New Scotland Yard

New Scotland Yard, often referred to simply as Scotland Yard or The Yard, is the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, responsible for policing Greater London (although not the City of London itself). New Scotland Yard occupies a 20-story office block along Broadway and Victoria Street in Westminster, about 450 metres away from the Houses of Parliament. The famous rotating sign, which is often seen on television and in films, is outside the main entrance on Broadway.

The name derives from the headquarters’ original location on Great Scotland Yard, a street off Whitehall. The exact origins of this name are unknown, though a popular explanation is that it was the former site of the diplomatic mission of the Kingdom of Scotland, prior to the Union of England and Scotland. By the 17th century, the street had become the site of a number of government buildings, with the architects Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren living there. The poet John Milton lived there during the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell’s rule, from 1649–1651.

Scotland Yard was founded along with the Metropolitan Police by Sir Robert Peel with the help of Francois-Eugene Vidocq. It opened for business as administrative headquarters of the Service on 29 September 1829, housing the two commissioners and their administrative staffs in a complex of about 50 rooms. It was not (and has never been) a police station in the usual sense, with each division of the police instead operating their own local stations.

The building’s main entrance was at number 4 Whitehall, but a public office was installed at the rear of the building in Great Scotland Yard and so gave the building its name. The staff of Scotland Yard were responsible for internal security, public affairs, recruitment, correspondence and other administrative matters. Their duties grew steadily over time as the size of the Service increased.

In 1890, Scotland Yard moved to a new site on the Victoria Embankment overlooking the River Thames just to the south of the present-day Ministry of Defence. By this time, the Metropolitan Police had grown from its initial 1,000 officers to about 13,000, necessitating more administrative staff and a bigger headquarters. Further increases in the size and responsibilities of the force required even more administrators and in 1907 and 1940 New Scotland Yard was extended further.

By the 1960s the requirements of modern technology and further increases in the size of the force meant that it had outgrown its Victoria Embankment headquarters. In 1967, New Scotland Yard moved to the present building at 10 Broadway, which was an existing office block acquired under a long-term lease. The name transferred with it and the first New Scotland Yard is now called the Norman Shaw (North) building. Part of it is used as a police Territorial Support Group station.

The original Scotland Yard was taken over by the British Army after the police moved out. Rebuilt, it became an Army recruiting office and Royal Military Police headquarters, complete with cells in the basement. It was bombed by the Provisional IRA in 1973, killing one person. It subsequently became the Ministry of Defence Library, a role which it retained until 2004. Today, the only surviving element of the original Scotland Yard is a Metropolitan Police stables next door at 7 Great Scotland Yard.

Scotland Yard’s crime database is called Home Office Large Major Enquiry System and the acronym is HOLMES. As well, the training program is called “Elementary” in honour of the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

Scotland Yard’s telephone number was originally Whitehall 1212. The majority of London area police stations, as well as Scotland Yard itself, still have 1212 as their last four digits.

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