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Thursday, June 15, 2006

London Underground Tiles

Tiles at Regent's Park Tube Station - taken by James PettsEdwardian Tube Tiles

With all the recent talk of stations being closed to refurbishment, James Petts emailed me saying that he hoped that when Regent's Park is refurbished "they will not be replacing all the historical original brown and yellow tiles with entirely anachronistic white ones, as they are doing in Elephant and Castle." He kindly took some pictures (left & below) to show what the station currently looks like.

Hopefully the tiles will be preserved, but you never can tell. This reminded me that Matt from Londonist had told me Doug Rose was on a mission to make sure that the tiles were preserved - well virtually at least.

Regent's Park Tiles - taken by James Petts

Apparently "London has been the home of the largest, most extensive decorative tiling project ever undertaken in Britain"....."The tiling of over 90 tube platforms, and associated passageways, staircases and surface-level booking halls, probably amounted to the largest single creation of decorative art on public display anywhere - and arguably the longest and thinnest art gallery in the world."

If you pop over to Doug's fascinating site you will see how owners of deep level stations from the 1890s faced the problem of maximising the light in their gloomily gaslit platforms.

"Platform walls were tiled to over the height of a man and were up to 350 feet long - in all some six miles long. For some years, station modernisation has meant that more and more of these polychrome decorations have disappeared for ever. Now only a minority of the stations give any idea of their original splendour."

Tottenham Court Road Station - Copyright Doug Rose

"Several stations had been renamed since they opened and these usually had their former name panels painted over. Over the 20-year project, numerous of these were targeted over night. Paint stripper was used, as seen here on the Northern Line's Tottenham Court Road station. The original name, Oxford Street, had been covered up since 1908."


Doug continues "For the last quarter of a century, diligent and punctilious work has captured them, sometimes only days ahead of their disappearance. Some of them have been assembled here, so that the dramatic effect can be appreciated in full, as never before......aided by a few others sharing this interest, a systematic programme of surveying and research was carried out to try and re-create what all those platforms had looked like from the day they had opened.."

So please visit Doug's site and you will see the re-creations of stations, where you can scroll along the whole length of the platform and get a feel of what passengers would have seen back in 1906/7.

If some of you think Doug's name sounds familiar, he's the man who bought us "The London Underground: A diagrammatic history" - the excellent Tube map which shows exactly when every line (and segment of line) and every station was opened, any subsequent closures, and all the changes in station names.

However, this current tiling project will be in hardback form soon with "158 drawings and plans all specially produced and 236 photographs, almost all previously unpublished".


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