Thousands of umbrellas are on the move, as Transport for London’s (TfL) Lost Property Office has moved for the second time in recent years to a permanent home next to West Ham bus garage.
TfL’s Lost Property Office, which recovers more than 200,000 items each year, opened in 1933 and had been based next to Baker Street station until 2019, when it outgrew the space and moved to a temporary location in South Kensington. Four years later, it’s moving again, this time to West Ham, because the South Kensington building is about to be redeveloped by its owners, The Wellcome Trust, into new offices.
The replacement Lost Property Office is next to West Ham Bus Garage, and TfL says that it has been designed to accommodate more items that have been misplaced and will help improve how quickly items can be processed and recorded, allowing customers to be reunited with their belongings faster.
The move coincides with the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Lost Property Office later this month. The creation of London Transport (LT) in 1933 brought together different modes of public transport, often run by private companies, into one organisation. As part of this, a centralised Lost Property Office was created on 30th October 1933, based at 200 Baker Street.
From there, staff reunited customers with belongings left on stops, stations and vehicles, including Black Cabs, from across the network.
Over the next nine decades, TfL’s Lost Property Office has become the largest of its kind in Europe, recovering more than 200,000 lost items each year. However, as London’s transport network grew, so did the number of items lost on the network, and in 2019, the office was temporarily relocated to Pelham Street in South Kensington while they looked for a permanent location.
The Lost Property Office has now moved to West Ham on a permanent basis.
Since it was created in 1933, the items lost on the transport network have changed as fashions and technology have evolved. Where once umbrellas and bowler hats filled shelves, now the latest phones, e-cigarettes and designer handbags can be found. Wallets and bags are now among the most common products returned to customers, with the TfL returning more than 4,400 wallets and 3,500 bags between 2020 and 2021.
Every year, there are hundreds of stories of how staff at the Lost Property Office have reunited customers with treasured possessions lost on the transport network. Recently, the family of a young girl contacted the Lost Property Office after she lost her teddy bear whilst travelling on the Jubilee line. Staff at the Lost Property Office were not only able to find a toy matching the photograph and description supplied by the girl, but also that it had been located at St John’s Wood. The little girl was then reunited with her teddy, who told staff that she could sleep well at night now that her teddy bear was back with her.
TfL encourages customers to first enquire about any lost property at the original location where the item was lost. Customers must complete an enquiry form on the TfL website if the item is still missing. The Lost Property Office holds items for three months. During this time, attempts are made to reunite customers with their belongings by using information inside the property or by matching items to customer descriptions.
Following the three-month duration, any unclaimed items will have personal data removed and destroyed before being donated to charity, recycled or auctioned. Any revenue generated from unclaimed items contributes towards the cost of running the Lost Property Office.
The new lost property office is a short walk from West Ham tube station, although with a large housing development being built, it’s likely to be easier to get to it if people go one stop on the DLR to Star Lane station and walk from there.