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Summary Article: Scotland Yard
from Brewer's Britain and Ireland

From its being the site of the London residence of the kings of Scotland from the 12th century.

Originally, a short street (in full, Great Scotland Yard) in London, leading off from the eastern side of WHITEHALL (SW1), towards its northern end. Its umbilical connection with the police began in 1827, when part of the precincts became the headquarters of the newly formed Metropolitan Police. The link with law enforcement was firmly established by the end of the century, and when in 1891 the Met moved to new premises at the southern end of Victoria Embankment (see under EMBANKMENT), it named them New Scotland Yard. Designed by Norman Shaw in somewhat baronial style, this was the building (phone: Whitehall 1212) that became familiar in film and television police dramas in the middle part of the 20th century. The granite with which it was faced was quarried by convicts on Dartmoor.

In 1967 the Metropolitan Police moved yet again, to a modern 20-storey headquarters in Victoria Street, taking the name ‘New Scotland Yard’ with them (a revolving three- sided name-board in front of the building is a frequently used television image). The old premises were renamed the Norman Shaw Building.

By then, ‘Scotland Yard’ (or often simply ‘the Yard’) had long been used as a metonym for the Metropolitan Police, and more particularly for its CID: if London's detectives were having difficulty with a case, the tabloid headline was sure to be ‘Yard baffled’. High-profile detectives would have the sobriquet ‘of the Yard’ after their name – real ones, fictional ones and even combinations of the two (as in the case of Fabian of the Yard, a BBC police drama of the mid-1950s based on the real-life career of Detective Inspector Robert Fabian). Private Eye magazine styled its all-purpose bungling detective ‘Inspector Knacker of the Yard’.

Copyright © Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005

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