Canon Row

Buildings in Canon Row

Cannon Row has been in existence for the last 1000 years and the origins of its name are mixed, either named after where the canons of St Stephen's resided or a shortening of Channel Row after a channel from the Thames. 

It is mentioned in Wood's "Athenæ Oxoniensis,", retelling a story from the last days of Charles I recounted by his faithful attendant, Herbert

"The same evening [January 28th, 1648–9], two days before his execution, the King took a ring from his finger, having an emerald set therein between two diamonds, and gave it to Mr. Herbert, and commanded him, as late as 'twas, to go with it from St. James's to a lady living then in Canon Row, on the back side of King Street, in Westminster, and to give it to her without saying anything. The night was exceeding dark, and guards were set in several places; nevertheless, getting the word from Colonel Matthew Tomlinson, Mr. Herbert passed currently through in all places where sentinels were, but was bid stand till the corporal had the word from him. Being come to the lady's house, he delivered her the ring. 'Sir,' said she, 'give me leave to show you the way into the parlour;' where, being seated, she desired him to stay till she returned. In a little time after she came in and put into his hands a little cabinet, closed with three seals, two of which were the King's arms, and the third was the figure of a Roman; which done, she desired him to deliver it to the same hand that sent the ring; which ring was left with her; and afterwards, Mr. Herbert taking his leave, he gave the cabinet into the hands of his Majesty (at St. James's), who told him that he should see it opened next morning. Morning being over, the Bishop (Juxon) was early with the King, and, after prayers, his Majesty broke the seals, and showed them what was contained in the cabinet. There were diamonds and jewels—most part broken Georges and Garters. 'You see,' said he, 'all the wealth now in my power to give to my children.'"

Unfortunately, the current buildings in Canon Row are not this old, with two Georgian buildings and the old police building attached to Norman Shaw  built in the early 20th century.

1 Canon Row

Architect: John Dixon Butler with R.N. Shaw as consultant. Designed: 1898-1900. Date: 1902-06. Grade II*

Architect of gates to Canon Row: John Dixon Butler with R.N. Shaw as consultant. Designed: c.1904. Grade II

Designed by the Police Surveyor, John Dixon Butler with Richard Norman Shaw as consultant, to form part of the group with the latter’s two New Scotland Yard offices; one for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the other for the Police Receiver. Of red brick with bands of Portland stone with a ground and first storey of grey granite and floors of concrete, Cannon [sic] Row Police Station was originally designed for the overnight accommodation of Police Constables, Sergeants and Inspectors. Arranged over the upper five floors, the station dormitories provided overnight accommodation in cubicles with wooden partitions for 96 single men, with two flats for married inspectors. In addition, space was provided for cells, a parade room, mess rooms, a library, stalls for horses, a van and ambulances etc..

Cannon Row was renowned in the Metropolitan Police as the station with code name ‘Alpha Delta Plus’, with responsibility for diplomatic protection, the Palace of Westminster, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, etc..

The cells here are said to have held Dr Crippen on his capture in 1910, and in 1966 it was the place to which the stolen Football World Cup was taken for safe keeping its discovery in a garden a few days after it went missing.

In 1985, the Police moved to the Curtis Green building on the Embankment nearby, and the station was amalgamated with Bow Street Police Station in 1992. Late in 1985, the House of Commons Services Committee recommended that the old Police Station should be acquired for Parliamentary use. Following refurbishment during which new doors, suspended ceilings and services were provided throughout, the building was occupied in 1989 by the Commons for Police, Security and the Parliamentary Works – later Estates - Directorate. Early twentieth-century partitions and four- panel doors survive, as well as the original Westmoreland Slate roof of c.1906. The Westminster Gym was installed in the basement in 1990; in 2004/5, the fifth floor was refurbished and the suspended ceilings were removed. The building now awaits further repairs.

In the late 1980s the name of the building was changed to No. 1, ‘Canon’ Row because it was thought to more correctly recall the early history of the site which originally held the canon’s houses of the medieval College of St. Stephen.  

‘In’ and ‘out’ gates and two pedestrian gates are granite ashlar with lamp-standard on central pier.

2 Canon Row

Architect unknown. Date: c.1800. Listed Grade II*

Nos. 2a and 2b, Canon Row, the four-storey, four-bay terrace house to the rear of no. 3 Parliament Street dates from about 1800. Between 1985 and 1991, a full refurbishment took place, the stock brick façade was repaired, and a new doorway surround installed. The two flats are occupied by staff of the House of Commons.

4 Canon Row

Architect unknown. Date: c.1720. Listed Grade II*

No. 4, Canon Row, the four-storey, three bay terrace house to the rear of No. 2 Parliament Street was built before the Parliament Street development, and dates from the early eighteenth century. Between 1985 and 1991, a full refurbishment took place, the plum-coloured brick façade was repaired, and a new doorway surround installed. It is now the official home of the Speaker’s Secretary.