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On Night Patrol With PC Tassell

December 16, 2020
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

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Iansilverton permalink
    December 16, 2020

    Great Pictures, loved the piece on Micks Cafe all so true, as ex Fleet Guys will always tell you,it was the place to be on night work/ shift, always met another side of London there early mornings.
    Stay safe London Tier 3 now wow thought you where getting over it, country needs people back at work pronto but safely IMHO, but it keeps closing down even the Schools. Thanks Lew and GA, another trip down my past life.

  2. Peter Metaxas permalink
    December 16, 2020

    Thanks Constable Tassell. Great photographs! I particularly like the Middle Temple Lane and Old Bailey. Bouverie St at 3:15 am.

  3. December 16, 2020

    Wonderful. A fantastic first-hand account with great photos. Dare I say, these photos have an undeniable “Film Noir” look to them. I can imagine footsteps, deep shadows, glimpses of people, wisps of conversation, passing vehicles, everything bathed in the overhead street lights. I can imagine the sounds of the 24/7 businesses and markets — the vivid, steady grind of commerce. An incredible metropolis.

    What a treat! Thank you Constable and GA.

  4. Amanda permalink
    December 16, 2020

    There is Lew in a REAL uniform. How impressively well cut and svelte their ‘kit’ looked in those days.

    Police whistle on it’s chain tucked in the lapel ready for a chase, hanging on to his helmet.
    The City’s unique blue enamel helmet badge standing out from the shiny silver of the rest of the force.
    And the snazzy denim blue shirt was also peculiar to our City of London police.
    The rest wore white.

    The photo had me researching police uniforms online to discover the detachable striped band on his sleeve meant “on duty” and l THINK they also wore it on the way to work too, in case they needed to nab anyone.

    Grateful thanks for the wonderful atmospheric nocturnal photos of all the historic places l’ve been to by day, mostly not seen at night:

    A unforgettable lunch in Middle Temple’s ancient hall.

    A buying trip with my dad as a kid to the underground wine cellars under Ludgate Hill when we could park outside !

    The buzzing Fleet Street pubs and fast Italian sandwich bars when my crowd worked in the City – all a stones throw from the house my grandmother Emily was born.

    l always felt excited growing up and working in the heart of London – never took it for granted.

    This was my London and my City and East End grandparents London.
    Thank you very much Lew & GA – nostalgia is so important right now.

  5. Mark permalink
    December 16, 2020

    Good pics. Visited some of these places as a kid with parents round about 72/73.
    Nice to know the old bill kept an eye on honest hungry folk in the middle of the night!

  6. December 16, 2020

    Wonderful images and great quality photographs, especially for 1972 when most of us didn’t have top-notch cameras. Well done that policeman!

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