The treasure behind the chicken wire

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a friend entitled: “Embankment Station – Eastbound Platform” – an intriguing subject for an email, I think you’ll agree.* Upon opening it, I was greeted with the following:

‘Get yourself there. A panel has come off, revealing this awesome old map behind it. It features delights such as Aldwych and Holborn Viaduct Stations and describes the Heathrow Terminal 4 station as “under construction”.
It encourages you to “Get to know London”. I missed two trains looking at it and might spend my entire lunch break tomorrow revelling in it once more.’

This photo was attached:

Embankment map Thank you Ollie E for being a fellow TfL Geek.

My brain immediately got to work. Firstly, when was I going to manage a trip to Embankment to see this for myself?? Secondly, how old was the map?

The first question was difficult to answer, given that it’s not a station I often find myself at – but this was definitely worth a separate journey. The second one could be answered, but only with a bit of detective work and logical deduction. Ollie had provided me with some initial clues:
– Heathrow T4 was ‘under construction’.
– Aldwych station was still in use.
– Holborn Viaduct station existed.

Now, anyone who’s been on the Aldwych station tour can tell you that the station ceased to operate in 1994, so it certainly wasn’t older than that. A quick Google revealed that Holborn Viaduct shut in 1990, so we were probably looking at a map from the 1980’s. Wikipedia informed me that Heathrow T4 station opened in 1986, and thus we had a few years in the 1980’s to choose from…

It’s taken two weeks, but today I finally got chance to visit the map myself. The eastbound platform of Embankment station is theoretically on my way home from college, but I’d not taken that route on the first Mondays of term. However, after a meeting there this afternoon, I made a plan to make a brief stop at Embankment before continuing home. In the end, I missed four trains while I pondered the map and my goodness, it was worth it!

Now ‘protected’ by chicken wire (not glamorous!), it was utterly entrancing. No wonder Ollie had missed a couple of trains and been tempted by a return trip. Amongst the features that fascinated me were:

Monument escalator The escalator graphic between Monument & Bank. (Also, the East London Line used to be purple! Presumably that’s from the days when it and the H&C were part of the Met line?)

East LondonThe wonder of East London and Docklands (below) without the DLR. Plus, station names when the docks were still ‘docks’ and not ‘quays’. Oh, and Stepney East? That would now be Limehouse.

Docklands

HeathrowThe aforementioned Heathrow Terminal 4 and also, look how far out west the map goes!

Of course, while this is indeed very interesting, it still didn’t answer the question of the map’s date. [Although, now that I’m thinking about it, most TfL maps have a date on them somewhere. Why did I not choose to look for it??] Another clue lay not in the map, but in the last panel of the platform’s artwork:

Embankment Art

The panels which covered up the map are dated 1985. [Can I just take a moment and decry the artwork at Embankment? I mean honestly! It’s reminiscent of a 1980’s duvet cover! When you think of the amazing designs featured across the network, I feel this station has been let down rather badly. Incidentally, the tiles around the map suggest that the original platform had the classic District Line style, which has unfortunately been obliterated.] And thus, one may conclude that the map was current immediately prior to their installation – somewhere around 1984.

Of course, Ollie and I are not the only ones to have been fascinated by the map (indeed, someone joined me to peer through the wire – but perhaps they were just curious as to what was captivating my attention). This blogpost reveals that the map dates from the introduction of the ‘Capitalcard’ – the Travelcard’s forerunner – an event that took place in 1983. It would appear that my deductions were pretty much spot on.

Here’s hoping that the treasure behind the chicken wire remains visible for a good while longer!

*Non-Londoners may not be aware that currently (and until the end of the year) the only functioning eastbound platform is on the District/Circle Line. Neither the Bakerloo nor Northern stop at the station at the moment.

When Church History & TfL geekery collide

Last week (I am horrendously behind in blogging at the moment, forgive me) I achieved something of a 2014 First – if I was still keeping lists of such things. For the very first time, I had my own byline in the Church Times.

In all the ways thou goest

It had been on the list of ‘hypothetical things to achieve at some point’, and was partly achieved last summer when I was part of the paper’s Greenbelt reporting team. But this was an actual commission, that came about through a random combination of Twitter and a college seminar while in France last autumn.

The article, ‘In all the ways thou goest’, was on the subject of prayer while travelling, in the context of the growth of apps and websites that facilitate praying on the move. It derived some inspiration from friends who regularly pray on their commute, tweeting invitations to share requests with the hashtag #trainprayer.

What actually prompted the commission from the Church Times was a tweet of mine from way back in January, when I’d just finished writing up a hypothetical retreat for London Diocese, based around the concept of retreating on the tube. I’d risen to a challenge from one of my tutors who had speculated as to whether it would even be possible to retreat while on the tube. Surely it’s too busy and too stressful to be a place to meet with God?

For a start, I knew that people did use it for just that purpose day in, day out. Back in my commuting days, I did and saw others clutching Bibles or similar on our morning journey. I also knew that the tube has a lot of religious connections, in terms of station names and the history behind them. Finally, I figured you could use the context as a means of shaping who, what and where you prayed for.

You see most of that in the article, but as I needed to make it whole-of-UK friendly, the tube specific factoids were left out – so I thought I’d share them here instead. That way, next time you feel inclined to pray on the tube, you may want to pray into the history of some of the places on the maps above your head. See, Church History and TfL knowledge comes in handy all over the place!!

[Incidentally, I’m indebted to Morven for going through my copy of What’s in a Name and marking every station that has a religious connection – not the funnest Sunday afternoon activity on a weekend in London, but she learnt lots too!]

Blackfriars – name taken from the colour of the habits worn by the Dominican Friars at a monastery on the site from the 13th Century to 1538 when it was abolished by Henry VIII.

Boston Manor – the ‘Manor’ originally belonged to the convent of St Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Bow Church – named after St Mary Bow Church, which has been a place of worship since the 14th Century.

Camden Town – this area of London was originally a manor belonging to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Canon’s Park – six acres of land were granted to the Prior of the St Augustinian canons of St Bartholomew’s, Smithfield in 1331 & were recorded as ‘Canons’ during the 16th century.

Grange Hill – the Grange was originally one of the manors that belonged to Tilty Priory, until the dissolution of the monasteries.

Highbury & Islington – during the 13th Century, the Priory of St John of Jerusalem had a manor here, which was destroyed in 1381.

Highgate – at the ‘high gate’, tolls were collected from travellers wishing to use the Bishop of London’s road across Hornsey Park to Finchley.

Hornchurch – ancient records (1222) refer to a ‘horned church’ or monastery.

Hyde Park Corner – from 1066-1536, Hyde Park belonged to Westminster Abbey

King’s Cross St Pancras – St Pancras is named for Old St Pancras church. [Which I finally visited last week and is fascinating. It definitely deserves its title of ‘old’!]

Liverpool Street – a priory stood here from 1246-1676.

Mansion House – the station was built on what had been the site of Holy Trinity the Less.

Parson’s Green – named after the area surrounding Fulham’s parsonage.

Plaistow – is derived from the Old English for ‘playing place’ and was where mystery plays were staged.

Preston Road – derived from the Old English for ‘priest’ and ‘farm’. A priest is mentioned as owning land in the area in the Domesday Book.

Ruislip Manor – the area once held a priory dependent upon the Norman Abbey of Bec.

St Paul’s – named after the cathedral, which was first built in the 7th Century.

Upminster – means ‘the church on high land’.

Walthamstow Central – derived from the Old English for ‘welcome’ and ‘holy place’.

Whitechapel – named after the white stone chapel of St Mary Matfelon, which was first built in 1329.

Tube Angel

You see, sometimes, having a geeky interest in the tube comes in very useful!

Adventuring underground at Aldwych

It’s not often that I set an alarm to remind me to book tickets as soon as they go on sale, but when I heard (via Ian Visits) that Aldwych Tours were taking place this summer, it was an opportunity not to be missed. I confess, I booked the tickets during a Monday morning theology lecture, back in February.

Strand StationStrand Station – renamed Aldwych just 8 years after it opened – on the Strand.

Aldwych station is a special place. Closed since 1994, it’s one of the most visible and accessible of all of London’s (many) disused tube stations, largely thanks to it being on a branch line from Holborn that went nowhere else – meaning that trains don’t use it any more. The London Transport Museum runs tours a couple of times a year (as in blocks of tours, there were 3 weeks in this block), but booking is essential. Tickets went fast. Having previously hunted for abandoned stations above ground, I was finally going to explore one underground!

Last Thursday, with fellow geek Jenni in tow, we finally got inside and my goodness, it was worth the wait and the ticket price! [£25 for an adult, which will also give you 50% off entry at the LT museum, which then lasts a year – great deal.] Tours are led by volunteers, i.e. people who know a lot of information about the tube, just for fun. (Suddenly, I can see an activity for my retirement…) And our guides were great, very informative, willing to answer questions and obviously very passionate about their role.

There is SO much to say about the tour, but I don’t really want to spoil too much of it, because you really ought to go yourselves. Therefore, what follows are simply highlights…

1) Things are not always what they seem:

Fake PosterThe poster on the right is a classic LT poster, but this isn’t as old as it might look – it’s a replica from this century. 

Bakerloo Line SignThe Bakerloo Line has never passed through Aldwych Station (although the reason behind its renaming was owing to confusion to the nearby Strand station that eventually formed part of Charing Cross, which is on the Bakerloo Line). This is a left-over from one of Aldwych’s frequent film roles, this time for Mr Selfridge. 

2) The station was never particularly useful, to the extent that its second platform was never completely finished, nor were passageways between the two. Trains only ran between Holborn and Aldwych (not onwards), meaning that the line had very limited use. Apparently as a train was leaving Holborn, a bell would be rung alerting the lift manager at Aldwych to begin the journey down to platform level to pick up the tiny number of passengers that would be alighting.

Platform 2

The second platform instead found a use as a safe place to store national treasures during WW2 (including the Elgin Marbles), with the rest of the station used as an air raid shelter. Today, the platform has become an ideal place to test new tile patterns or materials used in tube infrastructure.

Piccadilly Line tile trialThe Piccadilly Line’s tiles in trial form.

3) It’s the little things that make a difference. Like an original 1907 sink & tap in the ladies’ toilets [a tube station with toilets!], and the iron work on the lift numbers.

1907 taps & sink

Lift 2

4)  Ultimately, it’s pretty cool to find yourself somewhere not everyone’s going to get to go!

Aldwych Platform 1Looking down platform 1.

Station Closed

Happy Geeks Happy geeks!

Oh, and, at the end of the tour you get handed a booklet chronicling the history of the station – just so you can check up on any facts you might have misheard.

More photos can be found on Flickr.

Friday Fun returns

Excuses: Easter, holiday, essays, deadlines, colds…
But never mind the excuses, there is fun for Friday! [Except that I managed to forget to press ‘publish’ on this, having written most of it a week last Tuesday, so here it is a week late!!]

It may only have been a four day week , but I’m sure fun would be much appreciated!

Firstly, transport related fun:
A French architect has made it his mission to make all transit maps look the same – the idea being that if they use the same design, they’re easier to follow if you’re not a local. Nice idea, but it does destroy the beauty of London’s map:

London tube map restyled

Abandoned stations are always fun, even when they’re not in London. Take these examples from Barcelona – complete with the story of how the photos came to be taken; what the history of the stations is; and what has happened in their abandoned platforms and tunnels ever since. Hunting out abandoned stations can be an extreme pursuit and not necessarily legal…

Barcelona Abandoned Station 1

Next, another of those nerdy projects involving the mapping of data. Gosh I love pretty data mapping! This time, it’s a visualisation of the most popular rush hour destinations (and the relationships with the journey’s origin) via Oyster card data:

oysterpeak

It’s another project from UCL, and the researcher’s blog allows you to switch from annotated to non-annotated versions of the map. (Plus, a detailed explanation of how they did it for those that are interested!)

Secondly, animal and food related fun:
Who doesn’t want to see a tiny hamster eating a tiny burrito? [Warning: you will have severe burrito cravings having watched this, especially if you haven’t eaten lunch yet.]

(A tiny hamster eating pizza video has recently appeared, but I think the burrito one is superior.)

Thirdly, amusing children:
It’s always interesting to observe children’s reactions to things – especially to things of the past (or perhaps that’s just because I’m a history geek?). A recent joyful discovery has been the “Kids react to…” series on YouTube. The premise is simple: a group of kids (ranging in age from pre-schoolers to teenagers) are given an object or shown a video and their reactions are filmed. I discovered it via “Kids react to a Walkman” – in turns hilarious and terrifying as children try to work out not just how it works but what on earth it does in the first place.

Similarly, “Kids react to a rotary phone” was jointly painful and funny. There’s a whole wealth of these videos, including specific “Teens react…” and “Elders react…” series. A lot of time-wasting opportunities there!

Hopefully a more regular blogging service will resume next week as, after tomorrow, I will have completed ALL of the work needed for my Vicar School degree! Freedom!!