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 altar. 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.

UPDATE: The above was written in 2016. Since when the whole scheme has been cancelled. Boo.

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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Jane Jacobs and Le Corbusier would agree on one thing: we need more social housing

Unite d’Habitation, Marseille. Image: Iantomferry/Wikimedia Commons.

Much has been written in CityMetric and beyond about the urban planning debates of the 1950s and ‘60s, that came to be characterised as a battle between master-planning and preservation. One side of the debate was personified by the father of modernist architecture, Le Corbusier, whilst the counter-argument was advanced by writer and journalist Jane Jacobs.

But when it comes to London’s housing crisis, aren’t there a few things that these two would actually agree on?

Jane Jacobs’ writing about the organic nature of self-organising communities, demonstrated, in her words, by the “intricate sidewalk ballet” of inner city neighbourhoods, should be required reading for anyone interested in how cities function. But today, Jacobs is increasingly invoked in attempts to oppose new developments of any kind. Her role in conceiving Manhattan’s West Village Houses, a low cost rented housing scheme built through New York State’s Mitchell-Lama Program, is unfortunately much less well known. It’s been suggested that if Jacobs were around today, she’d be working with New York’s housing activists. When her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities was written, there were almost 2 million rent-controlled or rent-stabilised apartments in New York City; nowadays, there are fewer than half that number.

Le Corbusier, on the other hand, is too often blamed for drab high-rise blocks. But regardless of how well his followers across Europe interpreted his ideas, Le Corbusier’s vision for cities was about high quality residential blocks that also contained shops and leisure amenities and were surrounded by parkland – the original mixed use development if you like. His most famous building, Marseille’s Unite d’Habitation, consisted of 337 apartments with views of the mountains and the sea together with shops, a restaurant and a nursery school. The building was originally intended to be public housing, but the French government eventually sold off the flats to recoup costs. Alton West Estate in Roehampton and Park Hill in Sheffield are just some of the examples of Le Corbusier’s influence on the design of post-war council housing here in the UK.

Building homes for a serious business in post-war Britain. Under Attlee’s 1945 Labour Government, 700,000 new council homes were completed. In 1952, the largest architectural practice in the World was at London County Council, with 1,577 staff including 350 professional architects and trainees. These were the days of consensus, and very quickly Tory governments were actually competing with Labour governments about who could built the most council homes.

Some of the council homes built post-war have stood the test of time better than others. But what’s not in doubt is that building council homes on such a scale immeasurably changed the lives of so many families in desperate need of a decent, secure and affordable home. And so many of the post-war modernist high-rise blocks so despised by Jacobs quickly took on the organic self-organising traits that she held in such high regard and have become some of the most enduring and closely-knit communities in London.

Fast forward to 2019 and Right To Buy continues to decimate council housing stock, but perversely home ownership seems more out of reach than ever for so many. An entire generation is being forced to embrace long term private ting in a country that has some weakest protections for private tenants in Europe. Meanwhile, government spending on building new homes fell from £11.4bn in 2009 to just £5.3bn in 2015 – from 0.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GDP – and since then, the housing minister’s desk has been occupied by no fewer than six people.

So what would a comprehensive drive for new council and social housing on the scale of the 1945 government’s efforts look like in 2019?

Lubetkin, the architect responsible for Islington’s Spa Green Estate and Bevin Court, summed up the spirit of post-war council home building with his maxim that “nothing is too good for ordinary people”. It’s a vision that we’re trying to recreate through our own council home building programme in Islington.

One of the best opportunities for small council home building schemes is to expand upon existing communities. The vast majority of Islington’s new council housing takes the form of infill, construction on existing estates; in unloved spaces, in old garages, and in old undercrofts. These projects often involve landscaping and new amenities to enhance rather than reinvent local communities. We have built community centres and even rebuilt a library as part of council housing schemes. One Tenants’ and Residents’ Association had an idea for a new specialist over 55s block for the older residents of the estate who wanted to stay in their community.

But there’s a place for large-scale place making as well. When the Ministry of Justice closed Holloway Prison and announced that the site would be sold, Islington Council published a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on the site. We had one aim – to send a clear signal to the market that anyone who was looking at buying the site needed to be aware of their planning obligations. Most importantly, any development on the site needed to include at least 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes. The speculation around the site came to an end on 8 March this year when Peabody Housing Association announced that it had bought it. It has committed to going well above and beyond our planning requirements, by making 600 out of a total 1000 homes genuinely affordable homes, including 420 homes for social rent. We need to see more detail on what they are proposing but this is potentially brilliant for the borough. A local grassroots group, Community Plan for Holloway, have been instrumental in ensuring that the community’s voice is heard since the site was sold.

To recreate the scale of the massive post-war council home building programmes would require a Jane Jacobs inspired level of community activism combined with the architectural idealism of Le Corbusier. But it would also need the political will from central government to help local authorities get council housing built. And that, sadly, feels as far away as ever.

Diarmaid Ward is a Labour councillor and the executive member for housing & development at the London Borough of Islington.