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Whats in Wapping

Thames Police Museum in Wapping

Thames Police Museum in Wapping

The Thames Police Museum in Wapping High Street is another of Wapping’s hidden treasures not be missed.

The incredible exhibits here tell the story of a time when the Thames was the centre of Wapping life and thieving was rife.

Rob and Joz

Image of Rob Jeffries and Jon Joz Joslin

Today, the museum is administered by the Thames Police Association and run by two retired Thames Police officers, Rob Jeffries and John ‘Joz’ Joslin.

Rob shares with us the fascinating history behind the River Police Museum and tells what we can find at this one-of-a-kind place hidden in the heart of Wapping.

Wapping High Street

98 Wapping High Street is the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police’s Marine Police Unit.

Officers from here police London’s main river artery 24 hours a day 7 days a week and their sleek, modern launches have become a familiar sight on the Thames.

Wapping Thames Police Museum

Image of Wapping Thames Police Museum

Modern policing is a high tech business and today’s officers use computers and all manner of scientific advances in order to protect London and its residents.

But, although Wapping Police Station has its fair share of computers there is one particular room in the building that is decidedly low tech and unlike any other.

When you enter that room you find yourself in a dark and gloomy environment and it’s only when the strip lights flicker into life most first time visitors let out a soft “Wow!”

Policing the River Thames

Image of Wapping Thames Police MuseumSuddenly, you are transported back in time to an age long before technical wizardry. The room is filled with display cases packed with models and policing hardware from a bygone age.

On the walls are paintings and prints of long dead magistrates. In yet another display case are displayed original books and documents that relate to policing in Wapping before the Battle of Waterloo was fought. This is a truly a most remarkable place….But why is it here?

A police museum in Wapping?

So why does Wapping Police Station have its own museum? The answer is that Wapping Police Station is considered to be the home of modern policing in this country as we know it today.

The latter years of the 18th century saw a marked increase in criminal activity in London. This proved to be a particular problem on the River Thames, which was the capital’s main commercial artery and the route by which all of the cargoes that made London the wealthiest port in the world came into the country.

£500,000 Stolen Each Year

The river was called “A forest of masts” and it was said that you could walk across the river on the decks of all the ships that were anchored or moored upon it. The Thames proved to be a magnet to thieves and receivers of stolen goods who took advantage of the almost complete lack of security to steal any item of cargo or equipment that they could conceal about their person.

Image of Wapping Thames Police Museum ExhibitsIt was estimated that the total value of stolen goods exceeded £500,000 per annum and the major losers were the merchants involved with the West Indies trade who lost goods to the value of around £250,000 per annum……Something needed to be done and on July 12th 1798 The West India Merchants and Planters Marine Police Institute came into existence under the control of its two founding magistrates, Patrick Colquhoun and John Harriott.

The headquarters of today’s Marine Police Unit still occupies the same location.


In 1800, having proved itself to be a great success, this embryonic police force was given responsibility for policing all the ships on the river and not just those involved in the West India Trade.

In 1829, when Sir Robert Peel was planning his own police service for London, he sent his commissioners to Wapping to learn from the Marine Police what problems their officers might face and it was not until 1839 that the Marine Police was absorbed by the Metropolitan Police and became Thames Division.

Two centuries on the Thames

The museum at Wapping tells the story of policing London’s river over more than two centuries. It is very much an ‘Old Time’ museum, all nooks and crannies….The old carpenters benches are still in place and many of their tools are still on display.

Visiting the Thames Police Museum

The museum is administered by the Thames Police Association and run by two retired Thames Police officers, Rob Jeffries and John ‘Joz’ Joslin.

A good time to visit the museum is during the London Open House event which takes place each year in mid September. All other viewings are strictly by appointment (contact robertjeffries@aol.com)

Thames Police Museum
Wapping Police Station
98 Wapping High Street

View What’s in Wapping? in a larger map

Have you visited the Thames Police Museum yet?


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  • Greenmachine54

    Rob, having been a serving officer in the river Police, is not only knowledgable he has also managed to retain his enthusiasm for all things Police. He showed my wife and I around the museum last year and it was fascinating! A bonus was the views of the river from the windows.

  • upyourstreet

    Yes I was privileged to be shown around by Rob a fortnight ago and to hear the stories and history from a passionate enthusiast and expert about the area’s history. There was a lovely moment when Rob opened a back door and there I was,up a storey or two, looking out at police officers coming back to base walking along the gang plank (what’s it called in these non-Jesemiah Acorn days?). I saw the Thames in its coldness with lights flickering and reflecting .And it was eerily quiet. Yes you have to book.

  • Helen

    Great article and museum, which I was pleased to visit a couple of years ago on an Open weekend. Pleased to see it can be visited at other times by arrangement: this resource is too interesting and rich in exhibits to be exhausted in one trip.

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  • Kreechah

    Very good article and great site. It is great to have a police museum in Wapping but what about a working police station… Is it true that Limehouse police station is being closed? Which police station are we supposed to call if we have a problem?

  • Steven Hitrech

    I have not visited the museum yet, but this a very interesting article. I am lucky to live in a modern society with great technology. It’s great that Rob and Joz have dedicated their time to running such an important piece of London’s history.