diamond geezer

 Monday, October 19, 2020

When Victor Watson and Marjory Phillips picked the locations for the London version of the board game Monopoly in December 1935, little did they realise how famous their selection would become. They travelled down from Waddingtons HQ in Leeds and spent a day touring the city before deciding which places would make the cut, but alas left no evidence to document the reasons for their choices.

Supposedly they stopped for lunch at The Angel, Islington, which would explain how a pub found its way onto the board amongst the streets and squares, but nobody really knows. And whilst they picked some obvious zingers they also picked several streets with little resonance, which is how places like Vine Street and Coventry Street have become famous despite hardly any Londoners having a clue where they are. If we started again from scratch, we could do better.

        Old Kent Road, Whitechapel Road
        The Angel Islington, Euston Road, Pentonville Road
        Pall Mall, Whitehall, Northumberland Avenue
        Bow Street, Marlborough Street, Vine Street  
        Strand, Fleet Street, Trafalgar Square
        Leicester Square, Coventry Street, Piccadilly
        Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street
        Park Lane, Mayfair
   🚂    King's Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street 

I've had a go at doing better.

I considered starting completely from scratch but decided it was better to start with what we've got. I decided to focus on specific streets rather than general areas. I wanted streets with residential properties (and also hostelries to make pub crawls easier). I considered spreading my net wider across Greater London but decided places like Canary Wharf and Wembley didn't cut it. Most importantly I didn't do it how you'd have done it, so like Victor and Marjory I've also got it wrong. My apologies... but at least I've had a go.

       Old Kent Road, Whitechapel Road
       Old Kent Road, Brick Lane

I quite like how the board kicks off away from the city centre, as befits the least valuable properties on the circuit, so the Old Kent Road still feels like a perfectly valid first choice. For the other brown I'd like to nudge away from the Whitechapel Road onto a better known sidestreet, Brick Lane, which also introduces some welcome diversity into the game.

       The Angel Islington, Euston Road, Pentonville Road
       Marylebone Road, Euston Road, City Road

Victor and Marjory's light blues all follow the New Road, London's 18th century northern bypass. I'm happy to stick with this particular road to maintain a peripheral trio, but The Angel has got to go for starters and Pentonville Road is underwhelming too. Instead I've picked the New Road's three major constituent parts and run them in order from west to east. This has the additional bonus that it keeps the word 'Marylebone' on the board, because that station is of course going to be kicked out later.

       Pall Mall, Whitehall, Northumberland Avenue
       Pall Mall, Whitehall, St James's Street

This is the tweak I'm least happy with. Northumberland Avenue ought to go, being far less important than it once was, but St James's Street isn't the perfect replacement (and hardly trips off the tongue). At least it's significant and in the right general area, and it contains genuine commercial properties (unlike seemingly-better contenders Birdcage Walk, Horse Guards Road and The Mall).

       Bow Street, Marlborough Street, Vine Street
       Tottenham Court Road, High Holborn, Charing Cross Road

The original oranges are linked by law and order, representing two police stations and a magistrate's court (the latter officially in Great Marlborough Street). I'd like to ditch them all, and the judicial connection, switching instead to three previously overlooked thoroughfares. My new three are also geographically co-located, near enough, which is of course deliberate.

       Strand, Fleet Street, Trafalgar Square
       Strand, Aldwych, Victoria Embankment

Fleet Street has to leave the board because it's no longer important now the press have moved out. Trafalgar Square also has to go, under my rules, because it's not a street. Instead I'm bringing in neighbouring Aldwych (because the word would look great on a set of deeds in a board game) plus the grandiose sweep of the Victoria Embankment.

       Leicester Square, Coventry Street, Piccadilly
       Haymarket, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly

Victor and Marjory were being geographical here, Coventry Street being the road that connects the nightlife of Leicester Square to Piccadilly. Piccadilly's the only one of the three I want to keep, being both significant and an actual street, and the new two are both streets which meet at Piccadilly Circus.

       Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street
       Regent Street, Oxford Street, New Bond Street

Famously there isn't a Bond Street, only a New Bond Street and an Old Bond Street, which has niggled Monopoly purists for almost a century. I intend to solve this by switching to New Bond Street, by far the longer of the two. I'll make no other changes, this penultimate trio being pretty much perfectly pitched.

       Park Lane, Mayfair
       Knightsbridge, Kensington Palace Gardens

Sacrilege... I'm replacing the entire highest tier. Knightsbridge feels more classy, or at least more moneyed, than Park Lane, and then Mayfair has to go because it's a huge area and not a street. Where better to replace it than the billionaires row of Kensington Palace Gardens, by some distance the UK's most expensive street? Admittedly it's a bit of a mouthful and unlikely to be a crowd-pleaser, but its commercial supremacy is unarguable.

 🚂   King's Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street
 🚂   King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Paddington

Finally let's do the stations. Victor and Marjory famously picked only LNER termini because they came from LNER country in Leeds. I've been more diverse, picking one mainline station from each side of town so that they can be positioned appropriately on the four sides of the board. I'm aware that you would have chosen differently but sorry, like Victor and Marjory I don't care.

        Old Kent Road, Brick Lane
        Marylebone Road, Euston Road, City Road
        Pall Mall, Whitehall, St James's Street
        Tottenham Court Road, High Holborn, Charing Cross Road 
        Strand, Aldwych, Victoria Embankment
        Haymarket, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly
        Regent Street, Oxford Street, New Bond Street
        Knightsbridge, Kensington Palace Gardens
   🚂    King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Paddington

I'm not proposing to change the names of free parking or jail because these are common to all national Monopoly boards. Likewise I'm sure that Tate Modern would be a very clever replacement for the Electric Company but no, the utility companies don't vary from country to country either. Instead I shall simply recommend to you my chosen changes for the properties and stations, safe in the knowledge that future generations will argue interminably about why I shouldn't have chosen what I did.

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