Scotland Yard is another name for England’s Metropolitan Police Service: the police force responsible for Greater London. But why the name Scotland Yard?
The origin of the name hasn’t been recorded and, through time, different theories have been proposed. The one below sounds most plausible.
The Scotland Yard area
The Metropolitan Police Force was established in 1829 as a consequence of the Metropolitan Police Act, which changed the source of its funding: from being paid entirely by private citizens to being paid by the government. The change of funding came with a change of building. According to William H. Gill, in his Some Notable Sherlockian Buildings, the original police building was a handsome building of three floors, of mellow London brick with Portable Stone tressings. However, it was not the building that gave the new Police force its name, but the ground on which it stood: on the former grounds of Whitehall Palace, at 4 Whitehall Place, with a rear entrance on a street called Great Scotland Yard, which was then transformed in the public entrance to the police station.
Why was this street called this way?
In 1512, a fire burnt Westminster Palace, the residence of the English Kings. The only building left standing was Westminster Hall – which later became the home of Parliament. After living in various locations for almost twenty years and apparently remaining unsatisfied, in 1529, Henry VIII ordered to build a new palace on an area close to the Thames River: not one building, but a collection of buildings surrounding gardens and courtyards, that were in total considered Whitehall Palace. Scottish Kings stayed in a particular area of the grounds when they came to pay homage to England. This area was hence nicknamed Scotland Yard.
When James I became king of England and Scotland in 1603, he moved into Whitehall Palace. During his reign and those of his successors, the Western part of the area became used as apartments for the families of the King or other notable persons, who were mostly Scottish. So the nickname for the area that originated during the reign of Henry VIII was reinforced by continued use.
In 1698, the whole Whitehall Palace area burnt down, except for the Banqueting House. The area was rebuilt, not as a Royal residence, but for government offices to a large extent. The nickname of the area, in particular the West Side of the grounds, as Scotland Yard was retained by the public over the years.
The premises later moved twice, once in 1890 to a location on the Victoria Embankment and then again to the current premises in 1967. Both new premises were called New Scotland Yard. But has there ever been an Old Scotland Yard?
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