Early enamel map of London Underground for sale

An extremely rare enamel map of the London Underground from the 1930s has recently come to market from Iconic Antiques, specialists in maps, posters, and signs from the early London Underground.

Chris Berry, partner at Iconic Antiques, said: “We are very excited to offer such a cool piece of London history to the market, these enamel maps hardly ever come up for sale”

An enamel London Underground map from 1933

Large maps of the London Underground have been displayed at stations since 1908, when the various Underground railway companies in London agreed to operate as a unified network under the ‘UndergrounD’ brand and with a single map of the network. While most station maps were issued on paper, a handful of enamel maps were produced for outdoor display.

Chris Berry explained: “These resplendent iron maps were produced in such low numbers and very few have survived. Once out of date, they would have been discarded or reused for their iron. The few that still exist are often in a deteriorated state. So we are extremely fortunate to have such a stunning example in our collection.”

The example dates to early 1933 following the opening of the Piccadilly Line extension to Cockfosters. Designed by Fred Stingemore, this was the last geographical map displayed at London Underground stations; Harry Beck’s visionary diagrammatic map was already in circulation in pocket map format (Jan 1933) and station maps were replaced soon after (July 1933).

A detail of an enamel London Undergound map from 1933

This map shows the Underground lines in their respective colours overlaid onto a topographical map with streets (grey), parks (green) and bodies of water (Blue) shown. Station names are coloured according to their line, a practise introduced from 1929. One characteristic of these enamel maps is that certain ink pigments fade -most notably the orange East London Line which on all the enamel maps I have seen have almost vanished. The Bakerloo line still has some remnants of its original bright red colour in places but it clearly knew its destiny was to be brown.

Depending on the station hardware, the enamel maps were either landscape (Quad Royal 50” x 40”) or portrait (Double royal 40” x 26”). An identical example of this map is on display at St James’ Park station and there is a double royal map on display at the entrance of Temple Station.

Frederick Stingemore worked in the London Underground Drawing Office for over 40 years. He designed a broad variety of maps and posters dating back to before WWI. Most notably he designed the last series of Underground pocket maps (1925-1932) before Harry Beck’s iconic diagram was introduced in 1933. Indeed it was Stingemore that encouraged Beck to submit his design again after it was initially rejected by Underground Executives.

Chromo Wolverhampton (short for the Chromographic Enamel Company (Wolverhampton) Limited) were founded in 1886 and among the first manufacturers of vitreous enamel signs. They were used extensively by the London Underground railway companies from as early as the 1890s.

The framed enamel underground map of London, c.1933, is for sale at £9,500.