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PC Tassell In The Pool Of London

October 2, 2021
by the gentle author

Lew Tassell sent me these pictures that he took in the Pool of London on 9th July 1973

Looking west from H.M.S. Belfast


“There were normally three of us policemen on duty on Tower Bridge. Four hours was the longest duty, 07:00hrs-11:00hrs or 11:00hrs-15:00hrs on early turn shift. We used the toilet near the engine room on the north side of the bridge. Up until 1976, steam hydraulics opened and shut the bascules – and it was a fascinating, if noisy experience to step into the engine room and watch the mechanism from the inside.

When the alarm bell was sounded for the bridge to open we had make sure all the traffic was stopped. On one occasion, I received a radio call that there was a ‘disturbance’ on a 78 bus on the south side of the bridge travelling north.

The bascules on the bridge were already being raised when I went to the engine control room and informed them of the problem. They said that, if I was quick, they could stop the raising of the bridge long enough for me to jump across – and that is what I did. I vividly recall running to the edge of the open bascule and seeing the water a long way below and a drop of about five feet and a gap of about three feet to the opposite bascule.

I threw my policeman’s helmet to the other side – I did not want it to fall into the river – and took a running leap, landing safely. There was no such thing as health and safety in those days. I do not have any recollection of the disturbance on the bus, other than it was ‘all quiet on arrival’ by the time I got there.

Slow traffic was often a problem on Tower Bridge and we would be instructed to speed it up by standing between the narrow southbound and northbound lanes, waving the cars, lorries and buses through. Thinking back, this was a totally mad thing to do, not to mention the danger of the noxious fumes I was breathing in.

Commercial traffic in the Pool of London, between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, had all but vanished by the early seventies due to the introduction of shipping containers. The wharves and derricks had either been demolished or were in the process of being redeveloped, and the opening of Tower Bridge was a rare event compared to the fifties and sixties when perhaps it would be opened as many as thirty times times a day.”

Lew Tassell


Looking west towards the new London Bridge built between 1967 – 1972 and opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17th March 1973.

Looking east from H.M.S. Belfast

Looking east from H.M.S Belfast

Looking East towards a rather grimy looking Tower Bridge, my favourite picture of the day. I spent so much time on that bridge as a young policeman in uniform when it was manned between 07:00hrs and 20:00hrs, often for four hours at a time. Next to the South Tower you can just see the outline of a small box, there was another one by the North Tower on the east side. They were police boxes and supposed to be used when there was inclement weather but more often used to natter during the quiet times. They no longer exist.

Looking east from H.M.S. Belfast.

Looking west from the bow of H.M.S. Belfast.

H.M.S. Belfast Control Room

H.M.S. Belfast taken from the Thames path in front of the Tower of London. The ship is a Town class light cruiser built for the Royal Navy at the celebrated shipyard of Harland & Wolff in Belfast, launched on St Patrick’s Day, 1938. She saw action throughout World War II and was moored on the River Thames, opening to the public in October 1971.

Looking north, the ship La Belle Simone is moored alongside the shore, it was built the previous year and owned by William Levitt, the real estate developer and credited as the father of modern American suburbia. The spire of All Hallows by the Tower can be seen behind the demolition and construction work on the north shore.

The White Tower, Tower of London.

The Monument, this view is now obliterated by the surrounding buildings.

Police Constable Lew Tassell, City of London Police, 1971

Photographs copyright © Lew Tassell

You may also like to take a look at

Lew Tassell’s Day Trip

On Night Patrol With Lew Tassell

On Top Of Britannic House With Lew Tassell

A Walk Around The Docks With Lew Tassell

Lew Tassell at Charles & Diana’s Wedding

Lew Tassell at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee

5 Responses leave one →
  1. October 2, 2021

    How daring to jump the bridge, like an exciting moment in a movie. I wonder if any passerby caught it in camera?

  2. October 2, 2021

    Police constable Lew Tassell was a handsome fellow. Great photographs. Good story. Thank you.

  3. Milo permalink
    October 2, 2021

    Many years ago i made a romantic assignation with a young lady to meet one balmy summers evening in the middle of “London bridge.”
    As i stood there, kicking my heels, wondering what was keeping her, my gaze was drawn to the magnificent outline of Tower bridge looming through the dusk.
    It would make a lot more sense romance wise to have met on that bridge….
    Of course! The silly tart had obviously meant Tower bridge. (She was new to London but still -)
    I ran like the wind but by the time i got there she was gone and we never got around to trying it again.
    There’s a lot to be said for the advent of the mobile.

  4. Ros permalink
    October 2, 2021

    I suspect people who just happened to have cameras on them were as rare as health and safety measures in the early 70s! Pity though.

  5. October 2, 2021

    Very handsome that young PC Tassell

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