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Behind the scenes at Hampstead Town Police Station

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 April 2012

Hampstead Magistrates Court

Hampstead Magistrates Court

Archant

Hampstead Town Police Station looms large over Rosslyn Hill, but a dwindling police presence has led to serious questions being asked over the future of the building.

Gathering dust in one of the seemingly endless empty offices is a reminder of the station’s former glory.

Row upon row of stern officers stare out from a 1932 photograph of the Hampstead sub-division of the Metropolitan Police.

Though the station now only hosts two depleted Safer Neighbourhoods Teams, it once housed an entire police force and a fully-fledged courthouse next door.

The station is a rabbit warren of old interview and forensic rooms, holding cells, a doctor’s surgery and even a senior officers’ canteen.

As Borough Commander John Sutherland said recently when he visited the Grade II-listed station: “History drips from these walls.”

Ruth Ellis – the last woman to be executed in the UK – was arrested in South Hill Park, Hampstead, after shooting her lover outside The Magdala pub.

She appeared before magistrates in the courtroom before being sent to Holloway Prison to be hanged.

These days the last evidence of court hearings is a slip of paper with type-written names for March 31, 1998, adorning the waiting room.

A metal tray for cigarette ends outside and a cupboard-size robing room to the side of the magistrates’ bench are a testament to the building’s past, dating back to 1913.

The cells in the basement, listed by English Heritage, are littered with police notebooks.

A quick scan provides a flavour of the day-to-day policing of the area, with officers recording everything from a pair of new shoes being found in a West Hampstead bin to an attempted murder in the village.

But when the Metropolitan Police was reorganised, and Hampstead lost its status as a key police station, its force was gradually eroded to the point where staff struggled to man the front desk.

It was announced last month that its opening hours would be slashed after a series of unscheduled closures caused anger among Hampstead residents.

Determined

But proposals to bring the station’s forgotten halls back into use are gathering pace.

A social entrepreneur, who wishes to remain nameless, was given a tour of the building to see if some of the space could be converted for community use.

Suggestions that the courthouse – which is in fine condition – could be used by film and TV crews have also been aired. Hampstead’s community is determined to keep it.

Hampstead Town Cllr Linda Chung said: “If we lose that public building, we will never get it back.”

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