Passing the door, I noticed the lintel was carved with ‘Police Station’. Checking my map app, it confirmed I was, indeed, on Bow Street. At the end of the building, a plaque marked it as Bow Street Magistrate’s Court. So, here it was – the location of the first of London’s police stations.

The Bow Street Runners had their base at this location even before they were amalgamated into the metropolitan police force in 1829. This current building, however, was consturcted in 1879-80 where it continued to serve as a police station until 2006. It is now a listed historic building and recently (in 2016) was sold to a property developer. Soon it will be converted into a luxury hotel with a small museum dedicated to the development of London’s police force. I was glad I could capture the door and its building in photos before reconstruction.

Now, when reading those mysteries, I’ll have a good visual for my imagination whenever the Bow Street police station is mentioned. Of course, a suitable gothic filter would be applied.

Check out Norm’s Thursday Doors for many more posts on fascinating buildings and their doors.


  1. Yes! I’ve read plenty books with Bow Street Runners in them (Anne Perry, Georgette Heyer, etc.) so it’s lots of fun to see the actual building. Quite an impressive place, although many of the Runners, at least at some points, were less than impressive. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.



    • I agree, those fictional Runners were quite dicey! I was glad I recognised the building. So often when walking around a city (particularly London) you miss out on the details: you might say to yourself “nice building” then carry on walking without really looking.

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  2. Thank you for giving me a picture of the station’s location. I also adore historical mysteries and often the Bow Street Runners are mentioned. Who are your favorite authors? I have been reading the series by C.S. Harris as well as others.


  3. What a stately door and surround, so London and with the gothic tilt it’s easy to imagine a pea- souper swirling, gas lights, a bobby and the Ripper darting away…..


    • Great imagination. I didn’t have a ‘pea-souper’ filter on my photo editing app, so went with ‘grunge’ and heightened the globes on the lights. Had fun playing with the image to get just this sort if feel. Really love the gothic of Victorian architecture.

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