London Underground Map Myths

Why do we need a myths page?

Well, assuming that you find these pages interesting, the chances are you want to know more about the history of the London Underground map ('diagram' is too cumbersome to keep using), and you would really like to know the facts, rather than romanticised pieces of fiction. The problem is that thanks to sloppy research and journalism, a number of untruths concerning the London Underground map have been repeated so often that they are entering popular folklore, yet more urban myths. Other points are asserted which, although possible, are simply not proven. A lot more evidence will be necessary before they can be accepted as the truth. The purpose of this web page is to set the record straight, providing a handy resource for conscientious journalists, historians, and the general public alike. If you come across anyone who should know better perpetrating any of these myths, point them towards these web pages. You never know, they might even take notice of them.

Click on the myths below to see them debunked or at least questioned

Name and shame

Why do these myths get recycled so often. Well, we don't have time to be complete sceptics. If we had to check the correctness of every 'fact ' we ever came across, we would never get anything done. We all make mistakes, it's only human.


Some of us are in, or take, positions of authority. When doing this, we have a duty to ensure that our statements are as best-researched as possible and, more importantly if we make a mistake, we should correct ourselves at the earliest opportunity. Below you will find links to web pages which perpetrate London Underground map myths, in which the organisations have been informed, but no corrections have been made.

Why is there so much of this sort of thing about these days? I guess that too many people in the media and museums have fallen for the old relativism chestnut, that there is no such thing as 'facts', only 'opinions', and that all opinions are equally valid. Actually, if this were really so, that previous sentence would not be factual either, so it is impossible to assert the validity of relativism as a perspective, it is inherently self-contradictory. The real problem with relativism is that it encourages laziness amongst disciplines that used to know better. The task of a museum curator or a journalist becomes infinitely easier if there are no facts, because there is no need to research them to see whether they are correct or not. Just print an opinion instead, who cares, it's just as valid as everything else. Well, some of us do care, and the following are just not good enough:

The BBC web pages keep perpetrating Underground map myths, and every time they do, myself and colleagues have emailed them to tell them so. Thus far, we have not even received a reply. Shame on you BBC.

Actually, the BBC web pages seem to have a bit of a blindspot where the Underground is concerned. Not map related, but spot the mistake in the following article:

Maybe we can excuse the BBC web pages if the compilers got their information from the Design Museum (who have at least acknowledged our emails, even though they have not acted on them), or maybe the Design Museum got their information from the BBC web pages. Note how all of these use similar wording: "based on an electrical circuit". This leads to the obvious question, "which exact electrical circuit do you think Beck was inspired by"?

But it gets worse, the V&A think that Beck was inspired by Sewer maps:

Ho hum.

Back to:
Last updated 11/01/08