March 2022: Greater Manchester Police Museum & Archive
57a Newton Street, Manchester is home to Greater Manchester Police Museum. A former Victorian police station built in 1879 the building still boasts many original features despite its role as an active station until 1978. Originally built to fortress-like specifications the station had one front door, no exterior windows and an imposing wall surrounding the yard which contained a mortuary and an ambulance storage, sadly demolished in the 80s.
The building risked closure at the turn of the century in the Chief Constable’s rationalisation of Manchester City Police, much to the indignation of the below writer to the local paper:
…the best planned and best built police station in England. The main block which Mt Lynde called the ‘citadel’ is designed on the only true principle for a police station – namely no openings except the door towards the street so that in case of a riot it could be held by a few police officers against a mob’.
Fortunately the building was only closed between 1898 – 1899 before it was remodelled to accommodate the Council’s Weights & Measures department in the front half of the building. The tall workshop windows and large weight plate are still in evidence to this day. At this time a new first floor parade room was also constructed over the cell block. Despite the growth of the station the cells were reduced from nine to four with female prisoners no longer being held at the station after this time due to changing social dynamics. (They were sent to nearby Goulden St Station which had facilities for women under the care of female Matrons, and not male officers). Four cells might not seem like many for a city centre station, but each had been known to hold fifteen or more people within their brick lined walls. Unfortunately for the prisoners, only two wooden beds were provided within each cell. Prisoners also ‘benefited’ from flushing indoor toilets, central heating and hot running water, unlike many of the cottages which were situated nearby.
Nowadays the only large groups of people in the cells are our visitors. The council workshops house our traditional exhibits of uniform, police equipment and stories of crimes past while the station has been largely left untouched to give visitors a flavour of Victorian life. Along with objects from policing past and present we are privileged to look after a 1895 Magistrates Court relocated from Denton and an extensive and varied archive which reflects not only police history but the social history of Manchester as well. While we do collect items from the forces that now make up Greater Manchester sadly many papers have been lost or destroyed, making Manchester & Salford our strongest collection locations.
The museum is free to enter & open to the public every Tuesday 10.30 – 4.00, a booking system is currently in operation. We are open by appointment for group visits and research trips Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday.