This Day in History (16-Mar-1830) – London’s re-organised police force (Scotland Yard)

Scotland Yard (officially New Scotland Yard) is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, the territorial police force responsible for policing most of London. In 1829, home secretary Sir Robert Peel, by an Metropolitan Police Act introduced in Parliament, set up the first disciplined police force for the Greater London area. As a result of Peel’s efforts, the London police force became known as Bobby’s boys and later simply as bobbies.

The task of organising and designing the “New Police” was placed in the hands of Colonel Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne. These two Commissioners occupied a private house at 4, Whitehall Place, the back of which opened on to a courtyard. The courtyard was used as a police station. The location had been the site of a residence owned by the Kings of Scotland before the Union and used and occupied by them and/or their ambassadors when in London, and known as ‘”Scotland”. The courtyard was later used by Sir Christopher Wren and known as “Scotland Yard”.  It was this address that led to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police being known as Scotland Yard. The Scotland Yard entrance became the public entrance to the police station, and over time the street and the Metropolitan Police became synonymous.  Scotland Yard became the name for police activity in London though the headquarters is no more at the same location.

Although Scotland Yard’s responsibility is limited to metropolitan London, its assistance is often sought by police in other parts of England, particularly with regard to difficult cases. Some of its most infamous cases handled by Scotland Yard ranges from Jack the Ripper in 1888 to the 2005 London bombings. Scotland Yard has become internationally famous as a symbol of policing, and detectives from Scotland Yard feature in many works of crime fiction. They were frequent allies, and sometimes antagonists, of Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous stories. It is also referred to in Around the World in Eighty Days. Many novelists have adopted fictional Scotland Yard detectives as the heroes or heroines of their stories. In the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming mentions a recurring fictional character who works for Scotland Yard.



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