The Glasgow Police Museum

Museum Door
PHOTOGRAPH BY Helen Grant

The Glasgow Police Museum is not a museum you are likely to stumble upon by accident; in fact, it may take a little persistence to find it! Although it is within walking distance of Glasgow's central shopping area and Queen Street railway station, it is tucked away on the first floor of an old-fashioned red sandstone building in the Merchant City district. The ground floor entrance, which is shared with the other occupants of the six-storey building, is squeezed between a pub and a restaurant. If the street door is closed, you may have to buzz to be let in. To reach the museum, you must go up several flights of stairs. The decor of the stairwell has a distinctly industrial feel, the walls painted in neutral colours and criss-crossed with pipework. A turn to the left brings you to the museum's door. 

The museum itself consists of three rooms: a reception area and two exhibition rooms, one devoted to the history of the City of Glasgow police, and the other to international policing. The City of Glasgow police, founded in 1779, were Britain's first police force, in fact predating Sir Robert Peel's London police force, as the museum volunteer on duty may inform you. The exhibition about the force's history includes historical uniforms, truncheons, lanterns, swords(!), insignia, documents and photographs. The exhibits are quite intensively presented, with each display case packed with items.

Detective Officer John McGimpsey
PHOTOGRAPH BY Helen Grant
Britain's first police dogs
PHOTOGRAPH BY Helen Grant

Although the museum is probably most engaging for those with a special interest in police history, it also has items that will appeal to the casual visitor - for example, the sepia photographs from 1910 of Britain's first police dogs. A photograph from 1962 shows the policewomen's department, which apparently confined itself to "escorting female prisoners, offences concerning women and children, and other miscellaneous duties"! Perhaps one of the most extraordinary photographs is from 1952, a black and white shot actually taken during the course of an armed robbery: a robber in a trench coat and slouch hat points a gun at two calm-looking police officers.

The second room, housing the exhibition about international policing, is lined with glass cases full of uniforms, hats and badges from around the world. Countries as diverse as Germany, Jamaica, Fiji and Canada are represented.

Police uniforms from around the world
PHOTOGRAPH BY Helen Grant

There is no charge for visiting the Glasgow Police Museum, but a small donation is welcomed.

From April to October, the museum is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm, except on Sundays when it opens later, at 12 noon. Opening hours are much more limited during the winter. From November to March, it is only open on Tuesdays (10am - 4.30pm) and Sundays (12 noon to 4.30pm).

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Helen Grant