Most police officers are aware of old premises that were once police stations/bridewell on their Divisions. Surprisingly in respect of Argyle Street Bridewell it was a different case. In the late 1980s a whole group of Officers in A and F Divisions were asked about a former bridewell around the bottom of Hanover Street no one was aware of one. The same question was asked of a group of elderly police pensioners. Virtually to everyone suggested Seel Street. Then someone remembered his father's recollection.
Peter Rawlinson’s father, Austin, told Peter about the nightly bucket of Guinness for the Bridewell Patrol, freshly supplied from the Guinness Boats tied up in the nearby Salthouse Dock. Then someone else said of the old Detective Sergeant who arrested a thief in Church Street and rather than walking to the Main Bridewell at Cheapside went to Argyle Street instead only to find the premises had been closed for a number of years.
Few of Liverpool’s former Bridewells have survived the ravages of time: Athol Street, Esk Street, Essex Street, Rose Hill, The Dog and Gun and West Derby have all been raised to the ground. Argyle Street is one of those that remains. An outpost of “C” Division built in the mid-nineteenth century and saw service till at least the 1930’s.
During the Second World War the premises were used by the U. S. Military. Like most events, in the city, of the period the activities were shrouded in mystery for fear of giving succor to the enemy Now they are lost in the mist of time.
So what of this Bridewell. In 1905 the Head Constables report to the Watch Committee regarding the state of repair to police stations and Bridewells in the City is described as follows:
Argyle Street, Bridewell and Fire Station. Cost land, old Corporation Estate, building £2675 (it does not say when it was built).
A Very old-fashioned place, but short of rebuilding there are only some minor points in which improvements might be made.
The cells (7 in number with a monthly average of 107 prisoners) have been refloored recently with asphalt.
There's no bathroom in the Bridewell Sergeants house.
Liverpool's policy was that Bridewells should never be more than one and a half miles apart. So that Officers with a prisoner would only have to walk at most three quarters of a mile with a prisoner. That doesn't sound much until you consider that the Officer could be struggling with a large violent drunken male. Nearly all the communities in the poor parts of the city were virulent anti-police. They believed in the theory your enemy is my enemy. To those communities the police were the enemy; so a Bobby taking his prisoner through the streets was fair game to be attacked and the prisoner rescued.
The accomplished C19th author Charles Dickens, would in modern parlance be referred. to as a Social Commentator. He suffered from insomnia and would take nightly walks; on those walks he would often meet police officers on their beats. He already held a fascination about the Police.
Dickens related the events of that night in a Chapter in his book "" Uncommercial Traveller"" See: "What the Dickens"
The years of neglect affected this once proud bastion of Liverpool City Police. The York stone flags and the huge lion’s head keystone above the front door were stolen and the final ignominy was the theft of the bracket that once held its “Blue Lamp”. The blue light that shone from his lamp often gave the Bobby with his drunk violent prisoner the knowledge that he was on the threshold of sanctuary. Once inside the walled courtyard behind the stout door. He was home safe.
Attempts were made to restore it in various guises, one of which would have been a Police Museum, which would have regained her dignity.
Argyle Street is part of the New Ropes Walk regeneration scheme. Colin McKeown (of the TV Series,, Liverpool 1) restored the premises into Restaurant and bar called “Colin’s Bridewell”. It was supported by CAMRA - Campaign for Real Ale.
Where is it? Along Hanover Street towards Police Headquarters and the last road on the left before the Paradise Street junction is Campbell Street, the premises are on the junction of Campbell Street and Argyle Street.
Shaun R. Rothwell BA (Hons). PGDip Criminology.
Webmasters Note: Argyle Street Bridewell was sometimes referred to as Campbell Street Bridewell
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