Battle Bus Project 2016: Young Volunteers

During 2016 the Battle Bus community learning programme has worked with three amazing teams of young volunteers to co-curate an exhibition called From Tottenham to the trenches. These young volunteers consisted of a research team, an exhibition team and an outreach team who all had different roles to play in bringing together the exhibition.

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The project began in February with a group of 10 young research volunteers who were students recruited from universities across London. They were tasked with uncovering First World War stories linked to the events of 1916, the B-type bus, and Tottenham. Working alongside Rebecca Hatchett from S.I.D.E Projects, they met with museum professionals and First World War experts, delved into archives and went on field trips to piece together all the information needed to create content for the exhibition. You can read more about what they got up to on their blog here.

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This research was then passed on to eight Year 9 students at Northumberland Park Community School, who took on the role of exhibition volunteers. During weekly sessions with Rebecca and the Battle Bus Apprentice, Lamare, they creatively explored the research. They looked at why young men may have signed up to fight, the Battle of the Somme and the role that London buses played on the Western Front. Working with filmmaker Mmoloki Chrystie they used shadow puppets, drama and photography to produce images and a short creative film for the exhibition. You can watch their film here.

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The students also went on a bespoke three-day Battlefield tour to Belgium and France. They visited sites that had links to Tottenham and the buses, and learnt more about the Battle of the Somme and the Western Front.  The students paid their respects at the grave of William George Ely, a young soldier from Walthamstow whose story features in the exhibition. A film was made for the exhibition which documents their experience. You can watch it here.

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Then over the summer five young outreach volunteers worked alongside a spoken word artist, Mr Gee, to create original poems, responding to stories in the exhibition that they felt emotionally or personally attached to. Their work covered the ideas of home, memory, courage and conflict. As well as the poems featuring in the exhibition, they were also performed by the volunteers at exhibition launch events at London Transport Museum and Bruce Castle Museum.

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All the hard work and enthusiasm of the three teams of young volunteers culminated in the creation of the exhibition, From Tottenham to the trenches. It tells the story of London buses and the lives of young men from Tottenham who were affected by the First World War. It also marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. We invite you to visit the exhibition, which is on display at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham until Sunday 26 March 2017.

Many thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum Friends for funding the Battle Bus Project. Also many thanks to Tottenham Grammar School Foundation and the Friends for funding the Battlefield Tour.

Hidden London tours are back for 2017

You’ll be pleased to read that Hidden London tours are back (on sale Wednesday 23rd November) but they sell out fast! As a regular visitor to these, I recommend that to get the best chance of the ticket you want, sign up to the London Transport Museum Newsletter (by 23:59 on Monday 21 November 2016) to get advance booking.

The ticket prices just about cover the costs of running what is a complex operation in logistics, safety and customer experience. So that some of it is accessible to all, the closest thing I can do is to take a lot of photos and share them: so below are some from my recent trips to Clapham South Tunnels and to Euston Tunnels too. I’ll be popping to a few next season and sharing the experience on this blog.

Down Street station

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Tiled signage in long lost corridors
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Signs of its use as a WW2 control room
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Gloomy, echoing tunnels beneath the streets with a distant rumble of trains
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You’ll feel trains scream past you on your way to some parts of the site

Clapham South Shelters

This one is less grubby  but no less interesting… miles of fascinating tunnels used for different purposes at different times. The expert guides will take you through the story of these tunnels and their future.

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Every wondered what this large tiled cylinder embedded in the front of this Clapham housing block is? You’ll find out: it’s part of the tour.
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Expert guides are on hand throughout (and they really are delightedly devoted experts)
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So much signage. So much to research later!

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And finally for now, a single snap of the Euston Tunnels. A specific photo tour is being organised for those who’d like to linger longer.

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These British Rail posters (and a British Railways poster of the late, lamented, Midland Pullman) date from 1965: given that the BR logo had just come into service that year and the station tunnels here closed soon after, they could only have been seen for a few short months. Just along the wall are posters for contemporary films like Psycho. Apt, down there…

Don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter!

Frank Pick: BEAUTY < IMMORTALITY

Frank Pick died 75 years ago this week. You’ll know his work; you’ll know his style. Your life is probably better because of him.

Arriving at the Undergound Group from a stint at the North Eastrn Railway at York in 1906, he was made Commercial Manager in 1912. First came pressing matters of fare structures, network consistency and development of some of the earliest travel posters; and by 1915 Pick had commissioned Edward Johnston to create a new, easily legible typeface. Upon that design’s completion he commissioned Johnston again: this time it was to redesign the early “bullseye” station nameboard device – and it became something more akin to the “roundel” we know today.

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Pick and a few of the works he can claim a hand in

It could be said that by 1916 Pick had already become a patron of public works, commissioning a visual identity that is known and trusted worldwide today still. Pick’s philosophy on design was that “the test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use. If it fails on this first test, no amount of ornamentation or finish will make it any better; it will only make it more expensive, more foolish.”

Charles Holden was his next great appointment. The contract for seven new stations on the Piccadilly Line extension to Morden was Holden’s proving ground from 1925: Piccadilly Circus, also a Holden creation, opened in 1928. A showpiece for the Underground, it was lavishly decorated and many early features survive today including wood panelling, integrated lighting and the famous World Clock.

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The World Time Today clock in Piccadilly Circus station. Photo: Tim Dunn

As of the 75th anniversary of Pick’s death, 7th November 2016, Piccadilly Circus, that hub of London’s buzzing underground network, is now also home to the permanent Frank Pick memorial. The memorial has been installed on the outer wall of the booking hall, where telephone kiosks once stood.

Another 30 Holden-designed stations followed the development of Piccadilly Circus (in my next blog, we’ll be revisiting some of Pick and Holden’s work). Posters were commissioned from Man Ray, Paul Nash and others; Marion Dorn was briefed to create stunning seat fabrics which still stand the test of time.

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Southgate station: designed by Holden, commissioned by Pick. It opened in 1933. Photo: London Transport Museum collection.
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Marion Dorn’s “Colindale” seat fabric moquette

Pick was a customer champion. He believed that London and London’s transport should be better, and that it could be better. Having commissioned, briefed and ensured so much that went towards achieving that aim, he later became chairman of the Council for Art and Industry (forerunner of the Design Council) in 1934, and an honorary associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

You can read more about his life and selected achievements on the main London Transport Museum website. But if you, like me, occasionally stop on your travels around London’s Underground and  wonder at the great works of a true visionary, perhaps you might like to contribute towards the Frank Pick memorial too.

You can donate here.

Archive Architecture: Enfield West (now Oakwood)

I’ve dug out a few photos from the London Transport Museum archives so we can have a tour of Enfield West (now Oakwood) Underground station on the Southgate extension of the Piccadilly line, in 1933 – at the time of opening.

We have taken the train today, and we start our architectural tour on the platforms just as our train departs. The station was designed by Charles Holden and C H James in 1933, and our train is quite new too. Concrete shelters for the platforms are supported by concrete pillars, and wooden bench seating has been incorporated into the pillars supporting the shelter.

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Screens shelter the ends of the benches and a poster has been incorporated on the side of the nearest one. The lighting and a clock are attached to the ceiling of the shelters. Photographed by Topical Press, Apr 1933

Looking further down the platforms, now we see:

View of the end of the platform showing a combined station name roundel, lamppost and poster panels, a signal (no K. 10) and the track and surrounding countryside. Photographed by Topical Press, Jul 1934

Those integrated lamp-posts and poster display boards were quite extraordinary, and similar ones were found throughout the Southgate extension. There were a couple of variants.

View along the platform from the edge of the Northbound side beyond the concrete canopy, with a stationary train at the Southbound side. The station building is in the background, whilst one of the combined lamppost, station name roundel sign and poster sites panel is in the foreground. The platform is clean and empty, with one waiting passenger visible in the background. Photographed by Topical Press, 10 Apr 1933.

The platform panels aren’t the only minutiae of note, though.

Platform seat, Southgate Urban District Council (UDC) coat-of-arms, and partially obscured station name roundel at Enfield West (Oakwood) (now Oakwood) station, Piccadilly line. In the background is a poster advertising Oxo. The Southgate UDC coat -of-arms bears the motto “Ex Glande Quercus”. Photographed by Topical Press, Aug 1934

Upstairs, the booking hall is glorious in both day…

View of the booking hall. View shows the interior of the high box type structure designed by Charles Holden and C H James. Brick building with concrete roof. Full height steel windows are prominent; note roundel incorporated into window on right. A passimeter stands in the middle of the concourse; two automatic ticket machines can be seen in rear view next to the passimeter. A tobacconist’s is situated on the right of the shot. Photographed by Topical Press, 23 Mar 1933

But particularly at night…

Night shot of booking hall showing clearly box-like structure, with brick walls, full height windows, and concrete coffered ceiling. A passenger is purchasing a ticket from the clerk in an illuminated passimeter. Photographed by Topical Press, 28 Apr 1933

Moving out towards the street, we look back:

A tobacconist’s shop is situated beside entrance, foreground left. A passimeter and two automatic ticket machines can be seen on the concourse. Photographed by Topical Press, 23 Mar 1933
Enfield West station on the Piccadilly Line. (now known as Oakwood). Shelter, mast sign and light fittings. Photographed by Topical Press, May 1933

That light tower was quite something: Holden did like light fittings integrated with other things.

Closeup of Enfield West station on the Piccadilly Line. (now known as Oakwood) shelter and mast sign. Photographed by Topical Press, May 1933

And bringing us right up to date, you’ll be pleased to know that not only is Oakwood station still very well preserved, but that mast sign with light tower is too.

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Refurbished seat and station sign with lamps. The original sign had the actual name of the station, but was replaced a few years ago with this standard Underground sign. The edge of the Oakwood Station building can be seen on the right. Pic by Christine Matthews on Wikipedia, reproduced under Creative Commons best practice.

Further reading and image link for Wikipedia.

Thanks for coming on this archive tour: I’ll dig out another one soon!

Tim Dunn

Every picture tells a story – the TOT Alphabet

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As we continue to remember the First World War 100 years ago and think about the men recruited from London’s transport workers who fought in it, we have an opportunity to take a closer look at some of the less well-known objects in the Museum’s collection connected to this human story. One such item is An alphabet of TOT produced by the TOT Mutual Aid Fund at the end of 1915 (TOT stood for Train, Omnibus, Tram) which is in our library collection.

At the start of the war the TOT Mutual Aid Fund was set up to support the struggling families of men from the bus, rail and tram companies who were serving in France and elsewhere. The alphabet was one of many fund-raising initiatives undertaken by the organisers.

At first sight, this book intended for small children seems nothing out of the ordinary. Closer inspection though reveals a lot more. The beautifully crafted illustrations, inspired by public transport and drawn by the well-known poster artist Charles Pears, reveal a wealth of intriguing details about London’s public transport at a time of transition between old and new.

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I have a favourite letter myself – ‘O’ for otter. This illustration tells several stories. The image shows a stuffed otter in a glass case being admired by a lady and her enthusiastic young companion. The text reads ‘O the ozone which improves ventilation. And also the Otter at Mansion House station.’

Ozone was quite a new thing in 1915, used as part of attempts to improve air quality on the Underground. Ventilating plants could inject 60,000 cubic feet of fresh air into tunnels and passages every minute. Before pumping, the air was cleansed of impurities, mixed with ozone and brought to the correct humidity. The motion of passing trains then circulated the air into the lower passages.

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Exhibition at Mansion House station of stuffed animals including several owls and a female otter, c1925

The inscription on the otter’s case in the drawing is indecipherable in the drawing, but we know the picture is a true representation, because we have a photograph to prove it. The photograph is of an exhibition of stuffed animals (including several owls and the otter) caught on Underground property. These were then displayed on the platform at Mansion House station. The picture shows the otter in its case and when the image is enlarged, you can clearly see the plaque says ‘Female otter caught at Acton Town station 4 April 1911’. The exhibition moved to Charing Cross (now Embankment) Underground station in 1929.

The illustrations for all the other letters in the Alphabet have similarly interesting historical details in them, so in 2015 we produced a facsimile of this alphabet as part of the Museum’s commemorative activities marking the centenary of the First World War. Illustrated alphabets have always offered a great way to encourage lively discussion between young and old whilst children learn their letters, and this example is no exception. For older readers interested in London’s transport history the detailed pictures provide hours of pleasurable scrutiny.

Get the book

You can buy a copy of this limited edition publication and support the Museum’s charitable objectives by going to our online shop or visiting the Museum shop in Covent Garden.

Written by Caroline Warhurst, Information Services Manager

London’s other Underground Mail Rail

Our friends at the Postal Museum are working hard to prepare a section of the Post Office Mail Rail at Mount Pleasant for passenger rides in 2017: previously it famously carried post and parcels beneath London on electrified narrow gauge tracks.

But what is lesser known is that for a short while, London’s Underground was also used for the delivery of parcels.

In the years leading up to the First World War, the Central London Railway (CLR, now Central line) ran a parcels delivery service known as the Lightning Service Express. This originated at Post Office station (now St. Paul’s) where the General Post Office was situated.

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Wicker hampers, as seen in the photo above, were used to convey parcels between the surface and the platform. The parcels were then whisked off to other stations along the line and then taken by young employees on tricycles or on a horse and cart to their final destinations, depending on size, distance or importance. The rolling stock used was the day-to-day 1903-Central London multiple unit tube stock, but rather incredibly from 1911 there was a  compartment built in aboard for a parcels porter to sort the mail as the train went along. That made it rather like a localised version of the Night Mail and Royal Mail Trains which operated on the main line railways above ground.

According to 20th Century London, the Lightning Service Express was a profitable side-enterprise but was discontinued because of labour shortages in the First World War – and it never resumed.

It’s interesting to note that TfL has more recently forged partnerships with parcel collection and delivery companies, so the Underground is once again being used as infrastructure in Britain’s mail distribution network.

London’s transport that never was: Moquette

The journey, it is said, is often as important as the destination. I’m a transport historian, so naturally I agree (and I do enjoy a good diversion): the processes, experiences, pauses, stops and occasional wrong-turns in any journey are crucial in defining where we actually end up.

Deep in London Transport Museum’s archives there are a lot of places where designers, engineers, marketers, operators or technicians paused, noted down their ideas, and then either retreated or took that idea further forward.

These places where people paused are fascinating, because that’s documentary evidence of something that didn’t quite make it in that format, or that style, or in that way. It’s a depiction of something we never saw fulfilled. What might have been is often more interesting than what actually was. The reasons for failure are often more telling than the reasons for success.

A great example of the design process (not necessarily failure, but a different direction that was taken) is on display now in the London Transport Museum Designology exhibition. It’s the “Barman” moquette, where on the wall are examples of London’s Underground moquette that never quite made it into the public realm.

The namesake of this moquette is Christian Barman: as London Transport’s publicity manager he commissioned the first moquette fabrics for London’s Underground in 1936 and it was felt apt to commemorate his impact upon today’s travelling experience. The “Barman” fabric was created in 2010 by textile design studio WallaceSewell, comprising the talents of Emma Sewell and Harriet Wallace-Jones.

Here to enjoy are some of the designers’ pauses, developments and explorations: and of course some of the moquette designs that never quite made it on to the Underground network…

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A draft “Barman” moquette by WallaceSewell
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An alternative draft “Barman” moquette by WallaceSewell
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Developments of the “Barman” moquette by WallaceSewell

If you, like me, enjoy seeing unbuilt, non-constructed, never-was design, then the Designology exhibition is an ace place to start to understand what could have been, and what we now have.

Avoid the wet: travel Underground

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It’s raining again.

But we’ve needed to get around London whatever the weather since time immemorial, and the Underground saw this as a selling point early on. The Underground Electric Railway Company Ltd was a master of identifying its customers’ needs in publicity: in 1925 it commissioned Kathleen Stenning to produce a series of simple but striking panel posters. These were displayed in Underground car interiors, as well as on the inside and outside of buses and trams. Because they did not have to fit a standard frame or wall space, they are smaller than other poster formats and vary slightly in size.

Incidentally, you can buy this poster online at the London Transport Museum Shop.

Neon tube roundels at Southwark

To coincide with the opening of the new Tate Modern extension on 17 June, Art on the Underground and Tate Modern commissioned artist Michael Craig-Martin to design a “reimagined” London Underground roundel at Southwark station.

The roundel is pretty funky: I skipped down there this morning and quite a number of commuters on the platforms seemed to notice that something wasn’t as per normal, although your correspondent was (unsurprisingly) the only one taking photographs and that act seemed to cause more interest than the roundel itself. It is, however, only temporary: it will be taken down and replaced by the standard Southwark station roundels at the end of this weekend.

What makes this roundel interesting is its rarity: whilst there are several replicated along the platform walls, experimenting with the icon that is the London Underground roundel is not something that is sanctioned often. Since introduction in 1908 (and there is a full history of its design story here) there have been design tweaks in its gradual evolution, but it’s rare to find vastly different variations, especially at platform level.

I’ve dug out a few that I’ve seen: if you know of other intriguing ones, do get in touch with the team on Facebook or Twitter.

Experimental tube roundel at Oxford Circus on the Victoria Line, 1972.
An experimental version of an illuminated station name sign for Oxford Circus on the Victoria Line. The central area of the roundel is coloured yellow in this version, and was not taken forward into further production. (Unknown photographer, 1972 Image no: 600-15-6 Inventory no: 2002/910)

 

Early solid disc roundel, Covent Garden station
Early solid disc roundel, Covent Garden station (Photographed by Hugh Robertson, 2000 Location: Westminster WC2 Image no: 600-15-5 Inventory no: 2002/17777)
Moorgate Metropolitan Railway Tube Station Roundel
From mid-1914, the Metropolitan Railway introduced its own version of the Underground roundel. This originally appeared as a blue station name plate across a red diamond. This replica is one of several installed at Moorgate for the “Tube 150” celebrations in 2013. (Picture by Tim Dunn).
New Tate Modern tube roundels along Southwark station platforms.
New Tate Modern tube roundels along Southwark station platforms. (Photo by Tim Dunn on 17th June 2016)
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The reason for the neon-bright sign is the new extension of the Tate Modern. Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, it is approximately 15 minutes’ walk from Southwark tube station. Picture by Tim Dunn, May 2016.

Poster Parade – Literary London

29 January – 29 April 2016

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Every three months a new Poster Parade is installed for visitors to enjoy at London Transport Museum (LTM).  The themes of the poster parades are often selected to either showcase a particular strength of the LTM poster collection, coincide with an exhibition or celebrate national or international events such as the Olympic Games. The poster parades are usually curated by young museum professionals such SOCL trainee curators or University of Leicester Museum Studies Interns. A SOCL trainee curator is a traineeship position provided by Cultural Cooperation in partnership with London Transport Museum through their Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme which encourages greater diversity in the Museum workforce.

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As a current SOCL trainee at LTM I had the privilege of curating the current Poster Parade, Literary London, which explores the ways in which designers have engaged with the subject of literature in posters commissioned by London Transport and Transport for London. The display also celebrates National Storytelling Week (30 January – 6 February 2016) and World Book Day (3 March 2016).

Book illustration

Selection and Design Process

Posters

The theme for the exhibition was chosen because literary references are a recurring theme in London’s transport posters, from the early 20th century to the present day. The posters displayed in the exhibition were chosen because they are prime examples of four ways posters engage with books and literature and they are arranged in four sections to reflect this. The sections are called Country Walks, Children’s Book Illustrators, Poems and Prose and Today’s Commute – Read all about it.  Posters from the Country Walks series were chosen because they are an example of a London Transport publication. A section about children’s book illustrators was chosen because many poster designers in the collection were also children’s book illustrators or come from an illustration or graphic design background. Poems were an important addition to the Poster Parade because the Museum holds a large collection of posters from the Poems on the Underground series. The last section Today’s Commute – Read all about it contains posters with literary references from the contemporary poster collection.

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The order of the posters was chosen to reflect the sections and look visually appealing. This process was aided by a creation of a virtual model on SketchUp Make software which allows Curators to move the posters around and visualise what they would look like once they were installed without the physical objects. This was advantageous in regard to selecting the best posters and order for the display. Please see below for an example of a mock up:

Mock up

Interpretation material

Interpretation material was written in accordance with the Museum’s editorial guidelines which detail for example, how TfL and its predecessor institutions should be referred to and that written material should provide neutral accounts of historical or political events. The curator writes the introduction panel and labels. The interpretation material is edited by the senior curator and librarian to ensure the guidelines are adhered to and the text is written to the best standard possible. Once the editing process has been completed it is given to the design department for formatting and printing.  The labels are printed in NJ TfL Book (16 point) typeface which is the house style and digital version of the Johnston typeface which is used across TfL from signage to publications. This is a clear san-serif font like Helvetica which is favoured by publishers and designers for its clarity which makes it suitable for a museum audience to read.

The Poster Parade can be found on Mezzanine Level 1 of the Museum and is on display from 29 January – 29 April 2016.

Many of the posters on display are available to buy in the museum shop and online at http://www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk

For more information on the SOCL Trainee program and the University of Leicester Museum Studies course please see the links below.*

http://www.culturalco-operation.org/education_and_training
http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies

*Links to external websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by London Transport Museum of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organisation or individual. London Transport Museum bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external website or for that of subsequent links.