The Metropolitan Police Coat Hook
At 5 Great Newport Street (if you know where to look!) You’ll find a curious ‘Metropolitan Police’ hook. It’s a delightful little oddity whose existence is a bit of a mystery…
Firstly, there are several interesting things to note on 5 Great Newport Street. It’s a lot older than it might appear. Historic England claim its late 17th century and gave it a Grade II listing in 1970.
The facade of course had been much altered, the black tiles added in the 1930s.
There’s also a (stuck on?!) blue plaque, recalling that painter Joshua Reynolds lived here for 8 years (1753-1761). There’s an illustration from 1912 which shows what it looked like pre-black tiles.
What Historic England (and Survey of London) fail to mention is arguably the most interesting bit…
The Metropolitan Police Hook
So, why is it here?
The story most often repeated online is that it was for Policeman hanging up their coats whilst directing traffic.
Even with contemporary traffic lights, the 6-street junction is busy and pretty complicated so it does seem plausible that an officer would be stationed here to keep traffic moving and prevent accidents.
As we’ve seen, the black tiles only appeared in the 1930s so the hook couldn’t be earlier than that, however there are anecdotes from policemen who say a handy large nail was placed on the earlier building, allowing officers to hang their coats in hot weather.
It’s hard to find some illustrative images of uniforms, but here’s an image of Sofia Stanley her National Union of Women Workers patrol officer uniform. Stanley led the Met’s first official female patrols from 1919 until 1923.
From this image you can image the uniform getting hot and sweaty in the Summer months.
Regarding traffic lights, the world’s first traffic light appeared by Westminster Tube Station in December 1868 and there’s a plaque commemorating this occasion which is often missed if you don’t look up!
It was a short-lived experiment because the gas-powered light exploded, injuring a policeman in January 1869.
It wouldn’t be until 1926 on Piccadilly and 1932 in the City that traffic lights as we know them today would be a regular feature of street furniture.
So they would still be fairly new, you can imagine this junction requiring the attention of a police officer close by to keep the peace.
So although it is a bit of a mystery, there is an image of 5 Great Newport Street from 1943, on the face of it, no hook. But, to the right of the pipe, just above the black railings you can see something!
You might find it helpful to zoom in on the Met Archive website here – I think you can spot the Metropolitan Police hook!
Thanks to Ian for uncovering and sharing this image in the first place on his tremendous blog.
So what do you think? I’d love to hear further anecdotes if you or a relation worked for the Met and remembers the hook! Perhaps we can solve the mystery once and for all?!
Even if not, it’s still a fascinating little curiosity to look out for! Ever spotted it? Let me know in the comments.
You might also enjoy this YouTube video about the Bow Street Police Museum in Covent Garden…