London's Museums of Crime, Policing & Punishment
It is fitting that the city famous for Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and the world's first organised police force has a number of museums dealing with crime, policing and the darker side of London life.
Please note: Scotland Yard's infamous 'Black Museum
' (or Crime Museum, to give it its correct name) is not
open to the public.
The London Dungeons, the London Bridge Experience and Madame Tussauds Chamber of Horrors are covered in London Attractions
Return to London's museums grouped by theme
The Museums (in alphabetical order)
A small but fascinating museum housed in the City of London Police Headquarters that chronicles the history of crime and policing in the City of London from the 1830s (when the force was founded) to the present day. Displays include grisly stories of the City's criminal past, developments and changes in policing and police equipment, and the lives of the men and women who have served in the force. Plus a display on the City of London Police team's successes in the 1908 Olympic Games!
The site of the infamous Clink Prison on London's Bankside, dating back to the mid-12th century. Handle original artefacts, see recreations from the history of the prison and listen to the stories of the prisoners who passed through its doors - among them debtors, spies and those convicted of 'non-attendance at church'. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 'the prison that gave its name to all others' is also known as a site of paranormal happenings'.
The Metropolitan Police Force was created in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel. This small museum hosts rotating displays of uniforms and police equipment, plus written and photographic material tracing the development of modern policing. The uniform worn by the first TV cop, Dixon of Dock Green, is also on display.
Visits by appointment
Step inside a mid-18th century debtor's prison cell, a major exhibit in the Museum of London's Galleries of Modern London (that is London post the Great Fire of 1666). The Wellclose Square prison cell dates to about 1750 and was part of a privately-run prison located beneath a pub near the Tower of London. The wooden cell has a high barred window, straw on the floor and is furnished only with a rough table. The walls are covered with names, dates, inscriptions and pictures scratched into the walls by the unfortunate prisoners. Very atmospheric.
The world's most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared before the public in 1887 in Conan Doyle's story 'A Study in Scarlet'. The great man was said to live at 221b Baker Street, and this fictional address is 'recreated' as it would have been in the late 19th century, the famous study complete with, among other things, his deerstalker, pipe, violin and disguises.
Located within Wapping Police Station, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police's Marine Support Unit, this small museum traces the history of 'saving lives and protecting property' on the Thames River from the late 18th century to the present day. Artefacts on display include cutlasses, pistols, underwater search equipment.
By appointment only
The local history museum for Waltham Forest is housed in a former police station and retains a Victorian police cell in the basement, complete with its original bench and toilet. Visit a recreation of a scene from April 1861 when a local labourer was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, learn about Victorian policing and experience being locked in the cell!