Designer London

Keep your eyes and ears open around London and you discover beautiful, fascinating things. Like on Sunday night, while walking from the pub to the tube after the classic Sunday evening post-church socialising, when a friend pointed out something interesting on a lamppost.

Yes, on a lamppost. It seems that the person who lit the Marylebone area of Westminster wanted to make a tribute to a certain designer. Guess who:

Yup, Coco Chanel. Legend has it that the second Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, was so smitten by the designer when they met at a party in Monte Carlo in 1925, that he ordered all the lampposts in Westminster to be adorned with her initials. (The ‘W’ on the other side is part of his crest.) Apparently she turned down his marriage proposal with the words: “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster, there is only one Chanel” Youch.

It’s a great story and makes for interesting street architecture, so I will ignore a recent quote from Westminster Council that states: “Periodically, we get calls from the fashion press asking if the double C’s on our lampposts stand for Coco Chanel. It’s a nice idea, but no… The fancy W stands for Westminster and the two C’s stand for City Council. The lampposts didn’t actually get installed until the 1950s.”

I love London’s designer quirks and nowhere are they more evident than on London Transport, which gives me a nice lead in to a nerdy confession (yes, another one).

The week before last my sister spontaneously came to town and we rather predictably ended up at the London Transport Museum shop – a place which draws geeks like a moth to a flame. I initially got very excited at the prospect of owning genuine Line Status magnets – the signs that informed passengers of any part-suspensions, delays or closures. Until recently these were magnets on a board updated by staff, now they’re (sadly) electronic screens. But with these you could make your own version on the door of your fridge!

What they really need to do to make the nerds happy is also sell the boards that these were stuck to, but on a white fridge, with coloured marker pens, you could probably do a good job of creating your own. (I didn’t actually buy them, but if anyone wants to give me a gift…) 

You think that’s geeky? Just wait…

The book section is truly dangerous – after all, it’s where the nerdiest book in the world was purchased. I may now be developing a whole shelf of very nerdy books. Mim spotted a special offer that really couldn’t be resisted. If you bought The Story of London’s Underground (a gorgeous hardback full of tidbits of information and pictures) you got The Jubilee Line Extension free. It was £50-worth of geektastic reading for £25 – how could I resist?! The latter book is especially geeky, as it concentrates mostly on the architecture and engineering of the extension (I know two people at least who’ll be reading this and desperate to borrow it…) and is also about the bit of the tube I use the most.

To illustrate the point I was making yesterday about living ‘in the middle of nowhere’, here’s what it says about the new station built in Bermondsey: 
“Bermondsey Station is, in contrast [to Westminster & Canary Wharf], located in an unfashionable quarter of South London, far off the tourist trail.” 
“At street level, the station provides a welcoming refuge from heavy traffic – there is no attempt at a defensive look despite the harsh location.”

Point is though, that there is beauty even in the most unlikely of places – the middle of unfashionable Bermondsey and on a lamppost in literary Marylebone.


  1. I LOVE the London Transport Museum. Husband and I took our children there on the very day we told them we were moving to Bangkok. We bought two tea towels with the underground map on them just in case we forgot….

    Oh dear. I am sad.

    (You’re right – the books are brilliant in there too.)

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