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On The Beat With PC Lew Tassell Again

October 16, 2023
by the gentle author

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PC Lew Tassell in 1969


My pal Lew Tassell and I decided to take advantage of the October sunlight to enjoy a gentle perambulation around Lew’s old stomping ground from the days when he was an officer in the City of London Police, and he told me stories of his time in the constabulary.



“Until recently Liverpool Street Arcade was a busy cut-through between Old Broad St and Liverpool St but now it is closed for redevelopment. The Arcade sits directly over the Metropolitan line which was originally a steam railway. Once the line switched to electric trains, they built over the station and the Arcade was opened on 11th March 1912. In the eighties, the Arcade was due to be demolished but, due to a petition of over 6,000 people, it was saved.

When I joined the City of London Police in 1969, and throughout my uniform years, one of my duties when working a night duty shift at Bishopsgate Police Station was to inspect the Arcade and it’s glazed roof.

The Arcade was locked from early evening until early morning. At about 2.00am every morning, a pair of officers collected a set of keys at Bishopsgate to open the Liverpool Street entrance, then we unlocked a door halfway down the Arcade with stairs that led to the roof. Next, we searched the whole of the roof above the shops to see if there was anything untoward, not that there ever was.”



“The church hall for St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate is a nineteenth century school room and former livery hall of the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers. At the front, there are two niches containing painted figures of charity children made of Coade stone.

When I was a detective at Bishopsgate Police Station in the early seventies, I was called to the church hall. The two figures had been stolen. They had been removed from the niches but were fortunately recovered nearby. As the figures had some value, I completed a crime report and the niches remained empty whilst the recovered figures were stripped of paint, cleaned and placed inside the hall. Replicas now stand in the niches at the front.

My other association with St Botolph’s is that my marriage banns were read here since I was living in Bishopsgate Police Station at the time.”



“Quite often when working a night shift at Bishopsgate in the seventies I would be assigned to place ‘cotton marks’ inside the entrance to a courtyard or alleyway that led to a dead end.

I stretched the cotton across the entrance about a couple of feet off the ground and checked later to see if it had been broken during the early hours, before any deliveries were made.

Many burglaries during this period were committed by ‘climbers’ who clamberd up drainpipes to enter buildings at night. They gaind access to all buildings from the roofs in the block by jumping across the narrow gaps between the buildings.

The picture here is of Brabant Court where I remember laying cotton marks. This courtyard houses an old building at no.4 which was built in 1710.”



“Walking the beat alone at night can be quite lonely especially in the early hours. I found you make quite a bit of noise in the stillness as you stroll through the empty streets. So I would often find an out of the way spot on my beat to sit and listen.

My favourite spot was the churchyard of St Olave’s where the gateway was usually left unlocked.

The church has a fascinating history. It’s most famous worshipper being Samuel Pepys whose tomb is inside the church. The Great Plague of 1665 is said to have broken out close by and 300 victims were buried in the churchyard, including Mary Ramsay who was widely blamed for bringing the disease to London.

I cannot help thinking that the reason the churchyard is raised, to the degree that you have to walk down steps to enter the church, is due to what lies beneath. Yet I never found it spooky, just peaceful and beautiful.

The church was hit by an incendiary bomb in 1941 and the heat from the fire melted the bells. In the early fifties, this metal was recast into new bells by the same foundry that created the originals, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.”



“Charles Dickens in ‘The Uncommercial Traveller’ refers to the gateway and churchyard of St Olave’s as ‘one of my best beloved churchyards, I call the churchyard of Saint Ghastly Grim.’

He recalls visiting the churchyard after midnight during a thunderstorm and seeing the skulls on the gateway ‘having the air of a public execution.'”



“Close to Tower Hill station stands quite a large section of Roman Wall, although the higher parts were added during medieval times.

In the seventies, the wall was not as appreciated as it is today. Whilst patrolling I often walked through or past it and it was surrounded with what I recall was nothing more than wasteland.

Today it is well preserved with raised walkways and has become a feature of the City of London. But the downside is that it is now surrounded by large buildings, some built within inches of the wall itself.”



“The Still & Star is boarded up and remains one of the last undeveloped plots in Aldgate. Its future is uncertain. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, Little Somerset St leads from Aldgate to Mansell St which is the boundary of the City of London. This was where I used to patrol when walking to Tower Bridge or Shorter Street, a traffic control point at the end of the Minories.

I always felt I was in the proper East End when taking this route past the pub and just around the corner was a seedy snooker hall that always seemed to be busy. Both gone now.”



Another tale of burglary in the City, this time at the Aquascutum shop on the corner of Gracechurch St and Leadenhall Market. In the seventies I was called to the shop when there was a break-in.

Whilst examining the crime scene, I noticed a pile of brick foundations in the basement which was being used as a storeroom. Piles of boxes were scattered all around the brickwork.

‘Oh that’s part of the Roman Wall’ I was informed. At the time, I did not know the Wall existed here and it was fascinating to see it. Today the shop is a hair salon.”

You may also like to trace our previous walk

On the Beat with PC Lew Tassell

4 Responses leave one →
  1. October 16, 2023

    A fascinating sequel to previous posts and photographs about Lew’s nocturnal jaunts.
    I’m familiar with many of the places on his past patrols and walked past The Still and Star only recently.
    I’m sure Lew feels sad as most of us do, to see so many of these places disappearing, especially Liverpool Street Arcade which I used so often on my way to work.

  2. Janet permalink
    October 16, 2023

    Wonderful stories

  3. Cherub permalink
    October 16, 2023

    What a fascinating insight into City history. I hope these stories will be in a book.

  4. Peter Holford permalink
    October 18, 2023

    The night beat through the deserted streets is one about which my dad used to tell a story. As a young PC stationed at Whitechapel from 1936 to 1941 he was originally paired with an older long-serving PC called ‘Lofty’ Hinton. Lofty showed his new disciple which pub windows to tap on in order to get entrance and refreshment. He also showed Dad how to get a few winks of sleep while being present and correct for the sergeant who might be out and about.

    Lofty knew a snooze out of sight in a churchyard was inadvisable and he showed Dad how to take his belt off and tie it again around the waist and a lamp post. This would keep you upright, well-lit under the light, and if the sergeant saw you from down the street he would be satisfied that you were doing your job.

    On his first night alone Dad did as he had been shown. It was the wet knees that woke him. He had slumped down and was kneeling on the pavement. He didn’t try it again. He soon left that behind and joined CID.

    The Still and Star is the last survivor (for how long?) of the pubs built by George Richard Pound, a master builder, sometime in the first two decades of the 19th century. Pound (the brother of my 3x great grandfather) built quite a number of pubs as well as other spec development across this part of London. He was from Ilminster in Somerset and all his developments were named after Somerset. He died in 1825 on Somerset Place (now Bevenden Street) in Shoreditch. He was a very wealthy man. His sons lost it all with the collapse of the Brunswick Theatre on Goodman’s Fields, Whitechapel in 1828.

    Thanks, GA for all the posts which I read and seldom reply to.

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