Mornington Crescent: Still Peculiar
To round off the end of the year, here’s a fresh update on one of the first posts I ever made on his blog, which is now – incredibly – seven years old.
Mornington Crescent. I blew them up in it, then moved them out of it, but it’s still a great little building. Elderly detectives Arthur Bryant & John May left their offices above Mornington Crescent tube station (pictured below) as the unit was closed down for good…
The actual station doesn’t open to the same timetable as the rest of the network, but seems randomly available at odd dates. To make things more confusing, the road which the tube is named after doesn’t exist, and the tube itself was going to be called ‘Seymour Street’. And the confusion doesn’t end there. Mornington Crescent is the Brigadoon of tube stations. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:
The station’s location on the Northern line is unusual due to the dual-branch nature of that line. On the Charing Cross branch, Mornington Crescent is between Camden Town and Euston. The City branch also runs from Camden Town to Euston, but via tunnels which take an entirely different route to the Charing Cross branch and which do not pass through Mornington Crescent. Although contemporary tube maps show Mornington Crescent to the west of the City branch tunnels, it is in fact to the east of them: the two branches cross over one another at Euston, so that between Euston and Camden Town, the City branch tunnels run to the west of the Charing Cross branch on which Mornington Crescent is situated. Harry Beck‘s 1933 tube map represented this correctly.
Got that? It’s one of the reasons why visitors get so lost in London. Like Euston Station, which you have to take a line North from King’s Cross to reach while it is in fact West, Mornington Crescent doesn’t go where it should. It’s fun to watch commuters’ faces fall when they discover this.
For the particular benefit of overseas readers, I should explain that locating the Peculiar Crimes Unit above Mornington Crescent station was an obscure joke, as ‘Mornington Crescent’ also refers to a bafflingly complex game involving tube stations, the joke being that although the rules are often explained, the game itself does not officially exist in one form, a fact it is part of the joke to deny. So Mornington Crescent is more than just a tube station; it’s an abstruse game with no ending. There are two books purporting to outline the rules, the most recent of which was Stovold’s mornington crescent almanac 2002.
City archivists also uncovered a much earlier version of the tube-line brain-teaser. Viz:
An early Tudor version of the game. This was played at court with each move having to be officially sanctioned by the king, who acted as umpire. Only a short extract from the original rule parchment survives:
If ye wilt come unto Mornington Crefent
Stray not within the bounds of the mighty Thames.
Nor can Tyburne be reached without sacrifice of
Ruffels Square, Cock Fofters, or Feven Fifters.
Now, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is situated in a building with a long and strange history in King’s Cross. Currently offices and a bar punningly called Beatone (Be@1), it was once a pub called the Malt & Hops, and before that was either visited by or lived in by Aleister Crowley and/or Madame Blavatsky (hence her appearance, albeit in wax form, in one of the latter B&M books).
The pub was so named because beer barrels were stored under the nearby station, and the porters drank here. The station arches were built an unusual height in order to exactly accommodate three stacked barrels apiece.
As the building has a basement and more oddly angled floors behind it, and nobody’s quite sure what’s in there, it makes a perfect venue for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. This is how it looked in the 1980s.
I hope that clears up any confusion.