On Sunday, the day the clocks went forward, and the day of the census, we took a trip to Hendon. This was for a reason. The Church Farmhouse Museum, next to the church in a lovely villagey part of Hendon (the name “Hendon” means “high hill”, and the church and farmhouse are at the top of the hill), had an exhibition about Harry Beck, the designer of the London tube map, who lived nearby. It was the last day of the exhibition, and almost the last day for the museum, which is being closed as a result of the cuts.
It was a charming museum; I am saddened by its disappearance. An old farmhouse, with small upstairs rooms reached by narrow staircases (this is where the exhibition was mounted). Downstairs were real kitchen and laundry objects: a copper with a mangle, like the one we had when I was a child; a zinc bathtub (there is a photo of me in the bath when I was very small, in a tub like this, with a saucer on a shelf behind looking like a halo floating above my head); flatirons; and many other things.
In keeping with this, the Beck exhibition was delightfully old-fashioned. Items were behind glass, with brief captions; you had to look at the objects, rather than read about them. This was fascinating; one could learn, for example, that the three Clapham stations used to be Clapham Road, Clapham Common and Nightingale Lane. No interactivity, apart from a tub of crayons and a pile of paper for children to draw on. Just lots of different editions of the Beck map, together with related artefacts such as older maps, posters, maps from other cities, and a few station signs.
The museum was packed. Just before we showed up, a party of nearly thirty ramblers had arrived, throwing the museum attendant into a gentle panic; no more than fifteen people are allowed into each upstairs room at a time, and she hoped the ramblers’ leader would keep his troops widely spaced.
Outdoors, a charming garden with a well, a pond, and a maze opened into a park with blackthorn blossom and horse chestnut trees coming into leaf.
A couple of other incidents during the day resonated with Beck’s map. There had been a hiatus at Henly’s Corner, where the Capital Ring crosses a very busy intersection, because of construction work. Big signs exhorted us to follow the diversion, but there was no indication of where the diversion led. Finally, by going out of the way, very close to where heavy plant was operating, I found a map. It showed that the diversion had left the path half a mile earlier. (There had been no indication at that point, even that there was trouble ahead.) We declined to go back and found another way through. But the well-concealed map was done in a schematic style which clearly owed much to Beck’s design.
I found later that there is no mention of the detour on the TfL website either.
After the museum, we walked up to Mill Hill East, an Underground terminus I had not been to before. It was never intended to be a terminus; the line was supposed to continue to Edgware and on to Elstree and Bushey Park, but the war came and the plans were shelved. So now a train shuttles to and fro on the short hop to Finchley Central, over the Dollis Brook viaduct (a very impressive structure, especially when seen from below – the Dollis Valley Green Walk passes underneath).
At Mill Hill East, there was a handwritten notice on the platform:
Drivers: NQ10 main aspect is slow turning green. The pigs ear turns slightly before main.
Ah, the mysteries of another profession’s jargon!