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Policing history

191. Martin Baines

A retired Police Inspector from Bradford reopened the infamous old Bradford police station, cells and courts as a museum.

Dr Martin Baines opened the Bradford Police Museum in August after over a year working full time on the project fund raising, sourcing exhibits for the museum and negotiating with the local council and police authority . The museum provides a unique insight into the history and heritage of policing, criminal justice, civic enforcement and the development of crime and punishment in Bradford from the early 19th century onwards. Thanks to Martin’s dedication, over 1,500 people have already visited the museum situated on the site of the original 19th century police station in Bradford’s historical City Hall and it is rapidly becoming a popular tourist attraction in the community.

Martin is a retired Inspector from West Yorkshire Police who was awarded the Queens Police Medal for his work to combat race crime in the city and served the local community for 32 years. Martin has always had an interest in policing and wanted to share the history of the profession with the local community.

Bradford has a proud history of policing firsts – it was the first UK police force to use court photography and taped recorded evidence admissible in court and the first use of fingerprint evidence outside of London. Houdini once escaped from the police cells in front of the Chief Constable of Bradford, where the Police had handcuffed him inside one of the secure police cells naked.

A previous Bradford Police Museum inside the local police HQ was never open to the general public and was eventually demolished in 2006. However, Bradford’s old police parade room, cells and courtroom, located in Bradford’s City Hall between 1874 and 1974, stood empty and Martin masterminded the idea to reopen them as a museum. This new permanent exhibition makes the historic collection available to the general public for the very first time and includes Victorian police truncheons, uniforms and a unique photographic archive covering 150 years of policing in the city.

Martin has spent the last year dedicating thousands of hours together with a team of volunteers including his daughter Natalie who is also an historian to bring the museum to life. Their work has included sourcing the artefacts, painstakingly researching the site and clearing out the cells and courtrooms to restore them to their original state.

Martin galvanised the local community to get involved in supporting the museum, and engaged the help of young and old to get the project off the ground. He also set up the museum as a charitable organisation and was heavily involved in recruiting a board of professionals to run the museum trust. Now the museum is open two days a week and Martin’s hard work to keep the museum sustainable means that thousands of visitors will be able to see a unique piece of social history for themselves.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Thanks to Martin’s passion and personal dedication, Bradford now has a fantastic new tourist attraction which gives visitors a unique insight into the social history of the local area. I’m delighted to name Martin a Point of Light.” 

Martin Baines said:

“I am extremely proud and honoured to be recognised by the Prime Minister David Cameron. I would like to dedicate this award to Natalie and all the other volunteers who have helped to showcase this important piece of Bradford’s history for the benefit of the general public and the people of Bradford”. Martin Baines’ local MP, Philip Davies, said: “Martin’s record speaks volumes for his dedication to public service and building a better community. I am delighted that his hard work, vision and dedication is being recognised in this way. It is very much deserved and Martin’s efforts have earned the pride and admiration of people across the Bradford district.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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