This post is about station name roundels. They can be found on and opposite the platforms of London Underground stations, displaying the station names.
These roundels are special in more than one way:
The various types are presented below, in three groups, and in chronological order.
The types are shaped by criteria concerning the graphic design of the roundels, namely proportions of bar and circle, presence or absence of lines, white counters or void counters. Size and materials used are irrelevant. A large illuminated roundel made from glass and a small enamelled panel roundel can both be of the ‘EUSTON SQUARE’ type if there is a match in terms of proportions, which can be verified by scaling and superimposing digital photographs.
As far as tagging or naming these types goes, I decided to avoid labels like ‘unframed roundel of Johnston proportions with wooden frame to the bar and black lining to the circle’, or like ‘Type 1/3’. Instead I chose one precise example per type, such as one precise roundel that can be seen at Hammersmith station, and I call this type the ‘HAMMERSMITH’ type. I don’t claim that this makes sense to everyone.
This is a section of the timeline diagram (see here for more on that). It shows the early years of the development of the ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundel (upper half) and of the station name roundel (lower half).
The area where I think it’s o.k. to speak of ‘Johnston proportions’ is highlighted. The ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundels lost these proportions in the 1930s, but the station name roundels kept these proportions until well in the 1950s.
There are four types of station name roundels with ‘Johnston proportions’. Three of them are lined and framed (HILLINGDON, PERIVALE, HAMMERSMITH). And one of them (HOLLAND PARK) is an unlined and flat panel roundel.
Picture taken at London Transport Museum Acton Depot in 2015.
Characteristics: The ‘HILLINGDON’-type roundel is mostly seen on a large white panel that acts as a protection zone for the
roundel. Some of these panels are of the ‘tombstone’ shape (which can be seen in the Edgware station example just mentioned). The circle of the ‘HILLINGDON’-type roundel is almost identical
to Johnston’s drawing, apart from the black lines. The bar is usually a bit
larger than the one in Johnston’s drawing, and it is fitted with a blue, red or brown wooden frame.
Consistency: The ‘HILLINGDON’ type is not very consistent, meaning that roundels of that type don’t have the exact same proportions. The circles seem to be
identical, but the bars differ in width or heigth. Just compare the two examples shown here (Hillingdon, above, and Oval with a narrow bar, below).
Relevance today: This type of roundel has ‘heritage’ status. There are still about 300 such roundels to be seen, most of them at Northern line stations (some stations south of the river Thames have more of these roundels that one would expect). Here’s a particularly nice example:
Most of today’s roundels of this type are replicas. Old roundels can be found at West Brompton station, at St. James’ Park station, and (probably) at several stations of the Northern line south of the river Thames.
General appearance: The ‘HILLINGDON’-type roundel is quite different from the current roundel.
Related types of station name roundels: None, probably.
Master drawing: This type is heavily influenced by Johnston’s 1917 ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundel (more on that here), and by the engineers’ drawing from around 1925 (more on that here). But there is no master drawing that I know of.
Picture taken at London Transport Museum Acton Depot in 2015.
Time of appearance: 1932 or a few years earlier. An early photograph shows a roundel at Manor House station (1932, LTM 1998/86810). More than half a dozen similar photographs taken in 1932 at Piccadilly line stations can be retrieved in the LTM database (www.ltmcollection.org).
Characteristics: The ‘PERIVALE’-type is ‘part silhouette’. The roundel is cut-out on the outside, but not on the inside: The counters are white (as
opposed to void, with the background showing). The roundel is lined, and the frames also have the effect of additional fat lines. With regard to proportions the ‘PERIVALE’-type is close to Johnston’s drawing, but the bar of the ‘PERIVALE’-type is
Consistency: The ‘PERIVALE’ type is very consistent. There are only a few exceptions with slightly different proportions, e.g. with a narrower bar (for unknown reasons), or with a higher bar (when the text was set on two lines, as in ‘HIGH STREET / KENSINGTON’).
Relevance today: This type has ‘heritage’ status and can be seen at close to eighty stations. The number of these roundels is
– on the whole network about every seventh station name roundel is of the ‘PERIVALE’ type (over 1400 in total). There are more than twenty-five stations that feature only
‘PERIVALE’-type roundels. Many of these roundels
are likely to be replicas, by the way. Some examples are shown in the blog.
Two types of station name roundels are closely related to the ‘PERIVALE’ type:
Master drawing: The 1938 ‘Standard Signs’ brochure contains a drawing that is identical to the ‘PERIVALE’-type roundel. There even seems to be an older drawing No. D.L. 5707. I haven’t seen it, but it is mentioned on yet another drawing made by the architects Adams, Holden & Pearson and dated 15 December 1931 (see a photograph by Mikey Ashworth on Flickr, and LTM 2015/7716). With regard to the black lines the ‘PERIVALE’-type roundel is closely related to the engineers’ drawing from around 1925, but the bar of the ‘PERIVALE’-type roundel is considerably larger.
Picture taken at Hammersmith station (Circle / H&C lines) in 2016.
Time of appearance: Probably around 1950. An early photograph shows this type of roundel at South Kensington station (1951, LTM 1998/53840).
Characteristics: In 1950 the ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel was simplified. Among other things the lines to the circle were abandoned. On the level of the station name roundels either new panel roundels were put in place (‘HOLLAND PARK’ type, see below), or the existing ‘PERIVALE’-type roundels were modified by exchanging the enamelled metal sheets for new sheets without the lines. This is what we see in the above picture. The ‘HAMMERSMITH’ type is identical to the ‘PERIVALE’-type except that there are no lines to the circle.
Picture taken in 2015. Irregular hybrid roundel, lining was only removed in the upper half.
Relevance today: The ‘HAMMERSMITH’ type is very rare, but still it seems to have some moderate kind of ‘heritage’ status. In many cases worn ‘HAMMERSMITH’-type roundels are replaced by PERIVALE-type roundels, but at Barbican station an old ‘HAMMERSMITH’-type roundel was replaced by a new ‘HAMMERSMITH’-type roundel.
Related types of station name roundels: See ‘PERIVALE’ type.
Master drawing: None that I know of
Time of appearance: Around 1951. Early photographs show this type of roundel at Embankment station (then called ‘Charing Cross’), District line platform (1951, LTM 1998/71775); Sloane Square station (1951, LTM 1998/88172); South Kensington station (1951, LTM 1998/74177).
Characteristics: The ‘HOLLAND PARK’-type roundel is likely to be the first panel roundel. Panel roundels are generally simple (e.g. in comparison to the ‘PERIVALE’ type): There are no lines. There is no three-dimensional element. The white panel acts as a protection zone with regard to the roundel. As far as proportions go, the ‘HOLLAND PARK’-type roundel is closely related to the ‘PERIVALE’-type roundel; the relationship is explained in the section dealing with the ‘PERIVALE’-type roundel.
Consistency: I only know of a few examples and don’t know anything regarding the consistency of this type.
Relevance today: This type of roundel is gone. The last ones were taken down in 2016, during refurbishment of Holland Park station (the above picture was taken in 2014). A few examples can be seen at the London Transport Museum Acton Depot.
Master drawing: The ‘Standard Signs’ brochures 1951 and 1955 contain drawings similar to this design, but it appears that none of them is identical.
All station roundels from the 1950s until the 1980s were panel roundels. All panel roundels look simple compared to their predecessors that were decorated in various ways. Common features of panel roundels are as follows:
The ‘HOLLAND PARK’-type roundels were followed by other types with different proportions. Here’s four types shown at once:
(Roundels of the ‘HOLLAND PARK’, ‘EUSTON SQUARE’, ‘PARK ROYAL’ and
‘OXFORD CIRCUS’ types. Four pictures, superimposed and scaled in order to make the circles match. This is about proportions, not about measured size.)
Time of appearance: Maybe in the early 1950s? The 1951 and 1955 ‘Standard Signs’ brochures contain drawings of very similar proportions. But the earliest photographs that I found on www.ltmcollection.org were taken much later, that is in 1968 and in 1971; they show illuminated roundels at stations of the rather newly opened Victoria line (Warren Street station, LTM 1998/52795; King’s Cross St. Pancras station, LTM 1998/86816; an excellent one of Euston station, LTM 1998/51786; Vauxhall station, LTM 1998/54944; Stockwell station, LTM 1998/86695).
Characteristics: The ‘EUSTON SQUARE’-type roundel is a panel roundel. It is placed on a white background. There is no decoration or three-dimensional element. Proportions of the ‘EUSTON SQUARE’-type roundel are rather delicate in comparison to the preceding ‘HOLLAND PARK’-type: Its bar is considerably smaller, and its circle is less sturdy.
Some ‘EUSTON SQUARE’-type roundels attract attention because of the large text size. One of them is a roundel at Pimlico station. It is shown below, on the left-hand side (picture taken in 2017). But be careful about the two other roundels shown below. Only one of them belongs to the ‘EUSTON SQUARE’ type. It’s the one on the right, with the small letters (picture taken in 2015). The middle one however, with the large letters, is different (‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’-type proportions; picture taken in 2018 at Euston station, Northern line / Charing Cross branch, northbound platform).
Consistency: The ‘EUSTON SQUARE’ type appears to have been very consistent.
Relevance today: This type doesn’t have ‘heritage’ status. Just a few roundels are left. Around 2015 they could be seen at Euston Square, Finsbury Park, Cannon Street, Pimlico and Upton Park stations. They might be replaced sooner or later.
Master drawing: As mentioned above the 1951 and 1955 ‘Standard Signs’ brochures contain drawings of very similar proportions.
Trivia: At Cannon Street station three different types of panel roundels can be seen: The ‘EUSTON SQUARE’ type, the ‘PARK ROYAL’ type and the ‘FARRINGDON’ type (below, from left to right; pictures taken around 2015):
Picture taken at London Transport Museum Acton Depot in 2015.
Time of appearance: Unknown. It just could be that this kind of roundel was exclusively (or almost exclusively) installed at the original Victoria line stations, opposite platform. This assumption is based on old photographs, and on a number of roundels on display at the LTM Acton Depot.
Characteristics: The ‘OXFORD CIRCUS’-type roundel is a panel roundel with a thin circle.
Sizes: The ‘OXFORD CIRCUS’-type roundel was probably only put to use in the miniature size (as usually seen opposite platform).
Relevance today: Hardly any. This type can be seen on old photographs and in the London Transport Museum Acton Depot, but I don’t know of any roundel actually in place anywhere on the network.
Master drawing: Unknown. The 1951 ‘Standard Signs’ brochure contains a drawing of similar proportions.
Picture taken at Park Royal station in 2015.
Time of appearance: Uncertain, maybe 1956 or 1957. A drawing in the 1959 ‘Standard Signs’ brochure points in this direction because the dates given are ‘21-5-56, revised 21-3-57’. On the other hand it is possible that these proportions were tested or introduced a few years earlier: a good photograph dated 1953 shows a ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel with these proportions (outside Blackfriars station, LTM 1998/60297). An early photograph of a station name roundel is of Putney Bridge station (1956, LTM 1998/70968).
Characteristics: Compared to the types of panel roundels described above, the ‘PARK ROYAL’ type doesn’t have a prominent feature like a large bar or a thin circle. It is an inconspicuous, well-balanced type of roundel, a bit sturdier than the current one.
Sizes: There were ‘PARK ROYAL’-type roundels in normal size and in ‘mini’ size.
Consistency: It appears that the ‘PARK ROYAL’ type was very consistent.
Relevance today: This type doesn’t have ‘heritage’ status. Just about half a dozen of these roundels are left. There’s one at Park Royal station, one at Cannon Street station, and one at Ealing Broadway station (2020), and probably some at Golders Green station. They might be replaced sooner or later.
Master drawing: See above (Time of appearance).
Levels: This is the seventh type of station name roundel we’re looking at. There have been types that were loosely linked to the ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ or to the ‘UNDERGROUND’ level in one way or other. Yet the ‘PARK ROYAL’ type is the first type that is firmly linked with the other layers in terms of proportions: There were ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundels and ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundels with the exact same proportions. (See here for the levels / overview diagram).
Picture taken at Farringdon station in 2015.
Time of appearance: Shortly after 1971. In 1971 a ‘new-proportion standard design for all purposes’ was introduced (1977 Design manual, Sheet 2.01A). It was based on recommendations of the Design Research Unit (DRU), namely Misha Black. The ‘FARRINGDON’-type roundel is the same roundel – brought to platform level, used to display the station names. Note that the DRU roundel was extremely simple (one colour, no text, no decoration), and the station name roundel was granted two exceptions (the use of a second colour for the bar; and the use of text). – One early photograph shows Northwick Park station (1975; LTM 1998/72544).
Characteristics: The ‘FARRINGDON’-type roundel is a panel roundel. Its proportions (below, left) that are very similar to those of today’s roundel (below, right). If you pay close attention you’ll notice that the ‘FARRINGDON’-type roundel has a higher bar and a thinner circle.
In order to avoid distraction the text on the left roundel has been replaced. The original text is larger and less bold, as it was often the case with ‘FARRINGDON’-type roundels. Look at the original text (below, left); I think that it highly affects the overall appearance:
Consistency: I can’t say if all roundels of the ‘FARRINGDON’ type had the exact same proportions. I doubt it, but one would need a number of good photographs to say anything more specific.
Relevance today: Hardly any. I know of only two large examples, one of them at Farringdon station and one at Cannon Street station.
Master drawing or Design standard: I don’t know of any master drawing for this type of roundel. It is worth noting that just a few years later, in 1977, a Design manual contains a roundel that is redrawn again (more to follow).
Time of appearance: According to several sources the new ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundel with today’s proportions was introduced in 1985. The ‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’-type roundel is the same roundel – brought to platform level, used to display station names. It can be assumed that it is in use since the mid-1980s. An early photograph taken in 1993 shows this type of roundel at Edgware Road station, Bakerloo line (LTM 2001/16754).
Characteristics: The ‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’-type roundel is a simple panel roundel. As mentioned above its proportions are close to the proportions of the ‘FARRINGDON’-type roundel.
Master drawing: There is a master drawing, made on a computer. It can be found in the London Underground standard signs manual (see here; as of 2018, the current version is issue 4 from October 2002).
Relevance today: This is today’s official station name roundel. It is used a lot, namely on free-standing panels on platforms above ground. It’s the most frequent type – close to 60% of all roundels are of this type (that’s over 5500 roundels). They make an appearance at over 200 stations, close to 100 of them featuring roundels of this type only. Today, on tiled platforms the ‘LIVERPOOL STREET’ type is preferred, maybe because panels don’t blend with the background very well:
But of course the ‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’ type works great in a setting like this one:
Panel roundel on the Victoria line, probably replacing an earlier illuminated roundel of ‘EUSTON SQUARE’ proportions.
Picture taken at Finsbury Park station in 2016.
Time of appearance: This type of roundel seems to have appeared in the mid 1980s. Early photographs show roundels at Oxford Circus station (c. 1986, LTM 2001/16634) and Shepherd’s Bush station (1986, LTM 2002/15167).
Characteristics: The ‘FINSBURY PARK’-type roundel is a part silhouette roundel: It is a silhouette on the outside, but the counters are white, not void. As far as proportions go, it is very likely that the ‘FINSBURY PARK’-type roundels are based on the 1985 ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundel. That said, the ‘FINSBURY PARK’ type is very closely related to the ‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’ type, which appeared at around the same time, and to the ‘LIVERPOOL STREET’ type, which appeared almost two decades later.
Relevance: Today this type of roundel is an inofficial type, and a rare one that can be seen at some six stations only. I have the impression that it was used far more frequently in the mid 1980s, particularly in stations that were part of a large modernisation programme (this programme is mentioned in Mark Ovenden, London Underground by Design, p. 252). It is well possible that the first station name roundels of today’s proportions were of the ‘FINSBURY PARK’ type, and not of the ‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’ type. Popularity of the ‘FINSBURY PARK’ type seems to have declined around 2006 though (see a remark by johnny1989a on Flickr).
Master drawing: None that I know of.
Time of appearance: The ‘LIVERPOOL STREET’-type roundel is the silhouette version of the ‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’-type roundel, but it appears that it was only introduced around 2000 or 2005. The earliest picture I found was taken in 2005 (Osterley station, Flickr, bowroaduk).
Characteristics: The ‘LIVERPOOL STREET’-type roundel is a silhouette version of the ‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’-type roundel with frames overlapping the plain roundel:
(Source images taken from London Underground signs manual, issue 4, October 2002, p. 93.)
Relevance: This is today’s official silhouette station name roundel. It is used frequently (numbers are similar to those of the ‘PERIVALE’ type), and it is probably considered to be equally good as the panel roundel (‘KING’S CROSS ST. PANCRAS’ type). Originally the panel roundel was preferred as it gave a protected area to the roundel (Signs manual 2002, p. 93).
Master drawing or Design standard: Mentioned above.
Time of appearance: Unknown; maybe in the mid 1980s, like the ‘FINSBURY PARK’ type?
Characteristics: The ‘SLOANE SQUARE’ type is almost identical to the ‘FINSBURY PARK’ type described above. The red circle is wider though. Maybe about half the area corresponding to the inner frame (that is not present here) was painted white, the other half red.
Relevance: Today just a handful of these roundels can be seen in normal size, and about a handful in miniature size (opposite platform).
Master drawing: None that I know of.