home | recruitment | your right to information | crimes | contacts | ask the met | news | local info | about the met | young people | sitemap

Black Marias

'Black Maria' was the nickname for secure police vans with separate locked cubicles, used for the transportation of prisoners. The name is said to have come from a large and powerful black lodging-house keeper named Maria Lee, who helped constables of Boston, Massachusetts in the 1830s when they needed to escort drunks to the cells.

drawing of an early horse drawn prison van

Early Horse Drawn Prison Van

The Met's first vehicle of any kind was a Black Maria drawn by two dray horses, acquired in 1858. Within 30 years the number had increased to eight, and a special area in the yard of Bow Street Police Court was reserved for them to load and unload their charges.