One might be forgiven for thinking that this construction, on the southeast corner of Trafalgar Square, was an ornamental light. Indeed it was exactly that when it was constructed in the 19th century. Various sources cite that the light came from Nelson’s HMS Victory. That is pure legend.
At the end of WWI a rather weathered police box by the entrance of the then Trafalgar Square tube station (itself now combined with the Strand tube station to create today’s Charing Cross tube station) was scheduled to be renovated and made more permanent. Public opposition lead to the scrapping of this plan. The Metropolitan Police, wanting a presence on the square, decided on a less noticeable structure which came about by hollowing out the ornamental light, adding a door for access and slit windows so that the occupant could monitor the activity of the working classes and peasants who by this time had taken a liking to holding their protests in Trafalgar Square, much to the chagrin of the upper classes.
The new ‘station’ was capable of accommodating one police officer or, alternatively, acting as a cell for two suspected criminals, rabble-rousers or overly exuberant partygoers at a New Year’s Eve party. I put the word ‘station’ in inverted commas as I don’t think it ever held the status of a full police station but was more a lookout post or glorified police box attached to Cannon Row Police Station.
A telephone, connected to the nearby Canon Row station, was installed such that the officer on duty could seek reinforcements if required. When the telephone was used the ornamental light on the roof would also flash to let any police officers nearby or passing know that help was needed. While a good idea on paper, I am not so sure that if I was the sole officer in the station I would want to be announcing, via a flashing light, to the whole square that I had just panicked and had summoned help.
The police station/ lookout post has been decommissioned (I cannot ascertain a date) and is now used as a broom cupboard by Westminster Council cleaners. The light is now wired to the square’s famous lions such that if you climb on them it flashes and you are in big trouble. Ok, I made up that last bit about the lions though it is prohibited for one to climb on them!
Location: Southeast corner of Trafalgar Square