The Church Farmhouse Museum in Hendon is set inside a quaint 17th Century farm building. A creaky upstairs floor, which safely holds just 15 people, currently contains a potted history of our beloved Tube map — from the earliest Victorian efforts to an up-to-date diagram.
The focus is initially on Harry Beck, the local boy who designed the first Tube map to ditch geographical accuracy in favour of simplicity. But the story soon moves on to later updates, the influence of Beck’s map on other city metro systems and the ‘total design’ principles of that other great Tube sprucer, Frank Pick.
Highlights include a map showing a thwarted extension of the Northern Line to Elstree, a pre-Beck chart showing the exact tunnel routes beneath London’s streets, and the much maligned Hutchinson map of 1960 — an ugly duckling beside Beck’s creations but innovative in its use of station symbols.
For any fans of the Tube, this is a must-see exhibition. For anyone else…well, you can have fun making the display cabinets wobble by pressing down on the creaky floorboards.
While there, be sure to check out the small exhibition of 20th Century toys and games, and the downstairs rooms decked out with period furnishings. The garden is also worth inspecting, with its seemingly rural views and a small memorial maze.
Sadly the Beck exhibition is likely to be the museum’s swansong. Barnet Council will withdraw funding at the end of the financial year, forcing the venue to close. We urge you to make a visit before it is too late.
Harry Beck And The London Tube Map runs at the Church Farmhouse Museum until 27 March. Entrance is free.