In 1840 a full time constabulary comprising nine constables was established in Stirlingshire. Although only two of these constables were stationed at Falkirk there was a need to provide them with lockup cells. The Steeple in the High Street of Falkirk did have two cells and they were used by the police, but it was mainly a prison under the authority of the County Prison Board. It is not known where the police office (if there was one at this time) was located. However, it was to be another thirty years before a custom-built police office was erected in Falkirk.
By the early 1850s the police office was situated in the Sheriff Court House in Bank Street, Falkirk. This building is still standing on the south side of Bank Street and it began life in 1848 as a Temperance Hotel. It was built at a cost of £900 but in 1852 it was sold by public auction to Sheriff Handyside for £445. The Sheriff then sold it to the Commissioners of Supply for Stirlingshire for use as a Sheriff Court. The building was converted for use as a court at a cost of £192.15 shillings (£192.75p). It was equipped with offices and cells and was officially opened on 11th November, 1852. When the Sheriff Court in Hope Street was opened in 1868 the building in Bank Street continued to be used as a police office until the new police office was opened in 1871
The new police office was built on the south side of the Sheriff Court – the car park adjacent to the old Sheriff Court at the corner of West Bridge Street and Hope Street is the location where the police office stood – and today the ragged edge where the roof once was can be seen on the south wall of the court building. Three windows of the former cells can also be seen.
The old Court building was sold once more by public auction and realised the sum of £510 which was £60 more than the Commissioners of Supply had expected. The sale of the building in Bank Street offset part of the cost of the construction of the new police office in Hope Street. The cost of labour and materials for the new police office was £803.10 shillings (£803.50p), and once gas fittings and furnishings were installed the total cost of the office was £905.11shillings and 5 pence (£905.62p). The police used this office for 95 years, but 20 years after its construction the office and cell accommodation had become inadequate. In 1890, for example, the Chief Constable reported that the sanitary conditions in the cell area were unsatisfactory. There was a cesspool three feet opposite the office door and an offensive smell in warm weather. The drain from the cells passed over the cesspool and connected with the main sewer, but there was no ventilator or manhole between the main sewer and the cells. This was one of many complaints made about the inadequacies of the police office at Falkirk and the County Council ordered an examination of the building with a view to providing improvements.
Plans were drawn up by a local architect suggesting that the cells should be converted into a lavatory, lamp room and a production room. The charge room was to become the Superintendent’s room while the room used by the Superintendent would become the Inspector’s room. On the vacant ground between the police building and the Sheriff Court a new charge room and mortuary were to be erected. The estimated cost of this work was £450. Over the years other alterations were carried out on the police office, but the force was increasing in manpower and the office was not suitable for a mid-20th century police force. By this time the working conditions in the old police office were intolerable with no facilities to dry wet clothing, no lockers and no canteen. Work space was at a premium and constables had to muster in the general office, often being interrupted by the public during sensitive briefings.
A new, and third, police office in Falkirk was opened in 1966 and it was situated at the rear of the old Sheriff Court in Hope Street. The facilities that were provided for the staff had improved with a proper drying room for wet uniforms, a canteen, a large muster room away from the public view. Separate accommodation for the Criminal Investigation Department and supervisory officers was also provided.
It was intended that this new office was the first part of three phases of construction in this area. During the second phase the intention was to construct a new County Council building on the site of the old police office adjacent to the Sheriff Court, but this did not happen. Phase three was to alter the then County Council offices on West Bridge Street to make a public enquiry and communications room, and this was carried out some extent during the late 1970s. This part of the police office was originally built as the Stirling County Council headquarters for the eastern part of the county and it was opened in 1904. Prior to the police taking over the entire building they shared it with other County Council Departments. At the official opening of the building in 1904 a time capsule in the form of bottle containing newspapers, coins and a list of council officials, was placed in the memorial stone. When the building was demolished in 2003 an unsuccessful search was made for the capsule.
Photograph by Ronnie Blackadder
A new police office on West Bridge Street now occupies the site of the old County Council building an the 1966 Police Office. On 4th February, 2005, the office was officially opened by the Her Highness The Princess Royal.
Allan Meek (2005)