diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NORTHERN: Mornington Crescent

1) Listeners to the Radio 4 show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue have enjoyed the game of Mornington Crescent since 1978. I've blogged about the rules before, so I'll not repeat them here. But it's been a while since we played a game on the blog, so let's have a go in this special comments box. Original Standard Rules apply. Let's play!

2) Mornington Crescent is a Leslie Green station. Between 1903 and 1907 he designed stations on what are now the Bakerloo, Northern and Piccadilly lines, with trademark oxblood tiling exteriors. Mornington Crescent is typical, two storeys high with semicircular windows beneath a flat roof. It's one of three of Green's stations to be listed, the others being Gloucester Road and Holloway Road. Eight other Leslie Green stations survive on the Northern line; these are at Tufnell Park, Kentish Town, Hampstead, Belsize Park, Chalk Farm, Camden Town, Goodge Street and Leicester Square.

3) Mornington Crecent is one of nine stations on the Northern line with lifts, not escalators, down to the platforms. The others are Tufnell Park, Hampstead, Belsize Park, Chalk Farm, Goodge Street, Elephant & Castle, Borough and Kennington. That's a very similar list to above, which is because Leslie Green built his stations just before escalators were introduced on the Underground. The lifts at Mornington Crescent have ornate iron grilles above them, labelled 1 and 2. Alternatively you can take the back stairs down to the platform... or even up, it's only 66 steps, it won't knacker you out.

4) Above the top of the staircase, where it rises up into the ticket hall, is a blue plaque to Willie Rushton (1937-1996, Satirist). He died while the station was being revamped in the 1990s, and the plaque is located here to celebrate his expertise at a certain Radio 4 panel game.

5) The tiles at platform level aren't original, they're part of that major 1990s revamp. But they are closely matched replacements, royal blue and cream in colour with brown lettering at one end of the platform. Lovely.

6) The tube map correctly shows Mornington Crescent on the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line. However the tube map incorrectly shows the City branch running to the east of Mornington Crescent, whereas instead it runs to the west.

7) The Camden Town area gets really busy on Sundays when international youth descend on the markets by the lock. That's why TfL bar entry to Camden Town station every Sunday afternoon between 1pm and 5.30pm, and force travellers to enter the system via one of the neighbouring stations instead. If passengers have any sense they'll use Chalk Farm, which is fairly close to the various market sites. But if they trot back to Camden Town station to discover the entrance is closed, signs then direct them instead to Mornington Crescent. That's a six minute walk down Camden High Street, or longer if the pavements are busy. This is the less touristy end of the street - there are no purple Doc Marten outlets here - but the local shops are varied enough to benefit from TfL-inspired additional footfall every Sunday afternoon. Mornington Crescent also gets a significant boost to passenger numbers. It's one of only five stations on the Underground which more people enter on a Sunday than on an average weekday (the others being Kensington (Olympia) and the Heathrows), in this case 55% extra. It's the only time that Mornington Crescent feels properly busy. You did want the Charing Cross branch, didn't you?

8) The station is named after Mornington Crescent, an adjacent street that curves off, round and back to the Hampstead Road. This fine street dates back to the 1820s, with three curved terraces of elegant townhouses facing a communal garden. The neighbourhood went downhill slightly when the mainline to Euston was dug round the back a decade later, and in the 1930s a tobacco factory was opened on those communal gardens. That's the Art Deco Carreras Building, a splendid sight with Egyptian cat statues out front. The rear elevation facing the crescent is less impressive but still striking, with a tall cream chimney rising into the sky. Most of the street's 36 villas have been divided into flats - you might live down the steps in the basement, or you could live on the first floor with a scaffolded balcony. But the cars parked out front suggest that houseowners hereabouts remain on the right side of the property divide, and hey, there's a tube station at the end of the road too.

9) In Christopher Fowler's series of novels, the offices above Mornington Crescent are the home of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are based here, or rather were based here until the place blew up, but that's fictional alternative London for you. Ideally you should have started reading the Bryant and May novels back in 2003 - approximately one more adventure is published every year - but this may mean you have a glut of twisted intricate mysterious volumes to enjoy. Highly recommended.

10) Mornington Crescent is an anagram of Concerning Torments (and also of Reconnecting Mr Snot).

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