Another day, another London outing with pal Craig.
London is an interesting city, it’s not all bankers and luxury flats and Russian money laundering, you know. Talking of money laundering (and tenuous connections), our latest London day out included a visit to one of those off-the-beaten-track relatively little-known sites that London is so good at. Today it was the City of London Police Museum, a fairly new addition to the London museum-scape.
Since 1839, the City of London Police force has been policing the Square Mile and that’s what this museum is about; the force itself. How it came into being, how it has developed, its methods, successes, setbacks, it’s role in counter-terrorism, and in the financial frauds that have tainted the City. The exhibits are used as prompts to highlight how the cases were cracked using careful investigative method and science, and how the investigation of crime has developed, rather than going for sensation and gore.
That doesn’t mean that it’s boring though. There are installations; there’s a view into a police cell containing a rather huffy hologram of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes.
She was banged up for being flat out drunk in the street, and then later released and sent on her way, only to be murdered shortly afterwards. Whenever I see that there’s a Jack the Ripper display, I start to roll my eyes but, for once, in this display the victim is a person not just a prop in a gory story. The display is actually fairly low key and looks at the police officer’s beat, the murder spot, and how the unfortunate Eddowes ended up where she ended up.
There is a larger display on The Houndsditch Murders of December 1910, and the associated Siege of Sydney Street in January 1911.
Three officers were killed in the line of duty, and another two wounded while attempting to capture members of a Latvian gang who were robbing a jewellery shop in Houndsditch. After the robbery and murders, members of the gang were captured or killed but the last two suspected members were holed up in a house in Sydney Street, which was besieged by the police, and a shoot-out ensued. The building in which the miscreants were hiding then caught fire and, once the fire was damped down, the bodies of the two were found inside. Some of these events were actually caught on film by Pathé news and the whole kerfuffle was immortalized in the 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much and again in 1960 in The Siege of Sydney Street.
In the museum there’s quite a lot about this case and they really reflect on evidence and detection techniques at the time. These small jars contain bullet fragments carefully collected and labelled as evidence and a replica of the murder weapon.
There are also mugshots of suspected gang members and an image of the ‘Wanted’ poster, which was printed up in Hebrew and Russian as well as English (Sydney street is in what was the Jewish East End).
The museum also contains a range of items and images to do with the history of terrorism in the City. Interestingly, and perhaps controversially, Suffragette action is included in this section. The point made is that the actions taken by Suffragettes could today fall under the modern definition of terrorism:
The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
This innocent looking tin of Keen’s mustard is, in fact, a bomb!
And there are images of the destruction caused by IRA bombings in the City. I remember this stuff.
I loved the rather alarming display of weapons used by criminals, some improvised, including this crude but effective rock-in-a-sock.
Right at the end, as is so often the case in museums, there’s the opportunity to dress up. Craig, as always, obliged 😀
This is actually a really good little museum (it is actually really little, but packs a lot in). It’s also free to visit so go and have a look.
The City of London Police Museum can be found at The Guildhall. Go towards the Guildhall Library entrance on Aldermanbury and follow the arrows.