Settling down at my desk the other day to get on with work when I took a brief distraction to check my Instagram. And good thing I did, my friend on there, Jon, had sent me information about an open day at the Greater Manchester Police Museum.
The Greater Manchester Police Museum has been on my radar for absolutely ages since moving to the North of the city and passing it regularly on my commute. One day when I was working in town I passed by with my friend we were invited in. As we were actually supposed to be working, we had to decline and resolve to visit another day. And that day never happened. Until when my friend messaged me and I rejigged my day to take a trip into town.
Welcomed with a smile
The museum, placed just into the Northern Quarter of the city, has the best welcome you could wish for. A smiling bobby ready for a chat and to share his knowledge about the area and the museum. Without him I am not sure I would have known where to start as I was so excited to be there. Just like a big kid really.
After Mr Policeman helped me to get my bearings I headed straight in to have a browse in the Police Box and to learn more about it. I have seen an old one on the streets of Sheffield, but never really knew much about them.
Although it looks like there isn’t much in the first room, you will be mistaken. You have to get inside to Police Box for the best bits and the cabinets to the left are jam-packed with information and archives. I could have spent longer browsing in there but I was aware that I only had about an hour for my visit (which I thought was plenty) It think that my favourite part of the first room, bar the Police Box, was the “Rollocks” message carriers.
Helmets, whistles and truncheons
I know that there have been a few kinds of helmets whistles and truncheons over the years, but not as many as I discovered in the next room. Small alterations to vast ones, you get taken through the history of them and the reasons for changes. It was fascinating to see just how decorative a weapon could be when I was enjoying the beautifully decorated truncheons.
Yet more surprises were hidden in this room too, including a motorbike hidden in the corner and Police issue gas masks from WWII. You’ll have to excuse my reflection, mind you, I was so excited and the sun was shining into the building making some stunning reflections!
With a sneak peek into the next room and the sound of the sharp intake of breath from visitors viewing a video, I just had to head through.
It wasn’t long before I was oohing and ahhing at the video of drivers sliding in snow on the motorway and the scenes of the Police cutting them free and sorting out he carnage. It is unbelievable how fast people drive in that kind of weather. The video is pretty mesmerising too. No matter how many times you wander off to look at other things, you eventually gravitate back for a moment or two.
Out on the road
As you can imagine with a video like that, this room was all about being out on the roads, and canals and countryside. The display had original motorbikes which were used in the force and models of the styles of police car used through the years. I was even surprised to learn how recent the addition of police scramblers are. I have seen them along the canal chasing the kids on theirs, but kind of imagined they had been around for ages.
I found it funny to see some bikes and cars that I remember from when I was a child and how old they look now! It is enough to make you feel old when looking at the equipment, cars and uniform from years ago. Definitely good fun though and did bring back memories of the police visiting my school.
While I was checking out the exhibits, I heard about the next room and was eager to see that one too. One filled with memorabilia of the days gone by. The Detective Inspector’s Office and pieces from the Strangeways Riots in the 90’s. Something I remember seeing on the news as a child.
As I was enjoying the DI’s office, I couldn’t help eavesdropping in on the conversation one member of staff was having with some other visitors. About the handmade tools and the violence instilled upon another inmate at the prison during the riots. It was gut wrenching just hearing about it, let alone seeing the tools made from materials they could find in the compound.
More than meets the eye
My curious face must have been shining through when the team member turned to me and asked whether I had seen the other rooms. ‘other rooms?’ I replied, ‘I think I must have missed them!’ Having thought that the museum was on the small side, I had been taking my time to explore each room in detail. To my astonishment, the team member guided me back to the previous room and showed me the other area outside!
With not much longer before closing time, I had to get my skates on if I was going to see the rest of the hidden gem!
A brief walk in the bright sunshine and I arrived in the cells. Thick walls, heavy doors and wooden beds filled the long brightly lit room. Not that the cells got that light, they only had a small window the top.
I learned that sometimes there could be up to sixteen people in each of these cells at one time. Can you imagine? Each cell was furnished in a similar way but had a different story to tell. From the one set up as a cell to the one filled with stores about the people who would have been in the prisons through the ages. And the crimes that they committed to be there.
To the docks
With the time reducing by the minute, I had to make my way up the stairs to the courtroom and docks. Again, I was greeted by a helpful member of the team who shared the information about the courtroom being an addition to the museum having been moved from Droyslden after being rescued before redevelopment. A fascinating story that I am eager to learn more about on my next visit.
I was delighted when the team member offered to put me in the docks to get a picture from my Instagram friend. I found it incredibly hard not to smile though – obviously not a serious criminal! You can tell he’s done it before. Actually, he has and in a real court too.
As a large family group came in I gave up my chance for a fingerprint to them. Although, I definitely hope to get one next time. I slipped back downstairs to grab some photos of the office and cells without people and got chatting again. Running theme, I think.
Time to go
Unfortunately, however much I wanted to stay and explore, the team were starting to close and it was time to leave. After arriving with the expectation of a small museum and a quick visit, I was pleased to see that there is so much to this little gem of a museum. A real tardis and one that is definitely worth a visit. I spent an hour and a bit there and could really have done with much more. Having spoken to the tram, I had left myself too little time and advised to come earlier next time. And I most certainly will. I can’t wait and hope that you’ll be paying them a visit too. Great for adults and kids as you can see.
I am thankful for moments of distraction and for friends that share interesting things with me. Plus, I’m very excited for my next visit to the Greater Manchester Police Museum! Whoop!!
Have you been to the Greater Manchester Police Museum? How about a prison? I’d love to know what your favourite bits were and any recommendations for other ones that I should plan in too.
Please let me know in the comments 🙂