London’s Labyrinths And Mazes

The Warren Street maze tiles.

Everyone’s heard of the maze at Hampton Court Palace. And rightly so. It’s over 300 years old, which apparently makes it the most venerable hedge-flavoured puzzle in the world. The maze (as well as the gardens and palace at Hampton) are another of those London attractions that are absolutely worth visiting, even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Londoner with an uppity attitude towards tourist gumpf.  But where else in London might you lose yourself in a maze?

Perhaps the most familiar, even if you’ve never given them much thought, are the tile mosaics on Warren Street station’s Victoria Line platforms. The design was created in 1967 by Alan Fletcher. According to this here site, most people will take over four minutes to solve the puzzle, whereas the average gap between trains is three. Fiendish, eh? And a clever visual pun (or a rebus, if you’re from the Boris school of vocabulary) on the station’s name.

After Hampton Court, the next most famous living maze in London is probably the one in Crystal Palace park. The circular perplexity was originally planted in the 1870s, and is the largest in London. The attraction got a makeover in 2009 courtesy of a local girl-guide group.

We learn something new almost every day from Diamond Geezer’s blog. Recently, he took a trip to the (endangered) Church Farm House museum in Hendon, where you can find a tiny memorial maze in the back garden. You’ll also want to head up that way smartish to catch an exhibition about Harry Beck and the development of the Tube map, which runs until 27 March (if Barnet Council don’t close the place down first).

Regent Quarter, that strangely sterile conglomeration of converted workshops and yards in King’s cross, also has its own maze. It hangs on the wall close to the ever-popular Camino restaurant and bar (near the Cally Road entrance). It won’t have you scratching your head for long, but it’s nice to see a splash of colour in this otherwise monochrome development.

Visitors to Maze Hill in Greenwich won’t find any kind of labyrinth. As the Greenwich Phantom describes, the unusual name is most likely a corruption of May’s Hill, referring to a one-time land owner. The Phantom does, however, lead us to a real maze, on the very fringes of London. Hall Place, a medieval mansion in Bexleyheath, apparently contains a turf maze in its gardens. At the other end of London, meanwhile, Chiswick House has both a hedge maze and a small herb maze.

Finally, we have to mention the unintentional labyrinth that is the Barbican. It even has its own minotaur.

Sadly, last year’s historically themed maze in Trafalgar Square was only temporary. But if you’d like to lobby for more, join up to the Facebook page of Amazing London, whose mission is to build more topiary puzzles around the capital.

Now, did we miss any?

Image of Warren Street maze by Chutney Bannister in the Londonist Flickr pool. Image of Regent Quarter maze (and article idea) courtesy of Richenda at London Remembers.

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  • ocifant

    Looking at the Warren Street maze pictured above, it’s not actually solvable. Move out from the centre, and all roads lead to a single dead end!

  • http://twitter.com/diamondgeezer diamond geezer

    Can I add…
    … the Brent Park Millennium Maze in Ealing, which is a proper biggie http://www.flickr.com/photos/dgeezer/2664763475
    … the hedge maze in Leyton Coronation Gardens, which is small but challenging http://www.flickr.com/photos/albedo/1031261296

    • Anonymous

      Excellent additions, thanks.

  • http://acutting.org/ Alastair Cutting

    Close to London Gatwick airport (did you see what I did there?) is the labyrinth at Copthorne:
    Picture on http://copthorne.org ; further details on http://copthorne.org/labyrinth.html

  • http://LondonRemembers.com LondonRemembers

    One more, if it’s not too late…..Fen Court, EC3 has a pavement maze, see http://www.londonremembers.com/memorial/3307.  It’s a particularly simple one but they were designed to be meditative rather than puzzling.http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/maze/chartres/index.htm#bourn  has a good discussion about this type of maze.

    • A Gracing Maze

      The one Fen Court is a labyrinth – one path in and out. It’s part of the London Centre for Spirituality see http://www.spiritualitycentre.org) and there are regular workshops if you want to walk it with a group.