Until I arrived at Steelhouse Lane, I hadn’t realised that this was a fully working Custody Suite just 2 years ago.
Having missed the opportunity of visiting when it was featured in Hidden Spaces last year, I jumped at the chance of going when I saw it would open again in August.
Ryan was otherwise engaged in some geek-related adventure so my partner in crime (ahem!) was friend and work colleague Debbie aka alternatevisionphotography.
Housed in a beautiful brick building opposite Birmingham Children’s Hospital, we were greeted by a display of past uniforms. Once inside, my first impression was how bright it was with the natural daylight coming through ceiling. The corridors on each floor are intimate, and it felt quite warm inside. There was no sign of air con or ceiling fans so I imagine during the hotter summer days, it might be cooler in stay in the cells.
The small holding cells consisted of a thin plastic mattress (similar to the type you have in school PE lessons) and the metal loos. Interestingly enough, the cisterns are outside the cells where they had to be flushed from.
What caught my eye on the ceiling was a black arrow, which we were told pointed to the direction of Mecca – makes more sense than my guess, which was the direction you had to stand if an officer entered the cell.
Some of the cells had a display of mugshots of former inmates, which added an eerie feel to it. It’s still hard to think this was a fully working custody suite a couple of years, as it looks like time has stood still in some parts of the building. Check out the radio and the tape recorder for interviews.
On the upper floor, old uniforms, helmets, hats, accessories and equipment were displayed. The quality and feel of the hats and helmets had gotten thicker and more protective throughout the years. The jackets are pretty heavy too, I can’t imagine how it must feel to wear that every day.
The station has a direct route to the holding cells at Birmingham Magistrates Court by way of a hidden tunnel under Coleridge Passage.
I really enjoyed the tour; it would be great to see the place open regularly in the future as a tourist attraction to add to Birmingham’s ever growing places to visit. The September opening was to be the last one, as part of Birmingham Heritage Week.
Where: Steelhouse Lane Police Station, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham B4 6NW
Who: Hidden Spaces