Here are London’s 31 most aggravating station names

Just think what might have been. Image: Sunil060902/Wikimedia Commons.

1. Marylebone

There’s an area of London called Marylebone. It’s not altogether clear that Marylebone station is in it.

Well, I guess it is now because the definition has shifted to include the station, but... look where Marylebone station is compared to Marylebone High Street.

Historically, Marylebone was the bit across Oxford Street from Mayfair (an area more easily reached from half a dozen other tube stations). Marylebone station should probably be called something else that people can actually pronounce.

Exactly what it should be called, though, is difficult to say. It’s in an area sometimes referred to as a Lisson Grove, but that somehow lacks the gravitas necessary for a mainline station.

It almost revelled in the name Great Central, after the railway company that built it. But this was a hilariously overblown name for both the company (which arrived several decades later than most of its rivals and consequently found it didn’t really have anywhere left to build railways to), and the station (which was originally meant to have 10 platforms, but could only afford four because, well, see above).

You can still see the name Great Central on the walls of Marylebone tube station (served, quite pitifully, by the Bakerloo line and nothing else). I’m tempted to suggest we should call the station that just for the LOLs, but if I did that some git would be writing nonsense about what a stupid name it was. (Specifically: me.)

At any rate, we’re probably stuck with Marylebone, but if you do have anything better do write in.

2. Euston Square

Neither on a square nor that close to Euston.  It is, however, the Euston stop on the Circle line, so at last Euston Circle would be descriptive. Even if...

3. City Thameslink

...naming stations after the routes they’re served by is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Think this through. There are two lines in London whose names end in “& City”. City Thameslink is on neither of them. What’s more, there are three different stations on Thameslink that serve parts of the City (Farringdon is technically just outside). What use is “City Thameslink” as a name? What is the point of it?

Call it Ludgate. Or Ludgate Viaduct. Or frankly anything else but City Thamelink, which is the single worst name in the world. Call it Malcolm for all I care.

4. Regent’s Park

Okay the name here is kind of fine – it is a tube station near Regent’s Park. What else are we going to call it?

Except that there are two other stations that have just as much claim to be called Regent’s Park (Baker Street and Great Portland Street, since you asked.) And the tube map shows the Bakerloo line crossing the Circle at Baker Street and so implies that the park is somewhere in the vicinity of Broadcasting House, and that’s really annoying.

5. Liverpool Street

The eponymous Liverpool Street is so small that it’s long been dwarfed by the station that shares its name. The station should obviously be called, like the one it replaced in 1874, Bishopsgate.

The reason it isn’t called that, one assumes, is that Bishopsgate survived for decades as a goods station, and calling another station Bishopsgate just because it was substantially closer to the area called Bishopsgate would have confused people.

But the goods yard is long gone, so maybe we should rename the thing. If only to reduce the chances of Americans who think they can ask directions “to Liverpool” (in the manner they’d ask directions to Madison or 59th or Fifth) and find their way to the City of London, instead ending up on a Virgin intercity train hurtling towards Crewe.

(Related: In Cambridge, trains terminating at London Liverpool Street and Liverpool Lime Street used to go from adjacent platforms. Larks.)

6. Clapham Junction

Very obviously in Battersea, the better part of two miles from Clapham. It’s genuinely only called Clapham Junction because Victorian snobbery meant that nobody wanted to admit to going near Battersea. They might just as well have called it South Chelsea.

7. Goodge Street

Another tiny street which doesn’t deserve its own station. Should obviously be called Fitzrovia, which is much prettier. Fitzrovia is the name of the romantic heroine from one of those Shakespeare plays set in generic Italy; Goodge is a Dickensian schoolmaster plotting to do unspeakable things to your children.

8. Warren Street

Even tinier street – so tiny you can use Warren Street station every day and probably still not be quite sure which one Warren Street is. I’m not pretending there’s a better name to hand, but it’s bloody infuriating, that’s all I’m saying.

9. Custom House for EXCEL

Oh, bugger off, what’s next? “Camden Town for London Zoo”? “Hammersmith for the Eventim Apollo”? “Gants Hill for Grandma’s House”?

10. Stratford International

Stratford International is so named because it’s the Stratford stop on HS1, a line built to speed Eurostar trains from London to the continent.

Guess how many international trains stop here. Go on, you’ll never guess.

So, yes, unless there’s been some kind of revolution in Faversham, the answer is nil.

There’s a reason for this: Stratford was expected to be the London stop on the high speed trains that ran from the north of England to Paris and Brussels, skirting the edge of the capital on their way. For various reasons, most notably the rise of low cost airlines, such a route has never actually materialised.

They kept the name, though, so if you so wish you can visit a station called Stratford International that is neither served by a single international train nor particularly convenient for Stratford. Passes the time, I suppose.

11. Totteridge & Whetstone

Make Your & Mind Up.

12 & 13. Edgware Road

The name of two different stations, both on the Edgware Road but on different sides of the Westway. No one in their right mind would ever change trains between them, because you can do so much more easily at Paddington or Baker Street, but even if you did, there’s a bloody big flyover in the way.

Why at least one of the bloody things has never been renamed to make things less confusing – for tourists, for Londoners, for the emergency services who’d get called in if one of the things was on fire – is a mystery for the ages.

14 & 15. Bethnal Green

There are two Bethnal Green stations, too, on completely different lines (Central and Overground), and they’re not even that close together. Since they’re both in the hands of TfL now, surely it’s time to rename the Overground one? “Weaver’s Fields” is nice. Or even “Bethnal Green South”, though that would as a side effect point out that the map is wrong yet again.

16. Elephant & Castle

Is there any station anywhere in the world whose name oversells it quite so much as Elephant & Castle? “Brutalism & Roundabout” is more apt. “Traffic Jam & Shopping Centre.”

Or, just to annoy the Hackney yummy mummy contingent: Newington.

17. Abbey Road

I mean, we all love that poster that they put up to help Beatles fans find their way across town, sure. But which idiot decided to give a station that didn’t open until 2011 the same name as a street that had been a tourist landmark for four decades, and was eight miles away on the other side of London?

18. Grange Hill

19. Bromley-by-Bow

But not, however, by Bromley.

There is actually an area called Bromley near that station, after which it is named: it just happens to not be anywhere near the major suburban town or borough of the same name.

To make matters worse, there’s another area of the London Borough of Bromley called Plaistow. This is entirely different from the east London area called Plaistow, which is served by a station two stops east of Bromley-by-Bow. I sometimes think this whole town is one big practical joke.

20. King’s Cross

Named after a monument to King George IV (1820-1830), erected in the year of his death and demolished 15 years later because he hadn’t been that good a king and anyway it was rubbish.

I mean, we’re stuck with the name now, but let’s not pretend this state of affairs is in any way morally acceptable.

21. St Pancras International

Tell me one story about the martyrdom of St Pancras that means he deserves to have London’s nicest station named after him. Go on. Who was he? How did he die?

Wondering about this as we were, we decided to do some research, and, bizarrely, there seem in fact to have been two St Pancrases. One was an early Christian who got stoned to death in Sicily in 40AD...

Here’s his alter. Image: G. Dallorto/Wikimedia Commons.

....and the other was a 4th century teenager, who lost his head.

See? Don’t say we never teach you anything.

22 & 23. New Cross / New Cross Gate

“Brian. You know how we’ve got these two stations which are quite near each other, and are both on the East London line, but which serve two entirely different bits of the national rail network?”

“Yes, Nige?”

“Well, how about we give them nearly identical names? So that people will never be quite sure if they’ve got off at the right place for their train, or whether they’re going to have to walk a third of the mile up the road?”

“Sounds like a great plan, Nige. Pint?”

24. Cyprus

Image: Google Street View.

Well this is disappointing.

25 & 26. Hayes / Hayes & Harlington

Hayes station is the terminus of a suburban branch line in the Hayes area of Bromley. Hayes & Harlington station is a stop on what will be Crossrail just north of Heathrow Airport. These two places are nowhere near each other. It’s just nonsense really, isn’t it?

27 & 28. St Margarets

There are two stations called St Margarets served by London’s suburban train network. One is south west, near Twickenham; the other just north of the city on a branchline to Hertford.

I’m not saying that people confuse the two a lot, but nonetheless this is deeply stupid.

29 & 30. Rainham

There are two bloody Rainhams as well – one in the suburban Essex bit of zone 6, the other across the river in the Medway bit of Kent. Where, helpfully enough, there’s also another bloody Newington. So there goes that idea.

31. Watford

If you find yourself getting the Metropolitan Line all the way to Watford, then you’re probably already having quite a bad enough day without discovering that you’re still about a mile and a half from bloody Watford.

That said, they’re never going to rename this one for the very good reason they’ll be scrapping it altogether by the end of the decade, when the Watford branch will be re-routed along an old line to Watford Junction. The replacement for Watford station will be the vastly more poetically named Cassiobridge.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

I do so love a happy ending.

If that isn't enough for you, this post is a sequel of sorts to this one, about Crossrail. 

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.

So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image:

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?

And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.