Lloyd House

Lloyd House has served as the police headquarters for West Midlands Police for all of its 40 year history. However the building was never intended for that purpose and started out life as something completely different.

Back in the 70s Lloyd House was open plan.

Back in the 70s Lloyd House was open plan. Photo courtesy of Maurice Bruton

Lloyd House was built between 1960 and 1961 to be the headquarters for steel stockholders Stewarts and Lloyds Ltd.  The story goes that the building has an ‘L’ shape to represent the Lloyd half of the company and the name to match.

History doesn’t record what Andrew Stewart thought of this but presumably he accepted it was difficult to build an ‘S’ shaped building in the 1960s…

In 1972 the prospect of a new, larger metropolitan force starting in just two years set off a search for a headquarters to replace the previous accommodation used by Birmingham Police at Newton Street.

City engineers proposed a new building in the area of the legal precincts of Steelhouse Lane and a budget of £1,700,000 was allocated for work to start the same year.

Unfortunately, the favoured site in Newton Street at Dale End became earmarked for a new magistrates’ court, and in fact this site is now occupied by the Queen Elizabeth Crown Court.

The Watch Committee of the date decided that a central site was important and decided in favour of renting Lloyd House at a cost of £140,000 a year from Messrs Stewart and Lloyd.

The first officers, from the City of Birmingham Police, moved into the building in the early part of 1973. However the move was not a welcome one, with staff complaining about poor heating conditions on some floors and the ‘lack of character’ of the building.

Lloyd House bearing the letters of it's origiinal owners - Stewart and Lloyd. Photo courtesy of Maurice Bruton

Lloyd House bearing the letters of it’s origiinal owners – Stewart and Lloyd. Photo courtesy of Maurice Bruton

These complaints appear to have continued, with Chief Constable Phillip Knights commenting in his 1977 annual report:  ‘Whilst it can never provide all the facilities required of a modern purpose-built police headquarters, and little if anything can be done about its deficiencies so far as heating and air conditioning are concerned, it is essential that we do all we can to provide the staff with working conditions that are as pleasant and attractive as we can make them within these limitations.’

Forty years on the heating and air conditioning problems are set to be finally resolved as part of a multi-million pound refurbishment of Lloyd House, which will eventually see members of staff moving out of satellite city centre sites in favour of headquarters.

Plans for the building include returning it back to more of its former open plan state, with internal office walls being removed to help accommodate the extended working population.

Lloyd House looks set to remain West Midlands Police headquarters for several years to come although internally it will hopefully start to look and feel very different.

Clipboards – Use them!

Crime fighters have always had gadgets. James Bond had his talcum powder tin filled with tear gas, his mini-rocket cigarette and his Union Jack emblazoned pen gun.

Beacon article from 1979

Beacon article from 1979

Back in 1979 West Midlands Police issued officers with their very own crime-fighting, life saving device – in the form of a clipboard!

‘Bullet-proof’ clipboards were issued for use in all police vehicles. Our internal magazine, The Beacon, boasted that ‘They have been extensively tested and are effective against virtually any weapon the criminal is likely to use’.

The Chief Constable of the time, Lord Philip Knights, had one simple thing to say about them. ‘Use them. They may save your life’.

Alarmingly 70s officers seemed somewhat unaware of the life-saving abilities of their clipboards and the Beacon bemoans that ‘Some officers have not been using the boards, or have been carrying them in the boot of the car’.

The article was so keen to point out that ‘they must be carried inside the car to be of any use’, that it featured a ‘storyboard’ of three photographs showing how an officer could first use the clipboard in defence against a gunman before disarming him with it.

It turns out the clipboards were not a West Midlands Police invention, but were an idea imported from America, where they had been used by police there back in the 60s.

How to use your clipboard to disarm a gunman

How to use your clipboard to disarm a gunman

In scenes reminiscent of ‘Q’s workshop, officers are pictured testing the boards by firing at both a conventional wooden clipboard and the bullet-proof one. Proving that the clipboards resisted a 9mm browning Semi-automatic pistol, a .357 Magnum revolver and a 12 bore shotgun.

The bullet-proof boards were marked but intact, while bullets unsurprisingly sailed through the wooden board – and the two telephone directories propped behind it to represent an officer!

A spokesman for the force’s Firearms team encouraged officers to be confident using their boards, stating: “These boards do work and officers can have confidence in them. If they stop the villain’s first shot, it is unlikely he will have another go. All he will be interested in is getting away.”

firearms officers shooting the board

firearms officers shooting the board

Bullet-proof boards, now dubbed ‘ballistic clipboards’ are not issued to every patrol car anymore but are still used today by Firearms trained officers when knocking on the door of a suspect where there is an outside possibility they may have a gun.

One of today’s Firearms officers said: “When they were in the back of every car people didn’t use them because they didn’t know how to. They were almost laughable; we knew they were there but not what to do with them.

“Now we have them in every armed response vehicle as a useful tool when we are in a low-key situation. It’s reassuring to have them in front of you when you knock on a door not knowing whether someone inside has a gun or not.”

No one remembers the clip boards actually saving anyone’s life but they will perhaps be best remembered by our 70s and 80s officers as ‘that heavy thing in the boot’.