diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 04, 2017

If it's a new year, especially an odd-numbered one, then I need a fresh year-long London-based challenge to complete. I've done an A-Z of London museums (2009), I've done all the lost rivers (2010), I've done the Capital Ring (2011), I've done all the tube lines (2013) and I've done unlost rivers (2015). What next?

Obviously I thought playing cards. There are 52 cards in a pack, and 52 weeks in a year, plus I'm going to be 52 this year. Now is the time. But what in London comes in 52 discrete chunks?

That took a while. But it turns out that when Greater London was formed, 52 years ago, it was originally going to have 52 boroughs. The Herbert Commission spent three years researching how best to shake up London's local government, publishing their list of recommendations in 1960. They proposed combining London with Middlesex and adding bits of Kent, Surrey, Herts and Essex. By the time legislation was submitted in 1962 these 52 boroughs had been recombined into larger groupings, to create the 33 boroughs we have today. But my eye is on those 52 boroughs from the initial list, as depicted on the map below. Let's see if I can visit one a week.

The table below shows all 52 notional London boroughs, in the order the Herbert Commission listed them. Read down the columns (the inner London boroughs come first and the outer London boroughs later). Note that what's written isn't the borough's new name but the previous districts which would be combined to create it. You'll see, for example, that there was going to be a new borough combining the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury, the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn and the Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch. This never happened. Instead Finsbury joined up with Islington, Holborn became part of Camden, and Shoreditch ended up in Hackney.

ACity of LondonBattersea
Wandsworth (part)
Heston & Isleworth
2City of WestminsterHammersmith
Chislehurst & Sidcup
Brentford & Chiswick
St Marylebone
CroydonHayes & Harlington
Stoke Newington
St Pancras
Caterham & Warlingham
Coulsdon & Purley
Yiewsley & West Drayton
6Bethnal Green
Epsom & Ewell
Wanstead & Woodford
Beddington & Wallington
Sutton & Cheam
IlfordMerton & Morden
10CamberwellHornchurchKingston upon Thames
Malden & Coombe
East Barnet
Friern Barnet
Walton & Weybridge
Wood Green
QLambethEast HamFeltham
KWandsworthWest HamTwickenhamCheshunt

Now for the playing cards bit. The table's 4×13, so I've designated each column as a different suit and each row as a different value. This is of course entirely subjective, but enables me to map the list of boroughs onto a standard deck of cards. The City of London is thus represented by the Ace of Clubs, and the King of Spades stands for Cheshunt and Enfield. Excitingly the Jack of Diamonds - which is the logo for this blog - has been matched with Barking and Dagenham. I took this as a sign that I'd probably got the order right.

While we're looking at the table, let me point out that only nine of the 52 boroughs proposed by the Herbert Commission survived through to the modern day. These are A♣, 6♣, 2, 3 J, 7, 8, 10 and 6♠. It's also interesting to note that six of the tentative boroughs contain districts that never actually ended up being part of Greater London. The whole of 6 and J stayed in Surrey, because the residents weren't keen on joining the capital. Meanwhile parts of 7, 5, Q and K♠ joined London and the other parts didn't.

So anyway, here's my plan. I've taken my pack of Millennium Dome playing cards and shuffled it thoroughly. I'm going to turn over one card each week, and look it up in the table to see which imaginary borough it represents. Then I'm going to visit somewhere in that borough - anywhere that's interesting - and write about it. Expect 52 posts by the end of the year, in the order of my shuffled deck. I intend to publish one post a week, at some point during the week, if I can. But that doesn't mean I'll necessarily go out and visit one place each week because, you know, commitments. I may occasionally combine visits or stockpile trips, although I won't be peeking any further down the pack than the next card.

One thing I could do with is a decent title for this feature - something to do with cards or decks or packs or London or something. The best I've come up with so far is The Big Deal, but I'm sure you can do better.
your (better) suggestions please

From your point of view, this is no big deal. All you'll be getting is 52 posts from around London, and you get more than 52 of those on this blog every year anyway. It's me that has the challenge of finding something new to write about in each of the 52 imaginary boroughs, and taking the time to make the trip, and then telling you about it. But I have already made the first visit (sheesh, I thought on turning over the top card, not there again), and I'll reveal precisely where tomorrow.

» More about the 52 boroughs (including an approximate map) on City Metric
» More about the deliberations of the Herbert Commission on Wikipedia

Update: Thanks for your numerous excellent ideas on what to call this feature. Some were a bit long, but several were clever and snappy, and three hit the target perfectly. Travelcards is brilliant, because I'm travelling with cards, and the word is London specific (Kevin and timbo were first with that). London Shuffle is spot on, because it hints at location, playing cards and the haphazard nature of the visits (Tetramesh and Tony got in first with that). And Herbert Dip is stunning, sweetly referencing the 52 boroughs and the random process (well done Jimmy!). I really have to go with the latter, even though anybody who hasn't read today's post will never understand what it means. Herbert Dip it is.

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