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TFL's Lost Property Office (LPO)
200 Baker Street
W1 London
+44 (0) 845 330 9882
www.tfl.gov.uk/LPO

Opening times: Mon-Fri 8.30am - 4pm

Admission: On request

London's Lost Property Office

Walking back from a visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, I accidentally discover TFL's Lost Property Office (LPO), just around the corner on Baker Street.

Feeling like a detective, I venture in further, beyond the plain front office door, through to a huge treasure chest of bizarre items, just waiting to be reunited with their owners.

A puffer fish, human skulls, breast implants and a coffin are just some of the weird items from the collection, left behind by members of the public on London's transport system.

Deep underneath Baker Street Station, the LPO has been open since 1933. It collects, safeguards and returns lost items, not just found on the tube, but on buses, the DLR, at Victoria Coach station and in the city's black cabs. 

I find that the LPO is highly organised. It's a good thing too - they receive around 600 forgotten items every day! A total of 39 permanent staff is needed to man the phones, work front-of-house and sort new arrivals. There is also a dedicated fleet of drivers that collects the transport network's forgotten gems five days a week.

A staggering 207,000 items have been handed in to the LPO in the past year - the highest number in its 78-year history. Books and bags top the list of forgotten items.

Times and lost property change

More than anything else I see how the LPO stands as a testament to how much times have changed. In the 1960s, the most popular thing to lose was an umbrella - nearly 90,000 of them made their way to the LPO every year.

The number of umbrellas handed in today is around 7,000. Back in the old days, the office would also receive cartons full of fashionable gloves, pretty unheard of these days.

But one thing that hasn't changed, is the ability of Londoners to lose anything, irrespective of its size, shape and worth.

So where do people lose the most items? My guess turned out to be right: the Piccadilly line is the treasure trove of lost property, thanks to Heathrow Airport on its one end.

Reuniting using 'Sherlock'

The LPO takes pride in its proximity to the famous sleuth, even naming their computer system to log all the items as 'Sherlock.' And most of the times, the staff try to use their own detective skills to reunite lost items with their owners.

Sandheep Dhillon, the LPO's Press Officer, remembers that the office managed to track down the next of kin for two urns of ashes that had been in the LPO for years, even though the clues were limited to the urns' inscriptions.

"Reuniting two urns of ashes with the families who had lost them was particularly heart-warming - it was very emotional for all of us," he tells me.

Of all the items, a set of false limbs, teeth and eyes takes the cake. There is also a pair of crutches, which makes you wonder how that person completed his journey!

Our friends from the world of animals and birds end up here too. I see a gorilla suit – apparently lost after the Great Gorilla Race - a stuffed eagle, a huge four-feet teddy bear and a jar of bull sperm.

Julie Haley, the Lost Property Office Manager sums it up for me: 'I know some people think if they've lost something on public transport they'll never get it back but I'd like to encourage them to give us a call.

You never know - we might just have it here, and 'Sherlock' will help us find it."

Preethi Ramamoorthy