15 January 2010

Going Underground

Over the past few years I have been noticing how many tube stations on the underground network are being renovated. Especially so on the Piccadilly Line where beautiful old crackle-glaze tiles are being covered up with smooth modern facsimiles. LRT say this is because the old ones were cracked and dirty and in need of repair.
Er, excuse me, perhaps if LRT had maintained the stations properly and cleaned into the corners using something other than a motorised circular mop contraption, then perhaps they wouldn't have ended up in such a bad state! I just cannot understand how a good industrial strength clean-up by a specialised team cleaners armed with toothbrushes and bicarbonate of soda, headed up by those two women off the TV, might not have achieved a better result!
And if some day in the future some bright spark has the idea to bring all the old stuff back it'll be more like an archaeological dig and take decades.
Here are some pics I took of the platforms at Russell Square during the renovation process in August 2008. You can clearly see here how the grout and tile adhesive has been slapped straight over the top of the old tiles. Russell Square is a station used by a lot of tourists and I am pretty sure a lot of those people come to this city looking for glimpses of history between their trips to Mama Mia and the London Dungeon. Americans in particular love all the old stuff. Above ground, in certain areas of London, Holloway Road for example, the council is urging shopkeepers to maintain any old signage they might uncover, yet here we have LRT effectively sweeping history under the carpet. Or in this case, cheap machined tiles
I have just returned from a trip to NZ and on the way I stopped off in Sydney where I was really impressed to see the station platforms have been maintained just as they must have been when they were first opened. Shown here is Museum station.
Why, oh why, have we not done the same thing in London? We have one of the oldest underground networks in the world and soon there will be nothing left but glass and steel vis a vis what's happened to Shepherd's Bush station; old and new. I can understand that it needed to be expanded to deal with all the extra shoppers expected to go to Westfield (egh spit!) but could they not have retained some of the old frontage and ticket booths?
And don't get me started on the monstrosity of a waste of space that's being built above ground for Tottenham Court Road station; as my sister quite rightly points out, who is going to use all that glass space? Cleaners, that's who!
Anyway, I am getting off the point here!
Back to the platforms... I need to check out if Warren Street station is still has its lovely old blue tiles. And does this connecting tunnel at Charing Cross (formerly part of Trafalgar Square station) still look like this? And how long can my local station at Holloway Road hang onto signs like these?
I think I have made my point!


  1. I see you and I are on the same wavelength but at least living in London there are a great number of people who appreciate the 'oldness' and histroy of the things you show. Where I live anything old is demolished and replaced by 'mock' old.
    Rural pathways are 'tidied up' and manicured and they call that improvement.

    I especially love your date stones picture.

  2. Thanks... and I love a lot of the things you make. Are you good mates with Gill (vintagerockchick)?


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Thanks, Jane