Thursday, January 19, 2023

West India Docks Police Station (Former)

London The Unfinished City
The Port of London Authority Police Force building.

Wandering around West India Docks there are numerous buildings, some dating from the early 1800s, that have been repurposed following the closure of the import/export docks in the 1980s.

The Museum of London Docklands is housed within one of the original dock buildings, for instance.

Many other buildings were demolished when the area came under regeneration as part of the Docklands Scheme, which saw Canary Wharf constructed and new underground stations built.

The building above is quite interesting, in its own way, as it was the home of the Port of London Authority Police Force from 1914.

Brief history

To understand why the Port of London Authority required a Police Force we must go back to the 1800s.

West India Docks was, at that time, owned and run by various separate companies who all competed for business. This actually meant that many ran at a loss and didn't look good for Britain's Trade with the rest of the world. These companies each had their own small Police Forces, but crime was still a big issue. 

London The Unfinished City
Emblem of the Port of London Authority Police Force.

The Port of London Act 1908 consolidated the various companies, (London & India Dock Company, Millwall Dock Company and the Surrey Commercial Dock Company), thus removing competition and creating the Port of London Authority. Corporate governance and operations for all enclosed docks along the River Thames, with the exception of Regent's Canal at Limehouse, fell under the responsibility of the Port of London Authority.

At the time the Police Force had its residence in a small room in the Ledger Building and, as it consisted of nearly 500 men, a new Police office was required.

London The Unfinished City
A Policeman's Helmet from the Port of London Authority Police Force.

Designed by C. R. S. Kirkpatrick this two-storey, red brick and stone building was opened in 1914 and would be the home of the Port of London Authority Police Force until the 1950s.

From 1954 it became home to Divisional Police.

In 1911 the Port of London Authority improved the pay and conditions for the force, resulting in an increase in members. 

By 1914 the Port of London Authority Police Force totalled 689, of which around 40 were detectives. Between 1920-32 the force also included the separately funded Shipping Police, who were responsible for the security of vessels in the docks. The force was at its maximum strength in 1920, with over 1000 officers. Following various reorganisations the force was reduced to just 565 in 1939.

Following the closure of West India Docks, in 1981, the building was converted into offices.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. There is so much history in the area that the redevelopments have kept, which makes such a change.