London's Underground Edwardian Tile Patterns
From the 1860s London had two growing sub-surface Underground railways, those of the Metropolitan and District. Deep-level ‘tubes’, in the form of the City & South London Railway and Central London Railway, opened in 1890 and 1900 respectively. The owners all faced the same problem - how to maximise the illumination of their gloomy gas-lit platforms. The only answer until then was masses of plain white reflective tiling. However, by the turn of the century, with electric lighting improving all the time, thoughts of something more than functional came from the world's of art and finance.
LONDON has been the home of the largest, most extensive decorative tiling project ever undertaken in Britain - one that arguably helped make London's Underground system the most famous in the world. This site offers a small insight into this innovative graphic explosion of design and colour.
Walk Along the Platform Revealing the Tiles
The focus of the scheme was the completion of three deep-level tube railways, opened in 1906/7: the Bakerloo, Piccadilly and Hampstead (now Northern) Lines. Their platform decoration forms the main subject of this website, where about two million tiles were used at platform level alone.
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. Each station had a unique coloured pattern along the entire length of its platforms and some of them are reproduced here to give just a small flavour of their impact. 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 modernization 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. 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.
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