Reviews

The Bill’s final beat – Sun Hill before demolition

Tucked away in an industrial estate amongst car repair shops and builders’ merchants, there’s a Metropolitan police station that’s more famous that most in the capital.

Sun Hill was portrayed on the ITV series the Bill as being in Tower Hamlets, but it was actually filmed in a converted wine warehouse in Morden, south London.

I’ve spent the afternoon with Clive Wedderburn (who played PC Garry McCann in the show in the 1990s) exploring the set where it was filmed for 28 years until the programme was dropped in 2010. For the last two years it’s been used for other programmes such as Silent Witness, but soon owners Wimbledon Studios will demolish it.

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So this was my opportunity to say goodbye to Sun Hill and the Bill, a programme I enjoyed watching in the 1990s but then seemed to lose it’s way (and it’s audience, hence my it was dropped).

What amazed me was how realistic a police station the set is. Yes, there are dummy walls and doors that go nowhere, but by and large everything you saw on the show was actually mocked up. Walking the corridors you really feel like you are in a building owned by the Met – there are posters offering crime prevention advice and requests for information about missing people.

I saw the front office where many a person on the programme was portrayed walking in off the street to report a crime and make a statement. Then there was the custody suite where detainees were registered at the desk before being chucked in the cells or taken to an interview room.

And I saw the CID offices where many a briefing was held when there had been a murder in Sun Hill. And there were other interesting nooks and crannies, with other famous areas like the canteen and CAD room.

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From the outside too it looks like a police station with ‘Sun Hill’ written on a distinctive blue Metropolitan police sign. And on the other side of the complex I saw the area where police cars and detainees were brought in.
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But it isn’t just a police station that was re-created in Morden. There were also a number of wards of the fictional St Hugh’s hospital, complete with a mortuary.

Clive was a great host for the tour, recounting the gruelling schedules that the cast and crew faced, and the production-like process that had to be adopted to get the filming done. He told the story of how he was summoned in front of executive producer when he overslept and missed his start time on set of 7:30am for which he received a warning.

Watching the programme in the 1990s before I headed off to university, I did everything I could not to miss an episode. Before the days of catch-up TV I made sure my video was set if I was going to be out.

I stopped watching the Bill when it tried to become like any other soap – it was no longer simply a police drama, but went into too much detail about characters’ lives.

When the Bill was dropped in 2010, I barely noticed, but it was great today to visit the Sun Hill that I remember so fondly as a school child.

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