The Morden – Edgware Line #2

The Morden – Edgware Line #2

The Morden-Edgware Line was a real London tube line few have heard of even though most know it as the Northern Line!

Surely the Morden-Edgware was a total misnomer especially when it came to renaming the line in 1937 – and the Northern Line is in fact the better choice?

That is right but the Northern line is also a wrong choice! As has often been pointed out its not even the northernmost tube line, yet its the most southernmost tube line of all! Surely it should leave been known as the Southern line instead? Had that happened no doubt Frank Pick and Eustace Missenden would have been in a fist fight with each other! As the LPTB admitted, there wasn’t really much choice in giving the complete new railway (eg Morden-Edgware-Mill Hill East-High Barnet plus the abortive extensions) any sort of decent name.

And the rules (if any) for what could constitute a proper name for any London Underground line is of course anything goes really! The Bakerloo isn’t even a proper name is it? But it was very catchy though. There’s London Underground lines that don’t even denote important terminals or end points in their names. The Central Line is anything but ‘central’ because it goes deep into rural Essex and far into north western London territory too. The Metropolitan line at one time headed so far out its furthest point (over fifty one miles – around 82km – from Baker Street) could be considered anything except Metropolitan! And the Hammersmith & City goes right out to Barking!

The Morden-Edgware Line – Part 2:

Just after the new lines to Edgware and Morden had opened there Punch (September 1928) suggested the railway should be called the Hampstead, Highgate, City, South London, and Morden Tube because whatever name the City and South London’s roots should not be forgot. Punch also said it must never forget ‘the place called Morden somewhere near the Sunny South Coast!’ Had that name held on until the 1940s it would have been the Hampstead, High Barnet, City, South London, and Morden Tube. What the LPTB wanted was a singular term to describe the route (just like the others) thus Mordenware for example was suggested as were others. Northern line won simply because it was the one short straw out of a bunch.

The Morden-Edgware Line is mentioned in quite a number of historical sources in books and on the internet – but only in passing. There’s no comprehensive history of that tube line in any form whatsoever. Thus this post is the second instalment in what can only be be the first serious work to take a look at the Morden-Edgware line’s brief history.

Edgmor, Mordenware, Medgway, Edgmorden, some of the alternative names for what would eventually become the Northern Line. Source: Google Books – London Underground.

One might wonder why there are no pictures of stations with ‘Morden-Edgware Line’ on the outside, much like there were station names and roundels. The answer is simple. In the older days of the individual lines they certainly did put their lines’ names on the station exteriors however when the tube lines were grouped together under UERL, this was no longer bothered with. Instead UndergrounD was the official common denominator that identified all the underground stations thus there was no need to specify further.

The first ever Standard Signs manual which resulted from Carr-Edwards. 1938. Source: LT Museum..

Specific line names were not used on station exteriors again until just before WWII. It was the Carr-Edwards Report of 1938 that attempted to standardise further certain aspects of the system especially in view of the New Works Programme. This was the early precursor of what are the present day TfL Standard Idioms (eg guidelines t how stations, lines, publicity, etc) should look. It was that report which specified that from then on each station should denote on its exterior the line (or lines) they served. In that case it was the Northern line (and not the Morden-Edgware) which received the honour of having the line’s name denoted at each station

The Morden-Edgware Line in print (1):

One could say Henry Charles Beck really put the Morden-Edgware Line on the map! His famous first edition map started off with the Edgware, Highgate and Morden Line, but the second edition printed during 1934 through to the second 1937 tube map showed the Morden-Edgware Line instead. In respect one could claim the Central London Line (the former Central London Railway) was also like the Morden-Edgware by being a short lived tube line. Well yes and no. The Central London Line didn’t lose its identity completely. Central London line was of course a short lived name too because in 1937 it became the Central line. But despite these name changes the ‘Central’ was always prominent so its no surprise really this was an easy one to get a handle on.

But first, the Morden Edgware line in the form of specific London Underground paraphernalia.


This is a difficult one! Certainly there were Morden Edgware line timetables but finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I discovered on Ebay one example of a leaflet which featured the whit 1935 services and timetable changes. It was fairly poor thus I have had to try and tidy up the quality….

Morden-Edgware line timetable for Whit bank holiday 1935.

The times given above aren’t the normal weekly/weekend timetable but rather the 1935 whitsun special one. In the left hand column are the starting times and in the right hand are the finishing times. From Morden for example the first train for Highgate/Edgware was at 06.35am (evidently a change was needed at Camden Town for the Highgate service.) In the down direction at Tooting Broadway the first train to Morden would be at 07.22am.

Even on a bank holiday the train services were intensive. It is said the in the weekday peaks were more than 35 trains an hour (similar was found on the Bakerloo). On the bank holiday weekend in question the services on both lines on Whitsun Saturday were before 10.00am and after 10.00pm it would be a Saturday service but in between those hours there was a more intensive service. It was every 5½ minutes to or from both Edgware and Highgate; to/from Golders Green every 3 minutes; to/from Morden every 2½ minutes. Services via Charing Cross every 2½ mins and via Moorgate every 4 minutes. (Nowadays we say via Bank but back then it was ‘via Moorgate’.)

Posters (and tickets):

There are a few specific Morden-Edgware posters. The following are just a sample.

Clifford & Rosemary Ellis London Underground poster (1935) featuring the Morden-Edgware Line. Note also the short lived Central London line name. Source: Pinterest.

From a series of ‘Your fare from this station’ posters this certainly covers the Morden-Edgware line. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy 1936. Sourced from Ebay.

‘Your fare from this station’. Burnt Oak/Golders Green. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy 1936. Sourced from Ebay.

There were certainly others in the series of ‘Your fare from this station’ but these were usually generic. They covered a number of stations on various tube lines. The above is one of a few in the series by Moholy-Nagy that covers one specific line. What is very interesting about these is they feature a rarely seen Barman/Curwen (printers) ticket. These were a new style of London Underground ticket designed to be easier to recognise and they were used only in Morden-Edgware line days (eg 1936-1937.)

Curwen sans (as the font was called) was indeed first used by the LPTB as it formed the basis of the organisation’s logo. Not only that early LPTB leaflets were printed in Curwen.

The tickets on these posters isn’t easy to read however the following does show how they looked with this alternative font. The example on the left is similar to the Moholy-Nagy posters whilst that on the right isnt known but its evidently meant to be styled as Art Deco:

London Underground ticket designs, 1936 - 37

London Passenger Transport Board ticket design 1936-37. These were an attempt by the LPTB to make tickets easier – not to read – but to be ‘recognised’ at a glance by ticket collectors. Source: Flickr.

Although these tickets were experimental they certainly were in use, especially those on the left. Several other examples can be seen of these including one dated 15th October 1935 for a journey from Arnos Grove to either Bounds Green or Southgate. This evidently is a slightly different version to those seen above thus it appears the design changed somewhat for the 1936 and 1937 years. From these other samples it seems the station name was featured either with a capital letter followed by lower case or they were all capitalised in each of those three years of use.

The sample on the right is very much a rare example and there seem to have been a number of experimental variations on this style which didn’t last that long. Evidently they were not that satisfactory. What happened is a modified format was regularly employed instead – and that to a more standard LT design. Even those examples are quite rare with surviving examples being the return half of the ticket. The following is how these tickets looked complete – with use ranging from the late 1930s to perhaps the early 1950s.

Later style Curwen return ticket (which I re-created from a number of sources as there wasn’t a complete example available.)

Christian Barman of the LPTB who was responsible for the introduction of these tickets, is rather more well known in terms of the modern TfL tube moquette seating covers which are termed ‘Barman.’ He called these innovative tickets the ‘visiting cards of London Transport.’ (Described in a meeting held on 7th November 1937 with Christian barman and Harold Curwen present.) Barman was Frank Pick’s right hand man but it is said he was responsible for the visual impact of how the tube itself looked. Barman in turn employed others such as Enid Marx for visual aspects of the trains such as the seating covers etc.

No doubt Christian Barman, who held position as LPTB Publicity Manager, was responsible for the sheer variety of posters, leaflets, timetables, and tube maps that appeared on the tube during Morden-Edgware line days. Here we can see elements of one of Harry Beck’s styles used in the tube’s posters:

Morden-Edgware line (Central Area) poster. The short lived Central London line is also shown. 1936. Source: LT Museum.

Each of the London Underground lines had their own style of central area map. However the Morden-Edgware Line appears to be the only one that had a slightly different version for each of the three years it was extant.

Tube Maps:

I have tried to show the progress of the Morden-Edgware Line over its three years or so of existence through the following London Underground maps. Its not by any means a complete or comprehensive presentation because there were so many iterations of the map produced during this period and not every example of the maps have been included.

Beck’s first map, August 1933, and the only one of his to depict the Edgware, Highgate and Morden Line. Source: Pinterest.

Anyway, the era of the Morden-Edgware Line saw a considerable number of highly innovative, creative, London Underground maps produced as different publishers or different departments even tried to outdo each other in light of the very successful work Beck had produced. Beck’s first ever map caught the world’s attention in 1933, and many other metro systems duly adopted its styling.

1934 London Undergound tube map, designed by Harry Beck

The second edition (1934) of Beck’s map depicted the Morden-Edgware Line for the first time. Source: Flickr.

The rather smart poster sized central area underground map. Each line is shown in a solid colour with inset line names. Full system maps (in the normal Beck style) were also produced with this central area format and they were quite nice too although perhaps not so easy to use. The style seen here wasn’t quite the same as that used for the pocket maps. Source: Daily Mail.

The 1934 central area map index was rather nicely presented although this changed inn later editions to a somewhat more austere version. The Central London line features too.

Basically the 1934 map was issued twice and that version remained throughout to 1935 where it was presented as the first map edition and the second map edition in that year, and again during 1936, so essentially a reissue five times over. The differences between the maps were very subtle, such as for example the version and the year printed on the front cover of the pocket map versions.. The much larger maps were more difficult to identify in terms of which year they were. For 1936 the only change was the ‘Escalator Connection Between Bank and Monument’ which was changed from red to black font and line styling.

In terms of the Morden-Edgware Line bounded within the index box, the styling remained much the same and the same went for the index shown on the enlarged central area of the London Underground map. That was rather a nicer format too!

The unique 1935 bubble map produced by Stanfords for the LPTB. The Morden-Edgware Line is of course featured. Source: Wikipedia.

Stanford’s bubble map was popular and widely used at the central tube stations however in terms of the ‘tube map wars’ raging at the time, Becks’ Central Area map won and this one lost – therefore it was a one off.

There were a number of nice Central Area maps for each individual line and these showed the Morden-Edgware Line interchange stations. Here’s a list of those (all are at the LT Museum); Central London Line Central Area 1935; District Line Central Area 1935; Metropolitan Line Central Area 1934; Metropolitan Line Central Area 1935; Morden-Edgware Line Central Area 1935; Morden-Edgware Line Central Area 1936; Piccadilly Line Central Area 1935.

As mentioned before the 1936 Beck version remained the same as the 1934 and 1935 ones. The reissue continued into 1937. No.1 from that year still showed the Morden-Edgware Line however No.2 from later in the year showed it as the Northern Line.

Geographical 1937 Central Area tube map with a completely different style of indexing. The map wasn’t styled by Beck however. Its interesting the Morden-Edgware and Northern City Line were given the same colour, so perhaps this was some sort of indicator of the forthcoming name change. Source: London Tube Map Archive.

Similar map to the previous except the index or reference panel is somewhat different. The tube lines are the same though with the Morden-Edgware and Northern City lines grouped together. Source: Phinemo.

Geographia tube map 1937 featuring the Morden-Edgware and Northern City Lines. Sourced from Ebay.

Close up of the index box which clearly says Morden-Edgware Line. Central London line too. Both lines were ‘scrubbed’ in August 1937.

Beck’s 1937 map issued with substantial changes to the London Underground lines. Sourced from Ebay.

By August 1937 the LPTB had decided to rename the Morden-Edgware line in readiness for the New Works Programme (aka the Northern Heights scheme) which entailed several tube route extensions and the brand new route to Bushey Heath – a large part of which was aborted after more than £40 million was spent and pretty much half the work completed.

The LPTB’s major shift in terms of how its underground lines are represented! The 1937 (no2) map index shows the District/Metropolitan merged together – plus the new Northern Line.

Beck’s 1937 No.2 map wasn’t just a paradigm shift for the Morden-Edgware Line but for several of the other London Underground lines too! The District and the Metropolitan Lines were merged into basically the same system (by way of their being sub-surface railways) and the District’s green colour used for both. The Central London Line became the Central Line. The Northern City Line vanished altogether (much like the Modern-Edgware Line, it too became part of the Northern Line.) However the name was revived sometime later before changing yet again to become the Northern Line (Highbury Branch.)


A bonus add-on item…. Goodge Street Lifts:

These were the fastest automated lifts in use on the London Underground at the time and these were introduced in Morden-Edgware line days. Undoubtedly they too were the most modern lifts in existence. Some may have seen the recent Hidden London Hangouts on Goodge Street which does look at the lifts, the machine room and also a brief discussion about these automated lifts.

The new lifts in 1937. (This picture was used in Pennyfare which informed the reader ‘each lift is capable of speeds from 450 to 600 feet per minute’.) Source: LT Museum.


The original automated Goodge Street lifts in their last years. Source: Flickr.

Continued in Part Three.