Down Your Alley: Great Scotland Yard

Curiously Scotland Yard to most is synonymous with London’s Metropolitan Police Force. Even some of their most famous, or infamous policemen had ‘of the Yard’ as a suffix to their names.

So how did this little alley’s name come to follow one of the world’s most famous police organisations as they moved its headquarters around the SW1 postcode?

[L]IKE SO MUCH in London the etymology stretches way back in time, in this case to a medieval palace said to have been used as the base for Scottish kings and diplomatic representatives when visiting London.

Later the road built on the site of this palace, and adopting the Scottish connection, had among its resident’s architects Sir Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones and poet John Milton.

Government buildings sprang up around the area and among them was the nascent Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s office at 4 Whitehall Place, not far from the Corinthian Hotel now stands.

As with many English traditions the ‘Yard’ didn’t adopt the obvious name of ‘Whitehall Place’, but took the rear entrance of Great Scotland Yard as its nomenclature.

As the Metropolitan Police grew in size and stature they moved to the Norman Shaw Building on the Victoria Embankment [featured next week on CabbieBlog] taking their nickname with them.

A century later the Met has moved again, this time adjacent to the Norman Shaw Building, their sparkling new headquarters is called the Curtis Green Building. Although modern famous (or infamous) coppers are unlikely to be given the name of Curtis or Green, it will be forevermore . . . of the Yard.

Arch to Great Scotland Yard by N. Chadwick (CC BY-SA 2.0) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

4 thoughts on “Down Your Alley: Great Scotland Yard”

  1. Scotland Yard is only a place. It was the address of the central station of the London Metropolitan Police Force…. No 1 Great Scotland Yard. It isn’t there any more, they have a major sparkling working not far off called (with extraordinary creative ability) …. “New Scotland Yard”. The main police left at the old Great Scotland Yard is I believe is a unit of pony at no 7.

    So I’m perplexed ‘Scotland Yard;’ is only an address, it’s renowned due to pop culture since that is the place England’s best criminologists were said to have worked. Hence…. you see/hear in films things like “I’m calling Scotland Yard” or “I’m Inspector lestrade of the yard” (Sherlock Holmes).

    The proportional in the US would resemble saying I’m calling “Police Plaza” (HQ of the NYPD).

    We don’t have a “FBI” since we don’t have diverse states/wards like the US does. In the event that a wrongdoing includes in excess of one police compel the diverse constabularies may set up a ‘joint team’ however that is about it.


    1. Thanks for your comprehensive comment, as far as I’m aware Scotland Yard refers to a small street off Whitehall as well as London’s police force.


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