When you arrive at Aldgate East Underground Station for our Jack the Ripper Tour, why not spend a few moments on the platform to look for some of the curious artworks that can be found on the tiled walls?
The tiles on the walls of the platforms, you see, are interspersed with tiles that were the work of the designer Harold Stabler (1872 – 1945), and his specially designed tiles that dot the walls along the platforms might not be breathtaking, but they are certainly curious.
WHO WAS HAROLD STABLER?
Harold Stabler was a sculptor, potter, jeweller, artist in precious metals and a teacher. He was was a close associate of Frank Pick (1878 – 1941) – supremo of the grandly titled Underground Electric Railways Company of London, before moving on to become the original Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Passenger Transport Board, following its inception in 1933.
Stabler designed the first official seal for the Board, as well as designing poster for the London Transport and Underground Group, whose headquarters were situated at 55, Broadway, near to Westminster Abbey.
Frank Pick also commissioned Harold Stabler to come up with designs for a series of 18 bespoke tiles to adorn the walls of five Underground Station, one of which was Aldgate East. These bespoke tiles were to depict London landmarks, as well as depicting the counties close to London that the Underground systems would be serving.
In order to identify himself as the creator of the works, Stabler included an “S” on many of the tiles, and this letter can be seen on many of the tiles on the Aldgate East platforms.
EASY TO MISS
Now, to be honest, the Stabler tiles at Aldgate East Underground Station are easy to miss. Indeed, I would warrant a guess that many people who have gone into and out of the station on a daily basis for many years have never spotted them.
But they are there if you know where to look, and spotting them can while away what might otherwise be a monotonous trudge along the westbound or eastbound platforms of Aldgate East Underground Station.
So, without further ado, let us take a walk of discovery along the platforms of Aldgate East Underground Station, and just ignore the jostling and shoving of fellow commuters who wouldn’t know a genuine pice of artistic transport history if it were to hit them on the head!
55 Broadway, a Grade I listed building designed by Charles Holden was built between 1927 and 1929, and was the headquarters of London Underground.
On 16th September 2019, it was announced that Integrity International Group had acquired the 55 Broadway site from Transport for London and the premises is in the process of being converted to a luxury residential development.
THE UNDERGROUND SYMBOL
The iconic roundel log of London underground can also be found on several tiles along the platforms.
As far as I can make out, these ones don’t have the name of the station on them – nearby Bethnal Green Station, for example, does have the station name at the centre of the roundels – although it is, of course, possible that time has worn the name away at Aldgate East.
THE PALACE OF WESTMINSTER
This next tile needs no introduction as such, representing as it does one of London’s most iconic sights – the Houses of Parliament.
Surmounting the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) are two crowns and a bowler har, no doubt a nod to the bowler-hatted politicians and the men from the ministries that laboured within the Place of Westminster day in and day out.
ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
Another London sight that needs no introduction, St Paul’s Cathedral.
MIDDLESEX COAT OF ARMS
The three swords that adorn several of the tiles along the platform walls are part of the coat of arms of the County of Middlesex, albeit the crown that should surmount them appears to be missing.
THE WINGED GRIFFIN
The winged griffin was an original symbol of London Transport, albeit it was more for internal, rather than external use, and appeared on London Transport documents, as well as being the symbol of London Transport catering until the 1970’s.
THE REARING HORSE
The rearing horse is from the coat of arms of the County of Kent.
LOOK OUT FOR THEM
So, when you step off the tube at Aldgate East Underground Station and you look for the platform signs depicting the exit for the meeting point of the tour, don’t just hurry to the exit, but take your time – it might be an idea to arrive early – and enjoy a leisurely stroll along the platform taking in the creations of an artist whose name might not be instantly known to you, but whose work lives on at Aldgate East Underground Station.