Presented by Ex PC 799 'A'/164477 Leonard Bentley
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Leonard Bentley was PC 799 'A' stationed at Cannon Row Police Station from June 1973 to August 1982

Len has a deep interest and an extensive knowledge of Victorian and Edwardian London and in particular the area once policed by Cannon Row (AD).

Len invites us to take an escorted tour with him using the original photographs from his vast collection and provides informative and entertaining  information relating to those bygone eras.

Len would have preferred the images to have been shown larger but in order for our visitors who are using a 'dial up' facility to download the page reasonably quickly unfortunately they have had to be reduced. JH

LEFT: Parliament Square SW1 looking East from Great George Street

This  photograph was taken in1895/6 from the junction with Great George Street, Big Ben shows the time as 4.47p.m. and from the clothes worn and the amount of traffic, it is probably a summer weekday.
On the left of the photograph there is a young lady wearing a fashionable white blouse and dark skirt, crossing the end of King Street which ran parallel with Parliament Street. On the corner of King Street is The Mitre and Dove Public House which was among other things the haunt of the Westminster recruiting sergeants. Until 1909 when the regulations regarding Army recruitment changed, the area between Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey was patrolled by up to six Army recruiting sergeants on the lookout for any likely lad to serve in Her Majesty’s Army. Once engaged in conversation, the potential recruit and recruiter adjourned to The Mitre and Dove to discuss the matter over several pints. The pub was also the most likely after shift venue for the officers who served at King Street Police station.
The station was the immediate predecessor of Cannon Row, the Divisional station of ‘A’ Division and continued to be until Cannon Row was opened in 1902. The station was at No.22 King Street and its yard was accessed from a side street called Gardners Lane.
The officers standing on the pavement surrounding the square immediately behind the handcart at the junction with Great George Street may be officers from The Palace of Westminster performing duty at the various traffic points in the square in order to facilitate the movements of Members of Parliament during divisions. I read a letter on this site from a former PC from POW who remembers one of the points being called ’The Fountain’. I believe that this was the point at the junction with Great George Street because if the camera had moved a little to the right, under the tree you would see The Buxton memorial drinking fountain. The fountain was erected here in 1845 in memory of Thomas Fowell Buxton who was an MP, prison reformer, anti slavery campaigner and Brewer, although not necessarily all at the same time. The fountain was removed from Parliament Square in 1940 and was re erected in Victoria Tower gardens in 1957 where it resides today.
The statue which is partly obscured by the rather nice lamp standard is of Sir Robert Peel, now I wonder what he was famous for. The statue now resides on the west side of the square. Looking straight ahead, you can just about see the first block of St. Thomas’s Hospital in the distance on the south bank. The hospital was opened in 1871 and consisted of eight similar blocks extending along the riverfront, all have been demolished except for one or two at the Lambeth Palace end and replaced with modern buildings, I wonder if they will last as long? I have to confess to being old enough to remember the first block which gave a very narrow enclosed feeling to the southern approach to Westminster Bridge an experience that can be enjoyed by watching the closing minutes of the film ‘Genevieve’. 

RIGHT: Broad Sanctuary SW1 looking West

Broad Sanctuary.
This is a superb photograph taken in the early 1890s; the camera is in front of the Great west Door of Westminster Abbey looking westwards. I think it must be early morning as I can only see one figure walking up Tothill Street. I am straying slightly off AD’s ground and onto AR, the grounds slightly merge in my mind because I served at Rochester Row later in my career.
The building on the left is Westminster Chambers designed by Gilbert Scott, it was built in 1854 as 120 self contained residential apartments in a Gothic style in order to blend in with the Abbey. It also forms the archway entrance to Dean’s Yard and Westminster School. The building has since been converted into offices.
The column was also designed by Gilbert Scott and was erected in 1861 to commemorate the old boys of Westminster school who died in the Crimean war.
The large building in the centre of the photograph is The Westminster Palace Hotel, also built in 1861 and at the time, the largest and most luxurious hotel in London. It had 400 rooms and was the first hotel in London to have lifts. The hotel’s clientele were mostly members of Parliament and visitors to London who had business at the Law Courts which were on the other side of Parliament Square adjacent to Westminster Hall. The hotel was subsequently converted into offices and renamed Abbey House. It has since been demolished to make way for yet another non descript matchbox.
The building in the distance along Tothill Street is Queen Anne’s Mansions built on the site which is now occupied by The Home Office. At the time of completion in 1884, at 14 storeys it was the tallest building and the ugliest in London. The building just about survived the blitz and was demolished in the post war period.
On the site where you would expect to see The Methodist Central hall is The Royal Aquarium, this was an enormous building inspired by the Crystal Palace. It covered an area of two and a half acres and the frontage on Tothill Street was 600 feet long; Built in 1876 as an aquarium with over 30 fish tanks, one of which was the largest in the world, it was never really a success. It later became the venue for all sorts of entertainment including restaurants, music hall, Zulu tribal dancing, swimming displays by scantily clad young ladies and of course ‘Zulima’ the strongest woman in the world.
At the far end of the building was The Aquarium Theatre, this was where Lily Langtry performed during the last years of its existence, the Aquarium was demolished in 1903 to make way for The Methodist Central Hall.
If the camera could be moved further round to the right, you would see the old Westminster Hospital. It was built in 1834 and demolished within living memory in 1951. It was situated on the site now occupied by The Elizabeth II conference centre.
LEFT: St Stephen's Entrance Palace of Westminster (Parliament)

This photograph was taken in 1895/6; visitors are entering the house at 3.16pm.on a dingy day. There are three officers from POW in the photograph, anybody recognise themselves?
The thing missing from this photograph is the statue of Oliver Cromwell, which is understandable as it was erected in 1899. The proposal to erect the statue had been thwarted for many years by the Irish members of Parliament. It was only when the Prime Minister Lord Rosebery offered to position the statue in the ’pit’, was an agreement arrived at. The ’pit’ had been formed by the removal of the Law Courts in 1883 and the Irish contingent imagined that the ’pit’ would be a suitable place for their old enemy, unfortunately they did not reckon on the pedestal.
The statue was sculpted by Hamo Thorneycroft and Cromwell is shown looking down, whilst I was at AD someone told me that Cromwell looks down because he is avoiding the gaze of King Charles I, a bust of whom is affixed to the east end of St. Margaret’s Church exactly opposite across St. Margaret‘s Street. This may be a coincidence but it may also be a reflection on the time the statue was erected, there weren’t many republicans about at the end of Victoria’s reign.    

RIGHT: Looking West From St. Stephen's Tower (Big Ben)

This is a rather muddy photograph of about 1895, but rewards examination. The Abbey and St. Margaret’s church appear to be the same as ever except that the Abbey has undergone extensive renovation in recent years. To the left of the Abbey and up a bit you can see the gasometers of The Gas, Light and Coke Company in Marsham Street, the site now occupied by the Department of Environment offices which are soon to be demolished. The company had a wharf on the river where The Victoria Tower gardens now stand for the offloading of coal.
Parliament Square is still two way for vehicle traffic, it became the first London roundabout in 1926.The statue immediately opposite St. Margaret’s Church on the grassed area is of Lord Beaconsfield alias Benjamin Disraeli. It was erected in 1883 two years after his death and was subsequently moved to the west side of the square. It was customary to decorate the statue with primroses on the 19th April, the anniversary of his death. Does anyone know if the custom continues?
The building on the site of Middlesex Guildhall is the old Westminster Session House, built in 1805 in the shape of an octagon. The building was demolished in 1913 to make way for the Guildhall. Further west in Broad Sanctuary is Westminster Hospital and beyond it Westminster Palace Hotel and the Royal Aquarium which from this angle looks like a train shed.
In 1861 an American entrepreneur, George Francis Train obtained permission to lay a tramway from Westminster Abbey to Victoria Station. The Trams were double deckers drawn by horses. Unfortunately the design of the rails meant that they were about six inches proud of the road surface which meant trouble for vehicles attempting to cross them at anything but 90 degrees. The trams were very popular and punctual, but it all came to an end when the commissioners for Westminster improvements ordered the tramway to be removed due to the problems caused to traffic. This left Mr. Train out of pocket to say the least and he formed a lifelong abiding hatred of England and anything English. So much so that in 1870 when war between France and Prussia seemed imminent, Mr. Train sent a telegram to Emperor Napoleon III urging him to take his army and invade England. Although the Emperor did not take his advice, he did make a personal invasion of England after France was defeated when he was exiled to end his days in Chislehurst.
There is a Police connection with the Emperor, as a young man he seemed to enjoy trying to overthrow the French government and after a second abortive attempt came to England in 1846. In 1848, the year of revolutions in Europe the Chartist movement planned a massive demonstration in London at Kennington Common. The Government were so concerned with the potential for disorder that the Queen decamped to the Isle of Wight and 200,000 special constables were recruited. The future Emperor volunteered and spent the day of the demonstration patrolling London Bridge. I’ll stop now.

LEFT and BELOW : Two Views of Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge.
The photographs were taken from both ends of the Bridge in about 1895, the photograph looking towards the south bank shows seven of the eight blocks of St. Thomas’s Hospital already described. The current bridge replaced the first Westminster Bridge in 1862 and is located slightly downstream from the original. The first bridge was designed by a naturalised Swiss called Labelye; it was opened in 1750 and had taken many years to complete. The bridge had 15 stone arches and over every pier was constructed a recessed domed octagonal refuge for pedestrians. The refuges became the haunt of robbers and other vagabonds and in order to allay the public disquiet the authorities employed twelve watchmen to patrol the bridge at night.
In 1860 in order to provide a suitable approach to the bridge, houses on the south side of Bridge street were demolished and in 1864 the remaining houses in front of St. Stephen’s Tower were removed and the current gardens laid out. The statue of Boadicea adjacent to the bridge was placed there in 1902, although it had been hanging about for some years before its erection on the embankment. It was sculpted by Thomas Thorneycroft, the father of Hamo who sculpted the statue of Oliver Cromwell.
In the photograph looking towards the north bank a scenario is being played out to which we will never know the conclusion. Walking towards the camera in what appears to be a hurried manner are two Police Officers and on the upstream footway is the lone figure of a Police sergeant looking intently at the fast approaching officers. Where were they going? What were their duties? Were they late? Did they get a rocket? Also in this photograph you can see the St. Stephen’s Club at the corner of Bridge Street and The Embankment and dates from 1875.
I suppose we all have our own stories relating to the Bridge, one of my first drunks was a casualty Doctor from St. Tommy’s, flat out on the Bridge; and then there was the transvestite who cut his wrists and tried to jump into the Thames. Happy days. 

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Victorian and Edwardian 'AD' Presented by Ex PC 799'A' / 164477 Leonard Bentley ('AD' June 1973 to August 1982)