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Founder of Brighton's Old Police Cells Museum honoured

Sussex Police joined dignitaries and community leaders at the Old Police Cells Museum on Saturday (May 8) to honour its founder, Pat Drake.

Pat led a team of retired and serving police officers, alongside an army of volunteers, to set up the museum during her time as Mayor of Brighton and Hove in 2005.

Clearing and preserving the old police cells under Brighton Town Hall in Bartholomew Square had been the dream of her husband, Brighton councillor and Scotland Yard solicitor John Drake, who sadly passed away before he could see his vision through.

With the backing of dozens of volunteers, including serving and retired officers, Pat raised thousands of pounds of funding and salvaged the basement cells ready for public viewing.

The Old Police Cells Museum officially opened on May 4, 2005, showcasing and preserving the 13 Victorian-era police cells and a huge number of rare and fascinating police artefacts and memorabilia.


On Saturday, Sussex Police Chief Constable Jo Shiner presented Pat with a certificate recognising her outstanding contribution to Sussex Police through her work at the museum.

In her 16 years of service, Pat brought about important changes that safeguarded the long-term future of the attraction, including securing start-up lottery funding, the employment of its first curator, its transition to a charitable incorporated organisation and most recently the prestigious award of the Arts Council of England as a fully accredited museum.

She had also served as the first female chair of the then-Sussex Police Authority in 1989/90 during her 40 years as a councillor.

Pat said: “I’m very proud of what we’ve managed to achieve. It was a seven-day-a-week job and extremely hard work, but it was a group effort from so many people.

“I did it for my husband, who hadn’t been able to achieve it, but it was a great help to me as well after his passing because when you lose your partner you tend to become rather retiring.

“Through the work I’d done with the police beforehand, along with my husband, I felt the public and police were drifting apart.

“I wanted to do something that would bring them back together, which is why it was terribly important to start the museum when we did. And I think we’ve achieved that.”

Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: “Since the museum’s inception, Pat’s inspirational leadership and tireless commitment has taken it from strength to strength, inspiring so many vibrant volunteers - past and present - and creating the marvellous collection that now attracts thousands of visitors a year.

“Thanks to the relentless passion and energy that Pat has invested in the Old Police Cells Museum, it now not only showcases a truly fascinating insight into policing past, but inspires policing of the future through the many Sussex schools that attend via its educational programme. It also illustrates the important relationship between policing and society today.

“Generations of Sussex Police officers and staff are indebted to Pat for the vision she held, realised and delivered in the Old Police Cells Museum, safeguarding the heritage and telling the story of policing in Sussex for years to come.”   

Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “An organisation without knowledge of its past history or culture is like a tree without roots. Without doubt, Pat’s vision and innovation has enabled the Old Police Cells Museum to become what it is today and her foresight has ensured that it will live on as a unique and valuable curation of Sussex Police history.

“Thanks to Pat, residents and visitors to our county now have the luxury of being able to step into a time portal that educates, inspires and entertains.

“My very best wishes go with Pat in her retirement and I would like to extend a huge thank you, on behalf of the residents of Sussex, for founding such a fascinating museum that leaves an indelible impression on all who visit.”

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