The Policeman Grotesque – Carlisle, England - Atlas Obscura

The Policeman Grotesque

Carlisle, England

A stone copper was sculpted on the wall of the Carlisle Cathedral to honor a local hero. 


Water-spewing gargoyles and their cosmetic, tight-lipped cousins, grotesques, come in all shapes and sizes. But there probably aren’t too many that are shaped like cops. The United Kingdom’s Carlisle Cathedral has just that: a monument to an officer who died in the line of duty and is now standing guard for the life of the church. 

Founded in the 12th century by King Henry I, Carlisle’s Cathedral has seen almost 1,000 years of worship and war with the constantly shifting allegiances of the border city in which it is found. The fabric of the building has changed constantly, but one of the more idiosyncratically 20th century additions is one of the most unusual. Nestled high on the south-facing outer wall, amongst the more traditional stone faces of medieval-looking gargoyles and grotesques is the face of a British copper. Specifically, PC George Russell, complete with policeman’s helmet and star badge.

On February 10th, 1965 PC George Russell and his colleagues were involved in an altercation with a car thief at Oxenholme Station in the Lake District. The thief was armed with a pistol, and PC Russell lost his life in the skirmish; he was buried in Carlisle and his sacrifice was commemorated by this unique amendment to the fabric of the city’s cathedral.

It is a strange monument to a municipal hero, to be included among the other gruesome stone monsters on the walls of a church, but it is one of the most unique of its kind, allowing it to stand out from the pack in terms of police memorials. PC Russell is also honored by a plaque at the Oxenholme rail station itself. 

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