Monday, April 11, 2016
Highbury and Islington, London
An afternoon on the tiles
To London for the day, to have a look at Historic England’s excellent exhibition Out There (post-war public sculpture in England, just ended) and to catch up with my son and his girlfriend. As usual when I visit London, there were incidental architectural discoveries and a few passing glances towards buildings and features I’ve admired many times before. As my son lives in Islington, one of these admiring glances was in the direction of the tiles on the platforms of Highbury and Islington Underground Station (above), which were designed by Edward Bawden.
Each of the Victoria line stations has its own distinctive tile artwork in the seating recesses on the platforms, and each one reflects, comments, or riffs on the station’s name or locality. So there are crowns arranged crosswise at King’s Cross (a design by Tom Eckersley), a maze (or warren) at Warren Street (by Crosby Fletcher Forbes), a grid of dots (modern art, you see, chez the Tate) at Pimlico (by Peter Sedgely) and so on.* Bawden did the designs for three stations. His cameo of Queen Victoria at Victoria station is unexceptionable but also unexceptional I think and not especially Bawdenesque. His other two I really like: a castle for Highbury and Islington and a woman being ferried across a river for Tottenham Hale.† The first is to represent the ‘High Bury’, or borough, or castle, in the locality; the castle was destroyed during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. The second commemorates the old ferry, alluding to the theory that the ‘Hale’ in Tottenham Hale derives from either ‘Haul’, which is what the boat did, or ‘Hail’, which is what you did to attract the attention of the ferryman, I suppose.
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•The Victoria Line Tiles website shows all of the designs on the line, from Brixton to Walthamstow Central.
†Tottenham Hale is a station I’ve only ever stopped at once, so I’ve taken the picture from the internet. It’s by Oxyman, and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. The Highbury and Islington picture is my own.