Tag Archives: St John’s Wood

Wings over exoticaWhen 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.

Good lordWho, 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:

Quintet of queensThey 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?

Tile away the hoursAt 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.

Palace of glittering delights

St John's? Would!The outside of St John’s Wood has been rather spoiled by the construction of a giant apartment block on top of the original modest and charming (now Grade II listed) building*.

But the inside is still worth commending. In fact it’s worth applauding:

There is an uplighter that never goes outThe uplighters march up the escalators like a phalanx of benevolent brass-bound colonels, keeping you in line while guiding you safely and silently to your destination.

They have a simple elegance that somehow both calms and cools you down. I like the idea of having rich, dark furnishings inside an Underground station. As well as giving the place more beauty, they offset all the necessary but sometimes overbearing bright walls and ceilings.

St John’s Wood station opened in 1939. I think – I hope – these uplighters date from the same time.

Ditto their lovely little brother, which Transport for London should manufacture as bedside lights. I’d buy one:

Want.*Though I can’t deny the idea of living directly above an Underground station doesn’t have an appeal