Here are London’s eight hidden circle lines

Grange Hill: in the loop. Image: Sunil060902/Wikipedia.

For most of the history of London’s underground rail network it had a Circle line. From 1884 to 2009, it was possible to get on a train and then spend your day spiralling round and round the same loop around central London, returning to your starting point every hour or so.

But then in 2009, the Circle extended to the west and became a tea-cup. You’d  start in Hammersmith, and travel once round the loop via Edgware Road, Liverpool Street and Embankment, before coming to a halt at Edgware Road once again. It’s still known as the Circle line on the map; an actual circle it ain’t.

There are, however, a number of other loops hidden in London’s rail map. They’re not true circles – you can’t just keep going round and round them forever. But there are, nonetheless, parts of the network where you can remain on a train and find yourself back at your starting point, without ever doubling back on yourself.

By my count, there are eight. If I’ve I missed any, do let me know.

Let’s start with an easy one:

Hatton Cross to Hatton Cross via Heathrow Terminal 4. Happens all the time.

While we’re on the tube:

It’s quite rare for trains to go all the way round the Central line loop: generally they run to Hainault via Newbury Park, or on occasion, to Woodford via Hainult; mostly, the northern section exists almost as a sort of branch line.

But just occasionally, you can get on a train at Leytonstone, travel via Hainault and Woodford, and then find yourself back where you started.

Okay, now for the less obvious ones.

Tramlink, which serves London’s deep south, has a Heathrow-style loop in central Croydon: trams from Elmers End (route 1) and Beckenham Junction (route 2) go round it and end up back where they started. That gives you a choice of routes to get from East Croydon to East Croydon, should you feel the need.

Light green, to the left.

Just up the road, the Thameslink loop similarly gives you a choice of options to get from Streatham to Streatham: clockwise, via Sutton and Wimbledon; or anti-clockwise, via Wimbledon and Sutton.

It’s the purple one.

Oh how the days must fly by.

Okay, now we’re getting to the real obscure ones. This map of part of the South West Trains network contains not one but two hidden circles:

The red bits.

Firstly, there’s the Kingston loop, which enables trains to travel from Clapham Junction to Kingston, Richmond and back again – or, if anti-clockwise is more to your taste, vice versa.

The result is that, if you’re at Strawberry Hill and you’re trying to get back to Waterloo, you have a choice of directions (which is lucky as there are only two trains an hour each way). It’s marginally quicker to go via Richmond (34 minutes) than it is via Kingston (42), mind.

The other is the Hounslow loop, which does much the same but on the north side of the river. Richmond, then Hounslow, or Hounslow then Richmond; either way you can go from Barnes to Barnes in just over 40 minutes.

Departure boards, incidentally, tend to show some trains as terminating at Hounslow or Barnes Bridge, presumably in an attempt to prevent people from getting on one going the long way round the loop. Spoilsports.

Lastly, there’s the various Southeastern loops:

In practice, only two of these are in regular service. You can get trains that go via Bexleyheath and Abbey Wood, and trains that go via Crayford and Abbey Wood; but at present, best I can tell, there are no scheduled trains that run via Crayford and Bexleyheath.

Nonetheless – while London may not have a proper circle line any more, it has no fewer than nine different loops, where the same train or tram will take you from one station to itself without ever turning round.


So, now you know.

Right, that distracted me from the election for a whole hour. Now, how am I going to fill the next seven weeks?

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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All maps courtesy of TfL.

 
 
 
 

Academics are mapping the legacy of slavery in Britain’s cities

A detail of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership map showing central Bristol. Image: LBS/UCL.

For 125 years, a statue of the 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston stood in the centre of Bristol, ostensibly to commemorate the philanthropy he’d used his blood money to fund. Then, on 7 June, Black Lives Matter protesters pulled it down and threw it into the harbour

The incident has served to shine a light on the benefits Bristol and other British cities reaped from the Atlantic slave trade. Grand houses and public buildings in London, Liverpool, Glasgow and beyond were also funded by the profits made from ferrying enslaved Africans across the ocean. But because the horrors of that trade happened elsewhere, the role it played in building modern Britain is not something we tend to discuss.

Now a team at University College London is trying to change that. The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project is mapping every British address linked to a slave-owner. In all, its database contains 5,229 addresses, linked to 5,586 individuals (some addresses are linked to more than one slave owner; some slave owners had more than one home). 

The map is not exact. Streets have often been renumbered; for some individuals, only a city is known, not necessarily an address; and at time of writing, only around 60% of known addresses (3,294 out of 5,229) have been added to the map. But by showing how many addresses it has recorded in each area, it gives some sense of which bits of the UK benefited most from the slave trade; the blue pins, meanwhile, reflect individual addresses, which you can click for more details.

The map shows, for example, that although it’s Glasgow that’s been noisily grappling with this history of late, there were probably actually more slave owners in neighbouring Edinburgh, the centre of Scottish political and financial power.

Liverpool, as an Atlantic port, benefited far more from the trade than any other northern English city.

But the numbers were higher in Bristol and Bath; and much, much higher in and around London.

 

Other major UK cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle – barely appear. Which is not to say they didn’t also benefit from the Triangular Trade (with its iron and weaponry industries, Professor David Dabydeen of Warwick University said in 2007, “Birmingham armed the slave trade”) – merely that they benefited in a less direct way.

The LBS map, researcher Rachel Lang explained via email, is “a never-ending task – we’re always adding new people to the database and finding out more about them”. Nonetheless, “The map shows broadly what we expected to find... We haven’t focused on specific areas of Britain so I think the addresses we’ve mapped so far are broadly representative.” 

The large number in London, she says, reflect its importance as a financial centre. Where more specific addresses are available, “you can see patterns that reflect the broader social geography”. The high numbers of slave-owners in Bloomsbury, for example, reflects merchants’ desire for property convenient to the City of London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the district was being developed. Meanwhile, “there are widows and spinsters with slave property living in suburbs and outlying villages such as Chelsea and Hampstead. Country villas surround London.” 


“What we perhaps didn’t expect to see was that no areas are entirely without slave owners,” Lang adds. “They are everywhere from the Orkney Islands to Penzance. It also revealed clusters in unexpected places – around Inverness and Cromarty, for example, and the Isle of Wight.” No area of Britain was entirely free of links to the slave trade.

 You can explore the map here.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

All images courtesy of LBS/UCL