This is a fascinating visit and one of the best I’ve made for a long time.
The Old Nick Police Station was the first purpose built police station in Lincolnshire and was also unusual as it had a Magistrates Court under the same roof. It was the police headquarters for the region until the police moved into a new building in 1972. After standing empty for several years, it was taken over by the Old Nick Theatre Company. The Magistrates Court became a small theatre and the police station has been preserved as a museum.
It is a splendid building of pale and red brick with cared stone capitals. It was intended to impress.
The Magistrates court and police station had separate entrances and there was also accommodation for the Superintendent of Police at the back of the building.
The police station is a remarkable survival with men and women’s cells, exercise yards, charge room, day room, offices and telephone exchange. This has a 1910 telephone which only had five numbers as they never thought they would ever need more than that!
The two original cells were designed for one prisoner, but rising population and crime rates meant bunk beds were added and they could sleep six with extra bodies on the floor. Cells were used for both men and women as well as children over the age of eight. It wasn’t until 1930 that a separate women’s cell was added.
There are old handcuffs which look more like manacles. On the noticeboard are photocopies of old information posters as well as a press cutting of the only prisoner who managed to escape from the exercise yard. There is also a copy of the birth certificate of the only child to have been born on the premises. A young officers wife was pregnant and came in to tell her husband she was experiencing pains. She gave birth before help could be called. The child was a boy and went on to be a serving police officer in London.
Famous officers who served here included Chief Superintendent Paul Bicknell who designed a “lamp”:https://heritagearmssa.com/2018/06/26/victorian-police-lanterns/ named after him, that replaced the use of candles while out on patrol. “Edith Smith”:https://history.blog.gov.uk/2014/06/17/the-first-world-war-and-the-first-female-police-officer/ joined the police in 1914 and was the first female police officer with powers of arrest. Very few people realise she served in Gainsborough before moving to Grantham.
There are examples of old wood truncheons as well as wooden rattles used along with the whistle. There is also a birch rod which was used to punish boys up to the age of 14 by strokes on the bare buttocks. Its use was abolished in 1948, but it was hung on the wall of the sergeant’s office until the station closed.
The Superintendent lived on the premises until 1951 and the importance and status of the job was reflected in the family living room and dining room on the ground floor. His wife was responsible for cooking food not only for the family, but also all of the prisoners. The upstairs bedroom are now used by the theatre company as a changing room and for wardrobe storage.
It is advisable to ring or email to fix a visit. I was the only one and taken round by a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer. It probably took about an hour and I was then able to wander back round the building taking pictures. It was a very well worthwhile visit and at only £3 for adults and £2.50 for concessions is remarkably value, especially as all the money goes towards preserving and restoring the Old Nick.
There is so much to see, and this only gives a very brief flavour. There is a lot more information and pictures on #8 “here.”:https://www.sloweurope.com/community/threads/gainsborough-lincolnshire.5674