Tag Archives: Barbican

RIPI love cats as much as I love the Underground, cups of tea, Carry On films and other things of varying shades of embarrassment.

But I’m forever disappointed at how badly cats, specifically those who make their home in a particular location, get immortalised for posterity.

Contextualised felines fare especially badly in popular music. Stray cats don’t count. I’m referring to ones who make a specific place their stamping, or rather padding, ground. I can’t find a trace of any song called Station Cat*, the creature doesn’t turn up in the schoolyards remembered by Cat Stevens or Paul Simon, while Farmyard Cat by Prefab Sprout is easily the worst song Paddy McAloon has ever written.

Thankfully there’s at least one cat whose legacy lives on in words, if not in music. Pebbles gets a touching tribute at Barbican station, whose platform nooks and walkway crannies he made his home for many years until his death in 1997.

For part of his life Pebbles had a cohort called Barbie, with whom he apparently shared the run of the station, but about whom no mention is made on the memorial plaque. Both cats were due to appear at a ceremony in 1997, where Pebbles was to have been given some sort of lifetime achievement award before being photographed with Patrick Moore and a gaggle of GMTV presenters.

At least death spared him, and us, this indignity. Instead he remains, to this day, “greatly loved and missed by station staff and customers.” Even by those, like me, who never met him.

*Once I’ve finished all 150 entries, I might remedy this.

Still mortar offerThis was suggested by Mark Siddall (yes, I am open to any and all nominations).

My photos don’t quite represent the full breadth of eerie elegance created when the sun is in a certain part of the sky and you are standing in a certain part of the station. But it’s the alcoves that best capture and amplify the effect of having so much of the area both cut into the ground and open to the sky.

The shadows and illuminations can give the impression of descending into a baroque catacomb – or, if it’s an especially warm day, an enormous kiln.

Catacomb with a viewThe sensations are heightened – literally – by the tall buildings rising up on all sides. It’s quite an atypical design for a station on almost the oldest stretch of line on the entire Underground. In fact I can’t think of another station on the Circle line that is quite so exposed to the sky, at least not in quite as dramatic a fashion.

This impression of cavernous space is compounded still further by the now disused platforms that sit alongside the Underground tracks:

Dead endThameslink trains to Moorgate used to come this way. Now, nothing. The platform wall is still dutifully updated with the latest advertisements, should your gaze drift momentarily across the tracks. Some of the roundels could do with a bit of attention, though:

Dirty rotten roundelI know some people think the “true” Underground is never open to the elements. I disagree. Barbican exposes the heart of the Underground in the heart of the London in heart-tugging style.

(Oh, and thanks Mark!)