London Underground Safari | Spotted These Animals on the Tube?!
Each week for over a year I’ve been running #TubeTuesday, sharing a snippet of a tube station and asking people to guess the location. From this I’ve noticed a few strange animals on the London Underground (and I’m not just talking about rogue pigeons and mice!)
So pack up your binoculars and join me on safari underground! These are my favourite 8. Let’s see what animals we can spy…
1. Paddington Bear
In the beloved children’s book by Michael Bond, a bear from deepest, darkest Peru arrives in Paddington Station. Mr and Mrs Brown, who find and look after him, call him Paddington.
In 2000 the sculpture by Marcus Cornish was unveiled. Taking its place on platform 1 in the railway station. Though not strictly the tube station, I thought it was too adorable to miss out! When Bond passed away in 2017 the statue became an impromptu memorial with flowers, tributes and – Paddington’s favourite – jars of marmalade adorning the sculpture.
2. South Kensington Creatures
Unveiled in 1988, these designs for the Piccadilly Line are by Mary J Woodin.
Inspired by the architectural details on the local Natural History Museum, Woodin placed extinct animal on the Westbound platforms and living animals on the Eastbound.
You can also see more creatures on the floor tiles!
3. The Waterloo Elephant
Now installed at the Jubilee line entrance of Waterloo, the sculpture by Kendra Haste was originally unveiled at Gloucester Road in 2000.
It was part of an installation called Underground Safari with different animals in the niches which regularly hosts temporary exhibitions.
London Underground bought the African elephant after the display had done its time and moved it here as a nod to a bit of local history.
Astley’s Amphitheatre opened in 1773 at roughly 225 Westminster Bridge Road (today the site of St Thomas’ Hospital) a short walk from Waterloo Station.
You can get an idea of the auditorium from the image below (c.1808) and its sometimes consider the first modern circus. Animals, including elephants, were regularly used during performances.
Credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia Creative Commons – 57-1633, Houghton Library, Harvard University
You can see more of Kendra Haste’s work in the Tower of London where it commemorates the history of there exotic menagerie from the 1200s until 1835.
4. The Birds at Leytonstone
This unsettling piece of art on the underground is one of 17 mosaics that commemorate the director Alfred Hitchcock.
Born at 517 High Road, Leytonstone in 1889 these mosaics were installed in 1999 to mark the centenary. This one is of course a scene from his famous cinematic thriller; ‘The Birds’.
5. Blackhorse Road’s Black Horse
All along the Victoria Line it’s worth paying attention to these tiled designs, unique to each station.
Blackhorse Road tube station – ceramic tiles cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Mike Quinn – geograph.org.uk/p/4534216
These, designed by Han Unger in 1969, are pretty self explanatory. However a nice twist is that the area’s name is actually a corruption of Black House, an ancient mansion that was finally replaced in 1813.
Outside the Station you can also find a large relief of a rearing black horse by David McFall as well as further geometric tile designs by Giles Round of Design Work Leisure
6. Elephant and Castle’s Elephant
The iconic elephant that stands outside the tube station and shopping centre replaced an earlier one above coaching inn* (later a pub) until it closed in 1959.
The original used to stand inside the shopping centre until – according to locals – it mysteriously disappeared. Today’s elephant is a fibreglass replica. With the development of the shopping centre it’s due to be moved again, this time to Castle Square on Elephant Road.
*It’s a coaching inn that most likely gives the name ‘Elephant and Castle’ the idea that it’s a corruption of the 13th century Princess; Eleanor of Castile or l’infanta de Castille is a myth.
7. Liverpool Street’s Bear
Though only a toy bear, I particularly like this little detail.
I might be stretching the brief here, but I wanted to include this sculpture outside Liverpool Street Station. I find it one of the most moving sculptures in London.
It was installed in 2006, designed by Frank Meisler and Arie Ovadia and commemorates the Kindertransport the trains that arrived in Liverpool Street station that carried children fleeing Nazi persecution ahead of the Second World War.
Meisler as a child arrived in London on the Kindertransport. A nearby plaque reads “In gratitude to people fo Britain for saving the lives of 10,000 Jewish children”
8. The Manor House Grilles
Thank you to Speaking Stones who flagged some more sneaky animals you can spot on the Piccadilly Line;
Image from Speaking Stones
Manor House was designed by Charles Holden but these ventilation grilles were designed by metal worker Harold Stabler in the 1930s. This is a cropped image but the full grille shows the gates of Finsbury Park along with local animals and plants.
There’s more work from Stabler at nearby Turnpike Lane and Wood Green depicting other animals too so keep your eyes peeled!
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It’s been great following you through lockdown, and look forward to more interesting snippets as you return to a new normal..
Hello Katie, what a wonderful bunch of animals. I thought the Kindertransport children were London children being evacuated in WW2 until I read your caption. Very moving, as you say.
Thank you for another excellent tour.
Thank you Katie for another interesting view of London. I’m glad you have shown Stablers work, and mentioned he did work at Wood Green. I lived in Hornsea, and visited Wood Green many times, as I had family there, and the pictures of his work look quite familiar, and related to tube decorative art work