Documenting the history of the Waterlow Estate in Bethnal Green, East London. Comprising Wilmot, Corfield, Ainsley and Finnis Street the Waterlow Estate was built by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company starting in 1869.

Bethnal Green Police Station

On the corner of Ainsley Street and Bethnal Green Rd sits an interesting building. Numbered 458 Bethnal Green Road, it is now the home of Providence Row Housing Association who work in the local area helping people at risk of homelessness. However it was once Bethnal Green Police Station.

Bethnal Green Police Station c1984

I’m unsure when the Police Station closed but I’ve managed to find two pieces of video footage showing the Station when it was up and running. The first seems to be some exterior library shots for Thames TV News from the 1980s.

The second is more extensive and is a collection of footage and photographs from someone who worked in CID. The video is captioned as being shot in 1991.

Historically the station was home to the J Division from around 1868 until 1933 when it fell under the H or Whitechapel division. There’s a fairly detailed breakdown of the history of the station on Bryn Elliot’s Police history site.

Bethnal Green Police Station c1907

There is also a mention in the London Echo of extra police patrols during the era of Jack the Ripper:

During the month of August, and up to the 8th instant, when Annie Chapman was killed, the following beats were covered by the men of the J Division quartered at Bethnal green, these forming what is known as the “Second Section night duty.” The first police constable would commence his two beats at Wilmot street, three Colt land, Cheshire street, Mape street, Bethnal green road, to Wilmot street, and the interior, this consisting of a few streets, courts, passages, &c. The second constable would cover Three Colt lane, Collingwood street, Darling row, Dog row, Whitechapel road, Brady street, to Three Colt lane, and the interior, this consisting of about twenty streets, courts, passages

You can read the full article here.

Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find much more about the Police Station. I’d love to hear from anyone that knows about it’s history. Please get in touch via the comments.

further links:



  1. Sayma

    I remember learning about jack the ripper in primary school (Hague acutally) I was in year 5 and my teacher would tell us stories about him, we eventually had a tour of the east end which spanned from Bethnal green to Whitechapel and Brick lane.We went to to where the first murder took place, where we saw the name of the victim written on the walls which was said that they were drawn not long after the murder.I remember learning about the Elephant man too.Its saddening that now schools primary secondary and the like dont really have this sort of curriculum, where you learn about your neighborhood, east end has so much history Which makes me wonder how can they not incorporate it. There were also a lot of rumors that Jack the Ripper was said to be female although I dont really know the arguments for it, perhaps its possible. Who knows.

  2. Simon C.

    Hi there, allow me to introduce myself, my name is Simon. I served as a Police Officer and began my career in December 1986, starting at H Division, Bethnal Green Police Station, 458 Bethnal Green Rd. The callsign for the Station was HB. The Division was just over a mile square and had 132 pubs on the ground – or there abouts in early 1987. Neighbouring Divisional Stations were at Leman Street HD – Bow HW, Limehouse HH, Arbour Square HA and later an office in Brick Lane itself – HR. My number was 140 HB. It was rough, seedy and dirty for the most part and I loved it, I loved the people. For the many, they had a hard life here.

    I watched with delight the CID you tube video were I saw faces from the past. I worked with both Clive and Will that you see in the video. Officers who aspired to the ranks of the CID would find themselves gravitating to the department and doing donkey work – routine and more mundane enquiries – as they mastered the craft of policing and showed aptitude for detective work.
    To this end myself, Will and others were seconded to a plain clothes task unit – a junior version of a crime squad. Well – none of us looked like coppers that was for sure ! Will was so fresh faced and well spoken that he was often thought to be visiting the area …. like you do !
    One day, in a more seedy part of Bethnal Green, Will was approached and – out of the blue – offered drugs. The exchange became the stuff of job stories for ages. ‘You want any gear ?’ – ‘Yes please’ says Will – unfailingly polite. How much do you want ? – Will – ‘I’ll take all of it – thanks’ – promptly displaying his warrant card and advising the person of his immediate arrest and misfortune. I was at the station custody area when Will proudly brought in the Prisoner – who was still shaking his head in disbelief. The whole custody area was laughing as Will gave the facts of the arrest to the Custody skipper. The prisoner was more concerned his friends would find out what he had done than he was about being nicked for supplying.
    There wasn’t any glamour – but there were some laughs. Believe it or not some herbert had caused a ruckass at the Percy Ingle’s in Bethnal Green Rd, threatening to return and smash the place up and beat up the ladies that worked there. They were ‘of a certain age’ and more than a little concerned that he would make good on his threat. We were asked to discreetly pay attention to the premises, which we did. This ‘lowly’ role was earmarked for our attention.
    The best way to do this, we decided, was to nurse a cup of tea actually inside the shop. We sat down and slowly sipped our drinks , watching the world go by. The ladies in the shop were agitated that ‘no bloody coppers have shown there faces’ and whilst we were there called the police station to complain. We got a radio message that went along the lines of ‘Why aren’t you at Percy Ingles ?’ – ‘well we have done something – we are here now and its all quiet’. This was passed on – to the disbelief of the ladies. We said we would discreetly announce our presence. We went up for more tea and identified ourselves. They were stunned – ‘What you lot are old bill ?’ . The smile was enough, but the ensuing cake mountain was ridiculous. Our operation was, however, rendered untenable. Every customer in the shop was told – ‘Them’s coppers they are – nah i didn’t think so either…… We left for more productive avenues, but with some very re-assured staff at Percy Ingles. Not so much a stake out …. more a cake out.

    For me my best time was working under Inspector Vingoe down at Brick Lane Police Office, around late 1988 / early 1989. This was a really groundbreaking idea for the Met, taking steps to reassure the local community that the police really was there for them. The station was bought to ease simmering local tensions. The area had a large immigrant community and was under seige from racists trying to drive them out and political firebrand activists with there own agenda. We were hated all round at first – but coppers hate bullies, and racists are the biggest bullies going. Being there the whole time meant that – very slowly – we built up community links and community trust. Pc’s Steve Rabey and Mick ‘Rocky’ Adams were the real stars of the show. The ‘shop’ ( or ‘hut’ as it was known – the first attempt was a portacabin that the National Front threatened to smash) was a tangible presence on the Brick Lane. We worked – in uniform and plain clothes – on duties as needed.It was true Community Policing – a sadly lost art. We ran our own operations, based on local needs and problems combating serious theft, drugs and violence or simple parking problems – and drank endless tea as we made people welcome – listened – and acted. It was a small area, but I knew all the right – or wrong people and they knew me. I made some real friends in the area and got more than a few enemies, but we kept coming back, day after day, acting when needed, chatting when not. It was the job and the area. The history of the place always got to me. I walked alone some nights over the same streets that had seen so much, sometimes you could feel the history, almost like time travel. Princelet Street, around Commercial Street and the Truman’s Brewery at Hanbury / Buxton Streets. I worked with Sgt Jerry Drewitt – ( relative of Montague Drewitt ) and DC Dave McNaughten – who again had a relative linked to the infamous Ripper cases.

    • Theresa

      I have recently moved in to Bethnal Green, Corfield Street and am very interested in the history of this area. Thanks Simon for the above information, very interesting job and life you have experienced.

    • June Graham

      Thank you Simon C. Well written, showing that we are not all ignorant. Take care, best wishes.

    • Sydney

      Apologies I only just spotted this comment and approved it. John and Simon you maybe interested to see that the building is up for rent and there’s a ‘virtual tour’ to take a look at it’s current state inside –

      • Mark Jones

        Apologies for hijacking your thread. We have an HB reunion every year that I currently administer, trying to get word out,

        • Sydney

          Hi Mark, no problems .. my site doesn’t display email addresses of commentators .. so you’ll need to write your address in the comment if you want people to be able to email you

    • Mark Jones

      Simon. Can you email me about HB reunion.

  3. John W

    Hi Simon,

    It’s a long time since anyone has made a reply to this post. First for me! Due to the marvel of the internet and of Covid lockdown! I wonder if anyone will read this after so long. I was at Bethnal Green Police Station between 1968 and 1974. At that time Leman Street was being rebuilt so Arbour Square was the divisional Station HD, with Commercial Street, HC still in operation. Had a real good canteen.
    No names here but I walked the beat with Rocky. Knew him well. Recently met his son! What about Stan the civvy telephonist. A real copper in his time and could have run the sub division on his own! Must have passed on now. I transferred before the move to the new station in Victoria Park Square.
    So many names, so many memories and such a good place to work. Good people the Bethnal Greeners, even the naughty ones.
    Stay safe!

    • Sydney

      Apologies I only just spotted this comment and approved it. John and Simon you maybe interested to see that the building is up for rent and there’s a ‘virtual tour’ to take a look at it’s current state inside –

    • Mark Jones

      HB reunion in November every year. Contact me for details

  4. RD

    The new nick at Viccy Park Square had no atmosphere whatsoever. The old HB nick was cramped and totally inadequate for Policing by the time I arrived there in 1989. However, there were some real characters at HB and it was an interesting place to learn the ‘trade.’ Generally, the area was deprived and many locals and transients lived a grim existence in a continuing spiral of crime, arrest, court, prison. On release it would start over and the same faces would pass through our hands over and over, an endless story of hopelessness! Nights were my favourite relief, especially around the Whitechapel and Commercial Street areas. I’d seen some life before I came to The Met and I knew the area through family ties – but this place was an education! The video was a real memory jogger and seeing Will sitting at the Crime Desk made me chuckle, he probably had the thankless task of indexing the overnight Crime Sheets ready for screening in or out – all on paper, no desktop computers and you had to type up the self-duplicating forms, there was often much cursing when a mistake was made on the typewriter – no back space, delete or spell check on those! I believe Will’s famous collar happened outside The Sun; a pub used by many HB officers.

    • Mark Jones

      HB reunion in November every year. Contact me for details

      • Regal Chambers

        I was a PC from 1963 – 1967 at GC which eventually became HC. Although based at Commercial Street we had to go over to Bethnal Green as and when required to make up numbers. We also had to go to Dalston and Leman Street to make up numbers. I guess the annual meet up in November is over now as it is the 24th Novembefr 2023. Someone mentioned Stan the civilian telephone operator, he was at Commercial Street on permanent nights as he enjoyed playing cards. Another great character and one who I always think off was Inspector Wilf Parker, No one could ever get the better of him.

  5. Mark Jones

    HB 81-89
    We have a reunion every year in November if anyone would like to have details.

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