John Dixon Butler (1861-1920)

Pictured: The Old Police Station, 8 Red Lion Street, Richmond.

From the website of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames:

“In 1849 the Vestry Hall was enlarged and the police (magistrates) court was added. The watch house had been closed in 1841 when the police station, in two converted cottages in Princes Street (the cottages were demolished in 1966 to make way for Waitrose’s supermarket in Sheen Road) was opened. It later moved to a new building at 35 George Street, which had been purchased in 1867 and opened in 1871 before taking up its present home in Red Lion Street on a site acquired by the Council in 1912 for £1,625.

From Historic England entries:

a) Hampstead Police Station and Magistrates’ Court, designed in 1912:

“John Dixon Butler (1861-1920) was appointed Architect and Surveyor to the Metropolitan Police in 1895, following the retirement of his father, who had held the post since 1881. Dixon Butler was articled to his father, John Butler, and hence had an excellent education in the design and planning of police-related buildings; he also studied at University College London and the Architectural Association, and was elected a fellow of the RIBA in 1906. He began his tenure with the police assisting Richard Norman Shaw with buildings at Scotland Yard and Cannon Row, and the Arts and Crafts influence of the older architect resonates in Dixon Butler’s oeuvre. He designed over 200 police stations and courts, of which only 58 are known to have survived; 21 of those are listed.”


“Dixon Butler, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, succeeded his father, John Butler, to this post in 1895 and served as surveyor until his death in 1920 by which time he had designed over 200 police stations and courts. His period as surveyor is also notable for the architectural quality of his designs. Dixon Butler stations are usually in a domestic style, sensitive to the context of the areas in which they were located, with strong municipal qualities such as handsome iron railings, inscribed lintels identifying the building as a police station, and other stone dressings. Surviving stations illustrate his proficiency across a range of different sites as the Metropolitan Police’s jurisdiction was over a much wider area than comparable public service authorities, such as the London County Council, encompassing Middlesex and sections of other home counties. With this prolificacy came the opportunity to experiment with plan and elevational treatment and it is no surprise, therefore, that some of the most characterful and distinctive buildings in the Metropolitan Police estate are those by John Dixon Butler. In a wider context too, Dixon Butler’s police stations are noted as important components of early C20 townscapes which sit well alongside contemporary municipal buildings, and contribute to the high regard in which Edwardian civic architecture is held.

The Metropolitan Police Force Surveyorship was established in 1842, thirteen years after Sir Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. From the first purpose-built police station in 1831, at Bow Street, new stations were built throughout the C19, particularly in the late 1880s following the political unrest of that decade and high-profile events such as the Whitechapel Murders. Victorian police stations were hence built in prominent positions with easy access from the street, in order to advertise the presence of the police to a concerned public. Design often responded to political and social concerns, in the 1880s, for example, following a diphtheria case in Rotherhithe police station, the separate accommodation of police officers and prisoners was recommended. This was then overturned in the 1890s after a volatile police demonstration at Bow Street after which it was thought wise to house constables within the stations, and hence under the supervision of on-duty officers. By the time of Dixon Butler’s surveyorship a formula had been established: stations were designed with a mixture of police accommodation and cells; separate access for the police, prisoners and public was provided; and thought was given to the well-being of prisoners.”

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