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Bow Street Magistrates' Court became one of the most famous magistrates' court in
England England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. It is separated from continental Europe b ...
. Over its 266-year existence it occupied various buildings on
Bow Street Bow Street is a thoroughfare in Covent Garden, Westminster, London. It connects Long Acre, Russell Street and Wellington Street, and is part of a route from St Giles to Waterloo Bridge. The street was developed in 1633 by Francis Russell, 4 ...
in Central London, immediately north-east of Covent Garden. It closed in 2006 and its work moved to a set of four magistrates' courts:
Westminster Westminster is an area of Central London, part of the wider City of Westminster. The area, which extends from the River Thames to Oxford Street, has many visitor attractions and historic landmarks, including the Palace of Westminster, B ...
, Camberwell Green, Highbury Corner and the
City of Westminster Magistrates' Court The City of Westminster Magistrates' Court was a magistrates' court located at 70 Horseferry Road, in the City of Westminster, London. It was originally called Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court, after the road in which it was sited.Her Majest ...
. The senior magistrate at Bow Street until 2000 was the Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate. The building, which is grade II listed, is now a hotel and police museum.


History

The first court at Bow Street was established in 1740, when Colonel Sir
Thomas de Veil Sir Thomas de Veil (21 November 1684 – 7 October 1746), also known as deVeil, was Bow Street's first magistrate; he was known for having enforced the Gin Act in 1736, and, with Sir John Gonson, Henry Fielding, and John Fielding, was responsi ...
, a Westminster justice, sat as a
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a '' magistratus'' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both judic ...
in his home at number 4. De Veil was succeeded by novelist and playwright
Henry Fielding Henry Fielding (22 April 1707 – 8 October 1754) was an English novelist, irony writer, and dramatist known for earthy humour and satire. His comic novel ''Tom Jones'' is still widely appreciated. He and Samuel Richardson are seen as founders ...
in 1747. He was appointed a magistrate for the City of Westminster in 1748, at a time when the problem of gin consumption and resultant crime was at its height. There were eight licensed premises in the street and Fielding reported that every fourth house in Covent Garden was a gin shop. In 1749, in response to calls to find an effective means to tackle increasing crime and disorder, Fielding brought together eight reliable constables, known as "Mr Fielding's People", who soon gained a reputation for honesty and efficiency in their pursuit of criminals. The constables came to be known as the
Bow Street Runners The Bow Street Runners were the law enforcement officers of the Bow Street Magistrates' Court in the City of Westminster. They have been called London's first professional police force. The force originally numbered six men and was founded in ...
. Fielding's blind half-brother, Sir John Fielding (known as the "Blind Beak of Bow Street"), succeeded his brother as magistrate in 1754 and refined the patrol into the first truly effective police force for the capital. The early 19th century saw a dramatic increase in number and scope of the police based at Bow Street with the 1805 formation of the Bow Street Horse Patrole, which covered to the edge of London and was the first uniformed police unit in Britain, and in 1821 the Dismounted Horse Patrole which covered suburban areas. When the Metropolitan Police Service was established in 1829, a station house was soon sited at numbers 25 and 27. In 1876
the Duke of Bedford John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, (30 September 17105 January 1771) was an 18th-century British statesman.G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peera ...
let a site on the eastern side of Bow Street to the Commissioners of HM Works and Public Buildings for a new magistrates' court and the police station, at an annual rent of £100. Work on the current building to a design by the Office of Works' surveyor Sir John Taylor began in 1878 and was completed in 1881—the date 1879 in the stonework above the door of the present building is when it had been hoped that work would finish.
Historic England Historic England (officially the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England) is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It is tasked w ...
's listing entry describes the architectural style as "dignified, eclectic Graeco-Roman with some slightly Vanbrughian details, rather in the Pennethorne manner." In 1878 gazetteer
Walter Thornbury George Walter Thornbury (13 November 1828 – 11 June 1876) was an English author. He was the first biographer of J. M. W. Turner. Early life George Thornbury was born on 13 November 1828, the son of a London solicitor, reared by his aunt and e ...
published that the establishment, still called generally a Magistrates' House, consisted of "three magistrates, each attending two days in a week". He added: In its later years, the court housed the office of the Senior District Judge (Magistrates' Courts), who heard high-profile matters, such as extradition cases or those involving eminent public figures.


Closure and redevelopment

The listed status of the building, containing both the court and the police station, meant that it was not economic to update it to modern standards. It was accordingly considered for closure, enabling better use of a building that faces the front of the
Royal Opera House The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply Covent Garden, after a previous use of the site. It is the home of The Royal Ope ...
. The police station closed in 1992, and in 2004 the court was put up for sale by its joint owners, the Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority and the
Metropolitan Police Authority The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) (2000–2012) was the local police authority responsible for scrutinising and supporting the work of the Metropolitan Police Service, the police force for Greater London (excluding the City of London Polic ...
. In July 2005 the site was bought by property developer Gerry Barrett to convert into a boutique hotel, and the court closed on 14 July 2006. The final case was that of Jason John Handy, a 33-year-old alcoholic-vagrant who was accused of breaching his anti-social behaviour order. Other cases on the last day included beggars, shoplifters, illegal minicab drivers and a terrorist hearing—the first of its kind—in which a terror suspect was accused of breaching his control order. The final day was heavily attended by members of the press. The court's remaining cases moved to Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court which itself closed in 2011, when its work moved to the old Marylebone Court House and renamed
Westminster Magistrates' Court Westminster Magistrates' Court is a magistrates' court at 181 Marylebone Road, London. The Chief Magistrate of England and Wales, who is the Senior District Judge of England and Wales, sits at the court, and all extradition and terrorism-rela ...
. In 2008 the Bow Street site was sold to Austrian developers who obtained
planning permission Planning permission or developmental approval refers to the approval needed for construction or expansion (including significant renovation), and sometimes for demolition, in some jurisdictions. It is usually given in the form of a building per ...
for a hotel and police museum, while maintaining the facade of the old court building. In October 2016 the site was sold on again, to the UK arm of Qatari investment firm BTC, who used the existing planning permission. A 91-room hotel, run by the New York based NoMad chain, opened in May 2021, as did a public restaurant and a museum of local police history.


Famous defendants

Many famous accused people have passed through Bow Street, often before committal for trial at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey or at other Crown Court centres, or when being held on extradition or terrorism charges. These include: *
Giacomo Casanova Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (, ; 2 April 1725 – 4 June 1798) was an Italian adventurer and author from the Republic of Venice. His autobiography, (''Story of My Life''), is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of information about the c ...
* Roger Casement *
Dr Crippen Hawley Harvey Crippen (September 11, 1862 – November 23, 1910), usually known as Dr. Crippen, was an American homeopath, ear and eye specialist and medicine dispenser. He was hanged in Pentonville Prison in London for the murder of his wife C ...
*
Abu Hamza al-Masri Mustafa Kamel Mustafa ( ar, مصطفى كامل مصطفى; born 15 April 1958), also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri (; , – literally, father of Hamza, the Egyptian), or simply Abu Hamza, is an Egyptian cleric who was the imam of Finsbury Park ...
*
William Joyce William Brooke Joyce (24 April 1906 – 3 January 1946), nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw, was an American-born fascist and Nazi propaganda broadcaster during the Second World War. After moving from New York to Ireland and subsequently to England, ...
* The Kray twins *
Emmeline ''Emmeline, The Orphan of the Castle'' is the first novel written by English writer Charlotte Smith; it was published in 1788. A Cinderella story in which the heroine stands outside the traditional economic structures of English society and ...
and Christabel Pankhurst * General Pinochet *
John Cyril Porte Lieutenant Colonel John Cyril Porte, (26 February 1884 – 22 October 1919) was a British flying boat pioneer associated with the First World War Seaplane Experimental Station at Felixstowe. Early life and career Porte was born on 26 Feb ...
* Oscar Wilde


See also

*
Battle of Bow Street The Battle of Bow Street is the name given to a riot which took place in Bow Street, London, during March 1919. The riot involved an estimated 2,000 Australian, American and Canadian servicemen fighting against 50 Metropolitan Police officers. ...
*
Bow Street Bow Street is a thoroughfare in Covent Garden, Westminster, London. It connects Long Acre, Russell Street and Wellington Street, and is part of a route from St Giles to Waterloo Bridge. The street was developed in 1633 by Francis Russell, 4 ...
* Bow Street Police Museum *
Bow Street Runners The Bow Street Runners were the law enforcement officers of the Bow Street Magistrates' Court in the City of Westminster. They have been called London's first professional police force. The force originally numbered six men and was founded in ...
*
Royal Courts of Justice The Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts, is a court building in Westminster which houses the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. The High Court also sits on circuit and in other major cities. Designed by Ge ...
* Old Bailey, Central Criminal Court *
City of Westminster Magistrates' Court The City of Westminster Magistrates' Court was a magistrates' court located at 70 Horseferry Road, in the City of Westminster, London. It was originally called Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court, after the road in which it was sited.Her Majest ...


References


External links


Map: Bow Street

Bow Street Police Museum
{{Coord, 51, 30, 49, N, 0, 07, 21, W, region:GB_type:landmark, display=title Legal buildings in London Grade II listed buildings in the City of Westminster Former buildings and structures in the City of Westminster 1740 establishments in England 2006 disestablishments in England Court buildings in London Magistrates' courts in England and Wales Former courthouses in England