When searching online for solid information on Harold Stabler to inject into my otherwise flabby tribute to his efforts at Aldgate East, I’d learned that he hadn’t confined his creations just to one station. More of his ceramic whimsy could be found on the Jubilee line, at both St John’s Wood and Swiss Cottage.
At the time I presumed it was merely more of the same. As charming as Stabler’s tiles are, I didn’t think it worth bothering with a trip to see an identical batch in simply a different location. I’d had my fill of vexing heraldry and monstrous apparitions – or more accurately, monstrous heraldry and vexing apparitions.
Well, not for the first time on this blog, my presumption has now given way to contrition. For there is an entirely fresh selection of tiles on the Jubilee line, just as delightful and possibly more intriguing than their cousins over in the East End.
Who, I wondered, was Thomas Lord? Being a poor sportsman, and an even poorer lateral thinker, it wasn’t until I did more online searching that I discovered his local significance. I’m sure you can make the connection faster than me. Suffice to say I was, ahem, bowled over by my own ignorance.
The five birds pictured at the top of this post remain more of a mystery – as does this further quintet:
They look like representations of a young monarch, perhaps hailing from the Plantagenet dynasty. Another local connection, perhaps? Did Henry II once strike camp at what is now the Central School of Speech and Drama?
At both St John’s Wood and Swiss Cottage you can find a few duplicates of the tiles at Aldgate East; the Underground roundel, for instance, and the relief of the headquarters at 55 Broadway.
But these are the exceptions. Stabler treats you to a largely new and, for me, wholly unexpected spread of caricatures and motifs. The way they are laced along the platforms positively encourages you to wander up and down while waiting for your train, rather than observe the convention and remain sullenly rooted to a spot. This might not be very practical at rush hour. At all other times it’s a positive boon.
These are palaces of curiosity. Their walls turn the mundane into the magical. And their wares are as delicate as crystal.