There’s no great significance in choosing this to begin with. Proximity is, I suppose, the main reason. East Finchley station is a couple of stops southbound from where I live. I travel through nearly every day and invariably catch a glimpse of the archer, though it’s not best seen from a passing train. To fully appreciate its character and design you need to leave East Finchley station, turn around and look up, just above the main entrance.
It’s the work of the sculptor Eric Aumonier (1899-1974) and is positioned so that you only see it on entering the station – in other words, on beginning your journey. In another non-coincidental touch, the implied trajectory of the archer’s arrow traces that of the line itself, about to dive underground into what was for a time the longest tunnel in the world: a little over 17 miles to Morden.
The sculpture is now more than 70 years old. It was unveiled on 22 July 1940, a moment in history when appreciation of public transport design was assuredly not high up in the nation’s consciousness. Yet it must have caught the eye and hopefully roused the soul. As London Transport’s staff journal said at the time: “It is more than a decorative device; it is powerful symbolism.”
It still is. It points the way down the line to the rest of the network and to London itself: home of some of Aumonier’s most famous creations, including similarly Art Deco sculptures inside the old Daily Express building, and a relief of the “South Wind” on the exterior of London Underground’s head office itself (of which more anon).
Hmm. On reflection there is an awful amount of significance to picking this as the first of the 150.