Scotland Yard is the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police.
History of the site
The Metropolitan police itself was founded by Sir Robert Peel in 1829 to police all of London, apart from the City. He put two Commisioners in charge of it, Richard Mayne and Colonel Charles Rowan. These two guys live together, at 4 Whitehall Place. To make life easy for themselves, they set up a Police Station at the end of their garden. This became the HQ for the whole service.
By the 1880s the Yard (as it's called by its friends) had expanded to cover most of the houses in the area, together with assorted stables, warehouses and the like.
In 1890, a new headquarters was built on the Victoria Embankment, designed by the architect Richard Norman Shaw. As is often the habit with relocations (like Madison Square Gardens), the new office kept its name, becoming New Scotland Yard. Despite yet another relocation, in 1967, it retains that name today.
Nobody is quite sure why Scotland Yard is so called. It usually confuses non-British people, who make the obvious assumption that Scotland Yard has something to do with policing Scotland -- something completely untrue, as Scotland has a different legal system to England and Wales. What we are fairly sure of is that the square which Whitehall Place opened out into was known as Great Scotland Yard. There may also have been Middle and Little Scotland Yards too. Suggestions where this name come from include:
Inigo Jones, Christopher Wren, and John Milton are all said to have lived on this site.
Bits and bobs
Scotland Yard today is also the headquarters of some of the more interesting parts of the Police Force, such as Special Branch, the Anti-terrorism division, and Diplomatic Protection. It is also the site of the imfamous Black Museum. Oh, and it's got a funky 3-faced sign that rotates on a pole outside.
The address of Scotland Yard is:
New Scotland Yard
Telephone: +(44) 20 7230 1212