Will London Get A Black Museum?


There’s a rumour knocking around that London is finally to get a police museum that will be open to the public. The infamous ‘Black Museum’ of Scotland Yard began in 1877 (it’s now called the Crime Museum) and is in Victoria Street. It’s in two rooms; the first contains an extensive collection of weapons, all of which have been used in murders or serious assaults in London, and displays items from famous cases, mostly prior to 1900, such as Jack the Ripper and Charlie Peace.

There’s a display of the death masks of people hanged at Newgate Prison adorning a high shelf and looking down at visitors. The second room contains cabinets under the following categories;

Famous Murders
Notorious Poisoners
Murder of Police Officers
Bank Robberies
Hostages and hijacking

Famous cases shown in the museum include Ruth Ellis, John Christie, the Stratton Brothers, John George Haigh, Neville Heath, Dennis Nilsen, Dr. Neil Cream, Mr. & Mrs.Seddon, Dr. Crippen and Craig Bentley. The museum is not open to members of the public but is now used as a lecture theatre for the curator to lecture police in subjects such as Forensic Science, Pathology, Law and Investigative Techniques.

Now, the new owners of the decommissioned Bow Street Magistrates’ Court are thinking about opening a police crime museum in the old cells. With sensitive handling it could become a brilliant addition to London’s catalogue of unusual and popular museums. So, no spiked binoculars, then!

10 comments on “Will London Get A Black Museum?”

  1. snowy says:

    There is one exhibit that is due to a failure in translation. A body was found in Germany and Scotland Yard asked for fingerprint ID. This must have been misunderstood as the Germans just hacked the arms off the corpse and sent them back in a bottle.

  2. BangBang!! says:

    This would be ace, I’d go in an instant. I’m in London on Thursday for the first time in months and can’t wait. Undecided what to do but I will probably visit the Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park as I’ve never been there. I’ve also just given a short talk on Scratching Fanny so I will prob go to Cock Lane for the first time too ( though I know there’s not much there).

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    Okay… Here’s where, I quess, we overseas English speakers need guidance. What, may I ask, is Scratching Fanny? And is it catching? I assume it is not a Australianism.

  4. J F Norris says:

    The spiked binoculars! Fondly remember that movie with Michael Gough. One of the many horror/mystery movies with several scenes engrained in my memory.

  5. Sam Tomaino says:

    I saw HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM in a theater when I was just 12 years old. From the opening scene with the spiked binoculars through one gruesome murder after another. My sick little 12 year old mind just loved it.

    I’ve seen Michael Gough give much better performances in much better movies, but that movie will always have a special place in my heart.

  6. BangBang!! says:

    Hi Dan! Scratching Fanny was the name given to a supposed ghost/supernatural entity that haunted a house in Cock Lane near Smithfield in London. A very interesting little case containing an accusation of murder from beyond the grave and co-starring the great Dr Johnson in a detective role!

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Thanks, BangBang!
    Has anyone else read the wonderful eleven novels of Bruce Alexander about the Blind Beak of Bow Street court and his young sighted assistant? And the somewhat older short stories of Lillian de la Torre tracing the investigations of Dr. Sam: Johnson, Detector? These were also quite good and finally released in four paperback collections in the 80’s.
    And finally, for Helen, the international postal system finally in only 15 days delivered the latest B&M, which was mailed out the 31st. Spitefully delivered, that’s the longest delivery time for a book from Britian, more like one from Germany, but even longer than that. (Always twist the tail on the loud booster; make ’em sweat.) I’m trying to “take is slow” – only 21 pages in – but the hook is set and it’s already so good.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    I was wondering if it had arrived yet, Dan. I’ve been immersed in the year 1811/12 as I read about the Marr/Williamson murders in Wapping and an on-line discussion on the causes of the War of 1812. (Remember the song Battle of New Orleans?)My husband says it should be the year that Parliament had to outlaw trial by combat since one man insisted on doing it that way. That might make a nice display, too. Bow Street was involved in that above mentioned murder.

  9. John Howard says:

    I just love the “Hypno Vista” blurb on the poster. You won’t be able to look away you know…. I wonder why they didn’t shoot more films with this system if it guaranteed a watching audience. Maybe it got bad reviews because you “had” to watch rather than “want” to watch…. We all know how we don’t like being told what to do.

  10. snowy says:

    I too was intrigued by ‘Hypno Vista’, expecting to discover another gimmick of the sort most famously carried out by William Castle. His Wiki article describes both him and his shenanigans very well.

    But sadly after a bit of research it just seems to be a short 15 minute film spliced onto to the original feature and was never used again. But the research did reveal several, better posters that make the above seem the model of restraint. And for those interested there are several copies of the ‘Hypno Vista’ introduction on various video streaming sites.

    I have now remembered where the story of the severed arms, festering in the dark recesses of my mind came from. It was from a pair of illustrated, non fiction books written by the former news reader Gordon Honeycombe about the ‘Black Museum’, available from the usual places for pennies.

    PS Nice to read D got his book, at last.

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