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On Night Patrol With Lew Tassell

September 24, 2018
by the gentle author

We join Constable Lew Tassell on a night patrol in the City of London on Tuesday December 12th 1972

Police Constable Lew Tassell of the City of London Police

“One week in December 1972, I was on night duty. Normally, I would be on beat patrol from Bishopsgate Police Station between 11pm-7am. But that week I was on the utility van which operated between 10pm-6am, so there would be cover during the changeover times for the three City of London Police divisions – Bishopsgate, Wood St and Snow Hill. One constable from each division would be on the van with a sergeant and a driver from the garage.

That night, I was dropped off on the Embankment during a break to allow me to take some photographs and I walked back to Wood St Police Station to rejoin the van crew. You can follow the route in my photographs.

The City of London at night was a peaceful place to walk, apart from the parts that operated twenty-four hours a day – the newspaper printshops in Fleet Street, Smithfield Meat Market, Billingsgate Fish Market and Spitalfields Fruit & Vegetable Market.

Micks Cafe in Fleet St never had an apostrophe on the sign or acute accent on the ‘e.’ It was a cramped greasy spoon that opened twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. During the night and early morning it served print-workers, drunks returning from the West End and the occasional vagrant.

Generally, we police did not use it. We might have been unwelcome because we would have stood out like a sore thumb. But I did observation in there in plain clothes sometimes. Micks Cafe was a place where virtually anything could be sourced, especially at night when nowhere else was open.”

Middle Temple Lane

Pump Court, Temple

King’s Bench Walk, Temple

Bouverie St, News of the World and The Sun

Fleet St looking East towards Ludgate Circus

Ludgate Hill looking towards Fleet St under Blackfriars Railway Bridge, demolished in 1990

Old Bailey from Newgate St looking south

Looking north from Newgate St along Giltspur St, St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Newgate St looking towards junction of Cheapside and New Change – buildings now demolished

Cheapside looking east from the corner of Wood St towards St Mary Le Bow and the Bank

HMS Chrysanthemum, Embankment

Constable Lew Tassell, 1972

Photographs copyright © Lew Tassell

You may also like to take a look at

On Top Of Britannic House With Lew Tassell

A Walk Around The Docks With Lew Tassell

25 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    September 24, 2018

    Great photos – very atmospheric!

  2. Roger Tiller permalink
    September 24, 2018

    Keep them coming Lew there fantastic pictures and great memories of walks around London with my Father around that time it was so atmospheric.

  3. James Harris permalink
    September 24, 2018

    I love these pictures. I hope there will be more from Lew Tassell.

  4. Jamie Surman permalink
    September 24, 2018


  5. Juliet Jeater permalink
    September 24, 2018

    brilliant photos – London how I first knew it!

  6. Ann Keil permalink
    September 24, 2018

    Great photos of a London so full of character, l enjoyed reading about it too.
    Sadly the area has changed and keeps on changing but it doesn’t take the memories away!

  7. September 24, 2018

    Great pictures. Another London.

  8. Chris permalink
    September 24, 2018

    Sadly there are no more patrols like this anymore at Met cuts back on its budget

  9. September 24, 2018

    I thought I remembered walking under the bridge at Ludgate Circus! Turns out I was right. I used to live in the City in the late 70s and this is exactly how I recall it. Weird to see ordinary cars just parked at the side of the road.

  10. Paul Loften permalink
    September 24, 2018

    Micks Cafe ! Well I knew it . As a 16 yo Young Socialist we would go to visit the printers union reps in Fleet street on the late shift to try and canvass support for the anti Veitnam war marches and stop off there afterwards for a late night tea before heading home. Micks cafe . What a memory ! It attracted the London working night shift , the late night reveller, and the homeless. There was nowhere else open.

  11. Sonia Murray permalink
    September 24, 2018

    Thank you! Lew’s photograph of Middle Temple Lane is worthy of a gallery. His black and white print incorporates the spirit as opposed to the mundane.

  12. Roger Tiller permalink
    September 24, 2018

    What camera where you using Lew, and what speed film.

  13. Andy Nemeth permalink
    September 24, 2018

    I second Roger’s comment and would like to know camera type and film speed. The photos are stunning and as Sonia remarks, are “worthy of a gallery”. Thank you for this Spitalfields Life entry.

  14. Ros permalink
    September 24, 2018

    Some stunning pictures there, especially the one of Middle Temple Lane. But all of them very evocative of how things used to be.

  15. Hetty Startup permalink
    September 25, 2018

    interesting to compare the view of Ludgate Hill with Gustave Doré’s view a hundred years before of
    “Ludgate Hill – A block in the Street” — from London, A Pilgrimage, 1872.

  16. Lew Tassell permalink
    September 26, 2018

    In reply to Roger Tiller and Andy Nemeth and their request for the technical details. The camera I was using was a Yashica TL Electro X. The film was Kodak Tri X and exposures were between 15 and 35 seconds at F8 or F11.

  17. September 27, 2018

    Sometimes simple is best. A short read and some wonderfully atmospheric pictures

  18. Craig. permalink
    October 23, 2018

    Lew, what a great article and photos. Amazing to see the City with no one around, slightly different now with the 24 hour culture. My wife and I are serving officers in the City. I believe she has inherited your old collar number, although it’s now 390cp, we dropped the A, B, C etc a few years ago.
    All the best to you.

  19. Lew Tassell permalink
    October 28, 2018

    Thanks for that comment Craig, I always look out for “390” when I’m in the City but have yet to see it since I retired.

  20. Mario permalink
    November 21, 2018

    These are excellent photos, and indeed, depict a very different time – Police in those days were helpful figures on the streets, and were mostly well liked. Can’t say the same today — nowadays, they look threatening , arrogant and distinctly unhelpful, and are mostly absent on the streets anyway, just as we really need them.

  21. Robert Murdoch permalink
    February 11, 2021

    Love the way that Che is looking over your right shoulder in that last picture. Very subversive for those days!!

  22. October 2, 2021

    Late catching up with your articles, Lew, but they are very enjoyable to an ex-Londoner now living on the Isle of Wight. I remember these places very well and still return to visit, this time using the Clipper. Thanks for the memories.

  23. Mike permalink
    April 14, 2022

    Great photos. As a teenager in the 60s we would go to a club up West on a Saturday night, often Tiles and sometimes the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand, looking for young ladies, and sometime between two to five in the morning walk back through Fleet St and the City to Whitechapel and Mile End and Bow, where most of us lived, often stopping for a break at Micks Cafe. Most of the lads had Sunday morning jobs in the Petticoat Lane area so, knackered, it was straight back out again after an hour’s kip if we were lucky. These atmospheric images of places and streets I knew so well bring back many many memories.

  24. Paul Haden permalink
    December 18, 2022

    I was PC 147 ‘B’ at Snow Hill from 1973 to 1976, before transferring to Sussex. I lived in Snow Hill single men’s quarters, then Golden Lane when we took it over from the Mets and finally in the Barbican (336, Ben Jonson House which sold for £670,000 in 2022!) when I got married. Sorry Lew, but I don’t think we ever crossed paths. I loved walking around those historic streets and experiencing the all-night buzz of Fleet Street and the markets. The Temple in particular was a little gas-lit enclave of 19th century London. So many of those little streets and buildings have changed now and the City has a 24-hour energy that it didn’t have in those day. Hours spent watching the Old Bailey overnight was one of the reasons I moved. I still feel nostalgic when I go up to London occasionally.

  25. John Hyslop permalink
    February 17, 2024

    Used this cafe , worked in Fleet Street, drank in Welsh Harp, was in the cafe regular, every type in there, from taxi lads to printers , dossers to City boys, atmospheric.

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