Gordon Road Police Station

IMG_4168Although I now have spent nearly 12 years in the city, Old Shanghai still offers surprises for me. One of the latest one was my recent rediscovery of Gordon Road Police Station on Jiangning Lu (former Gordon Road). A walk in the North part of the International Settlement, looking for a famous new restaurant (The Commune Social) took me there. This is when I ran into what is called “The Design Republic Commune“, a major design store and display. The colonial style of the building was quite clear, surely a former colonial administration building, in the former Shanghai International Settlement. The style different, but the overall look is pretty similar to Hong Kong Central Police Station, currently under renovation. Like for many renovation in Shanghai, the interior of the building has been totally gutted to make space for the new usage of the space. In any case, the external cleaning makes it stand out in the area.

Gordon police station was a special place in the Shanghai municipal police organisation, as it was the place were all freshly arrived police officers were sent for training after arrival in Shanghai. The plate on the building mentions “about 1910’s” as a construction date., however the Shanghai Municipal Gazette of 20th March 1908, shows the completion of the “Police training school” Gordon Road to be completed in February of the same year. Since the area at that time was not densely urbanized, this massive police station and the police training school were probably the same building. It is mentioned in Robert Bickers'”Empire made me” (2003) as “Gordon Road Training (or Western) Depot”. As explained in the book, the building had a “large parade ground”. The training and drilling ground is long gone,  but at construction and during the 1920’s the area was pretty much countryside, with factories and houses being built around in the 1930’s. Sikhs and Chinese police officers were also stationed there for training, staying in dorms that have long disappeared. It is difficult to imagine the size of the ground surrounding the police station, but it was surely massive.

British Police ShanghaiFrom 1909, all police force arriving in Shanghai was sent to the Gordon Road Depot for a few months of training before being sent the operation. This was a new organisation, pioneered by the London Metropolitan, opening it’s first depot a year before. The training was close to military training, along with class about the city, police procedures and the Shanghai dialect. Free time as only allowed after diner, until the 1 am curfew. Learning Shanghai dialect was done using “Lessons in Shanghai dialect” by F.L Hawks Pott, president of Saint John University and author of “A short history of Shanghai“. Mastering Shanghainese was essential for promotion as most of the population that the police dealt with did not speak English… nor Mandarine Chinese.

After training, the police officers were sent to various police station around the International Settlement. Wearing the same uniform as in England, the “bobbies” were a familiar sight of Shanghai, with Sihks policemen as subordinates. Although pictures of the later are pretty common, the pictures of English policeman on the Bund is pretty rare.

10 thoughts on “Gordon Road Police Station”

  1. Hugues, it’s a great and well-researched post, as always!! Question: how do you get your hands on the Municipal Gazette – online with a Gale access?

  2. I believe, starting in the early 1930s, the “bobbies” no longer wore the type of hat as seen in the photograph.

    Very interesting account of the training of policemen at theGordon Police station.

  3. Thank you For your great articles. I enjoy very much reading Them ! Thank you and happy holidays from Miami !

  4. Nom de Dieu! Çà c’est de l’enquete ! Bravo. Je me demande bien ou Tu as été pêcher tout ça . Informations de première qualité et super détaillées. Je viens de commander un bouquin sur un sujet proche: Fairnbarn, le créateur des premiers SWAT et techniques de combats au couteau , qu’il a appris dans les bagarres de rue au sein de la Shanghai Municipal Police. Je vais le recevoir bientôt à Paris. Je te le passrai volontiers 🙂

  5. Hi Hugues, thank you for this post. Yes, very interesting ! When here next I hope we can meet for lunch or a coffee!

  6. Hi everybody, just to add some information to the subject of the Gordon Rd police station. My father, now 97, here in Australia, was a member of the SMP in the 1940’s after resigning from the Russian Shanghai Volunteer Corp. I have gathered some assorted photos/information from that time and happy to share if needed. I am pleased to say that some of these photos assisted in the authentic restoration of the current building. Regards, George Krooglik 25.1.2017

  7. My grandfather’s estate was across from a police station in the 1940’s. I’m more curious about locating the estate than the police station, which is described by being “heavily gated, red brick, at least 3 stories tall with a roof top atrium. Walkway connects to servants quarters and kitchens. Another part was my uncle’s medical offices. It was across the street from the police building and the road had tram tracks.” Any info is appreciated, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.