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Police Box Adjacent to Town Hall, Surrey Street, Sheffield, Sheffield

Description: Police Box Adjacent to Town Hall, Surrey Street, Sheffield

Grade: II
Date Listed: 15 February 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1405185

OS Grid Reference: SK3536687220
OS Grid Coordinates: 435366, 387220
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3807, -1.4698

Locality: Sheffield
County: Sheffield
Country: England
Postcode: S1 2JE

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Listing Text


Police Box. 1928. One of a system of 120 police boxes in Sheffield instigated by Chief Constable Percy J Sillitoe. Timber. Square in plan.

Reason for Listing

The police box on Surrey Street, Sheffield, of 1928, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Technology: police box systems were first instigated in cities in the north of England as a means of utilising communications technology to markedly improve police efficiency and be more pro-active with the public they served at a time when many homes did not routinely have telephones
* Historic Interest: the Sheffield police box system was installed in 1928 at the instigation of the moderniser Chief Constable, Percy J Sillitoe, subsequently Chief Constable of Glasgow and Director General of MI5
* Rarity: having become obsolete during the 1960s due to improved communications, the Sheffield police box is the sole survivor of a system of 120 boxes in the city, and is a rare example of a police box surviving in England
* Architectural interest: Police boxes were not instigated as a national scheme, but rather, were installed by individual police forces and so differ in appearance from force to force, with the Sheffield box having a segmental-arched roof, rather than the shallow pyramidal roofs used by a number of other forces including the Metropolitan Police Force.


Police boxes were introduced in Britain in the 1920s. Chief Constable Frederick James Crawley installed them initially in Sunderland in 1923 and then in Newcastle upon Tyne after he became Chief Constable there in 1925. They were designed to increase efficiency by decentralising police constables away from the police station and preventing the necessity to return to base a number of times during their beat. Other northern cities then followed suit including Sheffield in 1928. The Metropolitan Police Force looked at several of these northern initiatives before instigating a widespread installation of police boxes in London from 1930.

The Sheffield police box system comprised 120 boxes and was introduced by Chief Constable Percy J Sillitoe in October 1928. Sillitoe was subsequently appointed as Chief Constable of Glasgow in 1931 where he also set up a police box system; he was later to receive a knighthood and became Director General of M15. The Sheffield boxes were sited on police beats all over the city where they provided contact points for both police officers and members of the public with each box having a direct telephone link with the local police station. The telephone was located in a small compartment accessible from the outside of the box, as was a first aid kit, both intended for public use. They were also used by patrolling officers, who visited the boxes at hourly intervals when information was passed by phone between the officers and supervisory staff at police stations. Additionally, a 'blue' electric lamp was located on the top of each box; the Sheffield boxes originally had bulb lights suspended from curved metal brackets. These were controlled from the local police station and used to indicate when there was an important massage to be relayed. Inside, the boxes had a desk and stool where the patrolling officers could have meal breaks and write reports. The boxes could also be used as temporary lock-ups if necessary for those arrested and awaiting transport to a police station.

The police boxes remained in regular use until the 1960s when the development of improved communications and increased use of police cars made them obsolete. This particular box is the sole survivor of the 120 boxes in Sheffield. It is stationed on the corner of Surrey Street next to the Town Hall and has latterly been used as a public information point by Sheffield's city centre ambassadors, though it is not presently in regular use.


Police Box. 1928. One of a system of 120 police boxes in Sheffield instigated by Chief Constable Percy J Sillitoe. Timber. Square in plan.

EXTERIOR: the timber walls have sunk-panels with a plinth and plain frieze and a segmental- arched leaded roof. The front elevation has a narrow plank door to the right with an upper window with marginal glazing and textured glass. To the left is a larger rectangular window also with marginal glazing and textured glass. Beneath the window is a small door to the public telephone cupboard, with a modern metal sign to the right giving the history of the Sheffield police boxes. In the centre of the frieze is a rectangular frame which originally held a police sign. This has been replaced by a blue illuminated box inscribed SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE which is attached to the front of the segmental pediment. The fixing position for the bracket holding the original overhanging blue light is visible at the centre front of the roof. The side elevations have similarly detailed central windows.

INTERIOR: there is an L-shaped desk with formica top and wooden edging. Adjacent to the door is a floor-level cupboard and above the desk is the telephone cupboard, which also has an interior door.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.