London Calling: Crime and Punishment in the Big Smoke: Part One
In my last book, Songs by Dead Girls, I moved the action away from Edinburgh to the throbbing metropolis of London. In September’s Bloody Scotland Festival, I’ll be called to account (along with the fabulous James Oswald and Ed James) to explain our audacity in setting our stories in London, when there are so many fantastic sites for murderous activity North of the Border.
In preparation for this, I made use of a family trip to London to do some research (33 degrees heat, kids nearly melted, then got stranded when lightning hit a signal box on the East Coast line, thanks for asking.) This blog details my trip to two wonderful London Museums – the City of London Police Museum, and the Clink Prison Museum. Both well worth a visit.
Part One: Crime
So, crime in Londinium. There has been some form of policing in the City of London since Roman times. The current City Police Headquarters is built on part of the site of the Roman fortress that probably housed some of the City’s first “police." They've had their work cut out, if the quote below is anything to go by.
The City of London Police cover the ‘square mile’ in the centre of the city, and are completely separate from the Metropolitan Police Service which covers the remainder of Greater London. Policing the area brings peculiar challenges: the resident population is only around 9,000, but over 300,000 people commute to work there.
Particular challenges the City of London Police have encountered include:
In December 1910, the murder of three City of London Police officers and the wounding of two others was, and continues to be, one of the largest multiple murders of police officers on duty carried out in Great Britain.
WW2 Blitz - almost one third of the City was destroyed in one night (29th December 1940) and Moor Lane Police Station totally destroyed.
Terrorist attacks in 1973 (Old Bailey), 1992 (St Mary Axe), and 1993 (Bishopsgate terrorist bombing).
I was particularly interested in the section on female police officers, who were first appointed in 1949. These policewomen from 1978 look particularly glamorous, although I suspect you had to be pretty feisty to survive...
'When I started I was told "to be considered just as good as your male counterpart, you will have to be twice as good." "That won't be a problem then, will it, sir?" I said.' Belinda Harding, retired police offcer (35 years' service)
The City of London Police Museum is located in the Guildhall Library (the Guildhall is also well worth a look). If you are not passing London anytime soon, you can find their website HERE
Second installment of the blog - punishment - to follow imminently!
The Bloody Scotland event 'London Calling: James Oswald, Ed James and Lesley Kelly' is on Saturday 22nd September from 8:30 pm - 9:30 pm. Tickets are available HERE