Above: The dark appearance of No 4 Great Newport Street. The hook is to the right of the black door at the top of the four stone steps.
London is full of unusual objects, many of them easily seen from the pavement as you pass by. It is these eccentric objects that make London the diverse and exciting place that it is. Sadly, as time goes by, many of the strange objects finish up in museums or just get lost from buildings. In some cases they are stolen. As stories about strange objects in London go, this one is about as strange as it gets.
If you walk north from the church of St Martin in the Fields, on the corner of Trafalgar Square, you will enter St Martin’s Lane. At its northern end, the lane reaches the junction with Long Acre. That junction consists of five streets – St Martin’s Lane, Upper St Martin’s Lane, Long Acre, Cranbourn Street and Great Newport Street. Being a busy traffic interchange, with streets running at rather odd angles, the intersection is now controlled by traffic lights. They were installed about 1965. Before that time traffic was regulated by a Police Officer on point duty, standing in the middle of the road. He often wore a large coat which, if he became too warm, he took it off and hung it on any convenient place to keep it out of the way while he was controlling the traffic.
Just a few doorways from the junction, at No 4 Great Newport Street, is a building covered in plain dark tiles. It is on the north side of the street. Before that building was completed, the Policeman’s coat was hung on a hook on the wall.
Above: Close-up of the hook with the inscription above it.
When No 4 was being rebuilt, around 1965, it is believed that a policeman was on point duty and, seeing the builders erecting new walls, asked if they could provide a hook on which to hang his coat. Remarkably, the builders duly complied and a hook was installed, along with a plate inscribed ‘Metropolitan Police’. Instead of a simple hook, quite a fine specimen was made. No policeman now uses it, because the junction is now controlled by traffic lights, but the hook remains to be seen, along with the plate. It is still there at the time of writing.
How long it will remain in situ is not known since the building is due for refurbishment. While it remains on the wall, it probably qualifies as one of the most unusual objects to be seen anywhere in London.