Skip to content

On Night Patrol With Lew Tassell

October 19, 2022
by the gentle author

I am delighted to announce my collaboration with the Barbican Arts Centre which takes place between Christmas and New Year, THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S WINTER WALK THROUGH THE CITY OF LONDON

Meanwhile, you can join me on an atmospheric autumn walk through the streets of Spitalfields. Click here to book for THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S TOUR OF SPITALFIELDS


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.”

Lew Tassell

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

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Marcia Howard permalink
    October 19, 2022

    A different world to most of us snugly tucked up in our beds at that time. Wonderful images though.

  2. Bernie permalink
    October 19, 2022

    Oh how sad! I learn that Blackfriars railway bridge is no more!

  3. Gillian Tindall permalink
    October 19, 2022

    Sad? But that bridge, built (I think) in the 1860s when the new Metropolitan line was linked with the London, Dover and Chatham railway line from the other side of the river, destroyed the thousand-year view up the side of the hill to one of the gateways in London’s encircling wall – hence `Ludgate’. When the bridge was pulled down thirty years ago we could at last see again the contour of this traditional approach to the City from the west.

  4. Bernie permalink
    October 19, 2022

    Gillian, thank you for your comment. You are quite right that a broader perspective is called for. I am influenced by the fact that it is very many years since I lived in London (my birthplace) and am now too old to even visit it again. So the loss of that bridge across the view is a loss to me, but a gain to the wider perspective.

  5. Mark permalink
    October 19, 2022

    Betcha don’t see London streets like that anymore.
    I hear Lew nicked Braverman this afternoon. Bravo!

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS