YOU wouldn’t want to be claustrophobic if you were a policeman sent to Britain’s smallest-ever police station – because it was so tiny it could accommodate just one officer, or two temporary prisoners if that officer’s stool was taken out.
Opened in 1926, the tiny station was created by carving out the inside of a one-hundred year old ornamental stone light in the south-east corner of London’s Trafalgar Square.
A series of narrow vertical slots were also cut through the granite walls at the same time, so that an officer inside could keep watch on demonstrations being held in the Square.
Britain’s massive General Strike in May of that same year, in 1926, had led to a number of rowdy political rallies, and would surely have played a part in the creation of the station.
A phone line linked the cramped officer direct to Scotland Yard, and when he made a call to The Yard the ornamental light on top of the police station would begin to automatically flash – alerting other nearby police that potential trouble was afoot.
The tiny station continued to be used for many years by officers patrolling the busy Trafalgar Square, and when it ultimately closed it was downgraded to a broom cupboard for Westminster City Council street cleaners.
Today, it's still used to store street cleaning equipment and the task of monitoring the public has been turned over to 10,500 crime-fighting CCTV cameras, aided and abetted by over 500,000 commercial CCTV cameras.
Sadly few visitors to the Square today are aware of its history – or of the light atop it that has glowed nightly for 190 years, apart from during wartime black-outs, and which legend has it was salvaged from Admiral Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory.
While there is no evidence to support this, Trafalgar Square was indeed named for Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and it is his statue that dominates the square.
One recent development has improved the former police station, though – along with everything else in Trafalgar Square, it is no longer covered in pigeon droppings following the removal of the iconic birds from the area over the last 10 years.