On a building near Leicester Square is a coat hook that is pointed out by every tour guide, as a special coat hook for the police to hang their heavy cloaks on — but not any more.

The current owners of the building on Great Newport Street that the coat hook is attached to appear to have despoiled it. The hook is still there, but the sign is missing. And it’s the sign that made the hook famous, with its memorable notice that it’s not just any random coat hook, but one specifically for the Metropolitan Police.

The coat hook in 2019

Now, I have pointed out that the oft-told tale about how the hook was added to a construction site in the 1930s so the traffic police could hang their cloaks on during hot days… is a myth, and likely no more than a few decades old.

The police sign is probably a joke added by someone in the 1990s.

But that doesn’t matter, and for a very good reason…

The hook and sign are part of the mythic legends of London, they are tales we tell to give us a sense of place in any city and help to give us a foundation in an ever changing world.

We rely on the tales, that we know might not be entirely true, to be the genius loci that become integral to a building and acts as its protective spirit. Removing the coat hook sign is to despoil a much loved local curiosity and attraction. It reduces the heritage of the area. It diminishes us to lose it.

The hook missing its sign in 2023

I’ve asked the building owners a couple of times what’s happening, but they didn’t reply.

The hook is there, but the sign is missing. The sign is what turned A coat hook into THE coat hook. It was the sign that made people stop and share the story of the mythical 1930s traffic police getting a bit hot one summer and a nearby building site offering respite in the form of a hook for their coats.

No, the coat hook isn’t a listed heritage item, nor frankly an authentic piece of history.

But the story it generated made people smile when they heard it.

We’re smiling a bit less today.


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  1. Peter Brown says:

    Can you publish the contact details of the building owners so that we might also ask them where the accompanying sign has gone?

  2. Becky Kennedy says:

    I completely agree that one of the reasons we love London so much is the mythology around it, quite apart from our own memories of its people and places. I know that everything has to move on, even if it takes millennia, but someone clearly went to a lot of effort to remove a little bit of the area’s character and mythology – how heartless.

  3. Mike Ricketts says:

    When I was a Special Constable in the City of London Police based at Wood Street Police Station, there were two rows of coat-hooks, one 4 inches above the other. At the time, the height-limit for City officers was 6 feet, while that for Met officers was 5 feet 8 inches, ie 4 inches less than their City Brethren. The notice above the lower row of hooks read, “For our short friends in the Met”. Sadly, Wood Street Police Station is now a 5-Star “boutique” hotel, so I imagine that the sign, along with the hooks have been “nicked”.

  4. M R Ruffy says:

    You are talking rubbish. It was there in the 60’s. Was a traffic point before traffic lights and highly authentic.

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