Is this the most vile act of tube map trolling ever committed?

"...as if millions of cartographers suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced." Image: Fabric Rehab

If there’s one thing we at CityMetric love more than cities, or even metrics, it’s maps. Especially transport maps, and especially, especially tube maps. Lovely, lovely tube maps.

So you'd think we'd be on board with tube map-themed fabric: just think, we could have tube map suits! Tube map bunting! Tube map hats!

But the terrible, terrible reality of it turns out to be this abomination, which is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone ever. Look at it. Look at the absolute state of it:

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Image: Fabric Rehab

This tube-themed “thrifty polyester cotton” fabric, offered by the Fabric Rehab website, is deeply upsetting on so many, many levels. Fenchurch Street is next to Knightsbridge. Downing Street has a tube station now! There are two Leicester Squares! THERE’S A LANCASHIRE TUBE STATION. WHY IS THERE A LANCASHIRE TUBE STATION.

This is even worse than the time the government put a tube map in the new passport and left off Southwark station. Or when TfL accidentally turned Morden tube station into a tram stop.

Presumably this is an elaborate attempt to create tube-themed fabric without raising eyebrows at Transport For London’s legal department, but would anyone really want to make anything using the design of the world’s most iconic transit map, except with absolutely none of the actually iconic bits? Well, apparently at least one person did, since it’s all sadly sold out. What a shame.

There is only one conceivable reason for this to exist: to troll tube map nerds into incoherent rage. Make a tablecloth out of it, invite one round for dinner and watch your delicious lasagne go flying through the window when they notice that East Finchley is for some reason now south of Wimbledon.


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A warped mirror: on gentrification and deprivation on London’s Caledonian Road

The London Overground crosses Caledonian Road. Image: Claude Lynch.

Capital cities are, more often than not, a focal point for the stark divide between rich and poor – places where the most economically deprived meet the most economically empowered. In London, these divides can be more than stark: they can be close, even intimate, and there are districts where crossing the street can be like entering a different world. One such street is the Caledonian Road.

Known local as “the Cally”, Caledonian Road runs for about a mile and a half, from Kings Cross to the Nags Head junction in Holloway, and was built in 1826 to provide a new arterial route to the north from the West End. At first, developments on the road were sparse; among the first notable buildings were the Royal Caledonian Asylum, which gave the road its name, and H.M. Prison Pentonville.

For some time, the northern half of the road was seen as far removed from central London, which stymied development. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 19th century residential development really got going. By the time Caledonian Road station opened on the Piccadilly line in 1906, the area was flush with Victorian terraces.

These, though, mainly lay on the eastern side. To the west, the proximity of King’s Cross prompted the development of heavy industry, particularly the clay kilns that were helping to build Victorian London proper. The divide had begun:  the east side of the street, the area known as Barnsbury, was notably quieter and calmer than the west side. Ever since the 19th century, the ‘V’ formed by Caledonian Road and York Way has been known for a high incidence of gang violence and social problems.

As in many parts of London, the end of the Second World War brought a chance to start from scratch. Many of the slums to the west of the Cally had been bombed to smithereens, and those that remained still lacked gas and hot water.

But this was the era of municipal dreams: Islington council cleared the slums and constructed the Bemerton Estate. Instead of reflecting the industrial history of the area, the estate reflected Barnsbury back at itself, treating Caledonian Road as some sort of warped modernist mirror. The square gardens of Barnsbury were reimagined as the spaces between the highrises of Bemerton, and this time, they were actually square.

The estate was immediately popular, its open design prompting a renewed sense of community in the west. But it didn’t last.

Square gardens on one side, not-so-square on the other. Image: Google Maps/CityMetric

As far back as the 1950s, Islington had already become synonymous with gentrification. Forty years later, before moving to Downing Street, Tony Blair’s London residence was Barnsbury’s leafy Richmond Crescent. House prices in the area have gone through the roof and now Barnsbury is mainly home to a the professional elite.


At the same time, though, Caledonian Road’s warped mirror has given Bemerton the exact opposite: in spite of attempts to rejuvenate it, downward spiral of deprivation and antisocial behaviour have blighted the estate for some time The promise of inviting square gardens and communal living has been inhibited by crime and poverty; the gardens lie empty, while those in Barnsbury thrive.

The disparity of wealth across Caledonian Road is regrettable. That’s not just because it speaks to a wider segregation of London’s rich and poor – a phenomenon exemplified last year by the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington & Chelsea, the richest borough in Britain. It’s also because, in the Bemerton Estate, planners had thought they saw an opportunity to offer more Londoners the idyll of square gardens and leafy streets, often reserved for the richest.

It might be too much to claim the estate as a failure; events such as the Cally Festival aim to bring together both sides of the road, while other council programmes such as Islington Reads help to foster a greater sense of neighbourhood.

Road should never divide us; rather, they should unite those who live on either side. The spirit of Caledonian Road should cross the gap – just like the railway bridge that bears its name.