Edinburgh police museum set to be box office hit

Angus Self was inspired to become involved in the disused police box project thanks to his great-grandfather. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Angus Self was inspired to become involved in the disused police box project thanks to his great-grandfather. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The great-grandson of the man who introduced police boxes to the Capital in 1933 is helping to transform one of the remaining units into a police museum.

The box, on Braid Hills Approach, will be completely refurbished and the exterior renovated.

Angus Self's great-grandfather, Roderick Ross

Angus Self's great-grandfather, Roderick Ross

It is hoped that once the work is completed that a plaque honouring Roderick Ross, a former chief constable who first brought the iconic structures to the Capital, will be fixed to the front.

The work is being carried out by Angus Self, 51, who lives in Ravelston and runs his own joinery business.

He said: “It’s the first time I’ve ever done a job like this, but I knew I wanted to be involved because of my great-grandfather. It really feels like a connection to a bit of family history that’s now come full circle.

“I started work in December and at the moment I’m sprucing up the outside, but we’re also going to restore the original fixtures to the inside.

“It’s completely empty at the moment as one of the previous owners must have ripped everything out, but there would have been a fold-down seat, some pigeonholes to put paperwork in and there was also a place to store medical supplies in case of emergencies and also because ambulances would often stop and stock up while they were out and about. They would also have been wired for electricity so that will need to be reinstalled, too.”

Roderick Ross, who was born in 1865 and served as chief constable of Edinburgh City Police from 1900-1935, introduced the two-tonne cast iron structures to Edinburgh in 1933, five years after they were first introduced in the UK.

At the peak of their usage there were 86 of the boxes around the city, which were designed by Edinburgh’s then official architect, Ebenezer MacRae, to complement Edinburgh’s classical architecture.

Officers were expected to regularly check in at the boxes during their shifts, but with the advent of police radio in the 1960s they began to fall out of use, being largely defunct by the 1980s.

In 1995, a total of 33 police boxes were sold off, with some fetching up to £10,000.

Gail Smith, 59, who runs swimming lessons business SwimEasy, purchased the box on Braid Hills Approach a number of years ago.

She said: “I’ve lived in the area for years and I think the box was still in use up until about 1984. I’ve always wanted the box, ever since I was a child, so when the chance came to buy it I jumped at it and now I’m attempting to restore it and turn it into a little police museum. Then Angus got in touch to say he wanted to help because of his great-grandfather.”

Roderick Ross died in 1943 in a nursing home in Great King Street following a short illness. He was appointed Member 4th Class of the Royal Victorian Order in September 1905, Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1920 civilian war honours, and Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in July 1934. He was awarded the King’s Police Medal in the 1922 New Year Honours.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “It’s always nice to hear of tributes being paid to our officers.”