Liverpool City Police

Rose Hill Bridewell by Charlie Wass Retd.

The building that became Rose Hill Bridewell was originally built as a Gas Pumping Station in about 1839, hence it’s cavernous Parade Room. It was converted into a Police Station and opened operationally in about 1849. It became known locally as ‘Spike Island,’ because at that time, it stood in isolation on the corner of Rose Hill and Peover Street and was surrounded by spiked wrought iron railings. It finally closed its doors to the public on 31st August 1972.

I was posted to ‘D’ Division at Rose Hill as Con 98’D’ in April 1956 and I have many great and happy memories of my time spent patrolling ‘Scottie’ and ‘Greattie’ and the labyrinth of side streets running off both. There were many villains living in the area but they were far outnumbered by the very hard working and good living people, some of whom had to live in appalling housing conditions. Victoria Square on Cazneau Street for instance, four flats per landing having to share two toilets and two wash basins, horrendous.

The great advantage about ‘D’ Division was that there was only one Parade Station so everybody got to know each other very quickly. The Dock Section paraded at Nelson House, just inside Bramley Moor Dock gate but you were only posted to the Docks for six months at a time.

Just around the corner from Rose Hill, in Richmond Row was a ‘Young Man’s Hostel’, St Anne’s Institute. In the cellar of this building were hooks in the walls where someone who couldn’t afford the price of a bed would be loaned a blanket for the night for one old penny. They would then try to sleep ‘standing up’ wrapped in the blanket, supporting themselves, on ropes strung across the cellar. Hence the origin of the phrase, “sleeping on a clothes line.” Many other Common Lodging Houses in the area offered the same facility. Also in Richmond Row, almost opposite was Berry’s Pawn Shop which gets a mention in some versions of the song Maggie May, as it was No. 9 Richmond Row. They were about the only two buildings standing in Richmond Row between Christian Street and Scotland Place/Byrom Street.

On St Anne Street, on the corner of Birkett Street is Keizer’s old building which is still standing. It is the building with a clock tower on the north west corner, opposite St Anne Street Police Station. The Keizer’s came over to England in the late 19th century from eastern Europe and became very successful importers of hard and exotic woods amongst other commodities. The building was supposed to have been built as a replica of the Town Hall in the town they originated from. The anglicized translation of Keizer is actually Caesar.

Very early in my service I was on nights patrolling 2 Beat on the 1st Section in 'D' Division. It was a dark and dismal wet early morning and I was walking up William Henry St from Soho St, when I spotted, in the distance, a very furtive figure of small stature moving in and out of the small Courts that ran off Wm Henry St. As I approched, I saw the figure was carrying, what appeared to be a large pole. When I caught up, I found it was a little old lady who was a "knockerupper". For something like one shilling a week (five pence) per household, she would rise at about 04.00 and start on her rounds of knocking people up for work. She would continuing knocking at the bedroom window with her pole until she was sure they were up and about. She was wrapped in a black shawl and from a distance looked quite unreal. It was like being in the middle of a Dickens novel and bearing in mind, I was aware of the legend of "Spring Heeled Jack" who was allegedly seen in that very area at the turn of the Century, I really did begin to wonder what I had let myself in for by joining the Police

Charlie Wass

Rose_Hill_Bridewell, click to enlrge
D Division beat map 1956, click to enlarge

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