London’s Labyrinths And Mazes

The Warren Street maze tiles.

Article updated October 2014.

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.

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, 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.

Since this piece was first published, we’ve learnt (in the comments below) about the Brent Park Millennium Maze in Ealing and a small puzzle in Coronation Park, near Leyton Orient’s ground. Meanwhile, Fen Court in the City contains a small labyrinth as part of the London Centre for Spirituality, intended to be meditative.

London’s newest maze was created in 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A small brick maze surrounds an oversized coin in the tranquil space beside St Paul’s Covent Garden. It’s very easy to solve, but delightful nonetheless.

As part of London Underground’s 150th birthday celebrations last year, the artist Mark Wallinger installed a unique piece of art in every tube station. Called Labyrinth, the works each depict a different maze-like pattern. The real challenge is not to solve the labyrinths (they only offer one route through), but to track down every plaque in every station

Finally, we have to mention the unintentional labyrinth that is the Barbican. It even had its own minotaur until recently exiled for a redevelopment.

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Unknown

Article by Matt Brown | 4,762 Articles | View Profile | Twitter

  • 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!

    • Vinnie
    • Rjjcms

      Which is odd, as I seem to remember it being solvable when I got out at the station some years ago just to do it.

      • Tom Hoban

        Two of the twelve mazes are faulty. One on the southbound has a tile orientated wrongly, it’s still solvable though. The other (image used in this
        article) on the north bound, has as far as I can tell the wrong tile ( a spare perhaps?). This renders the maze unsolvable.

        I have copies of all twelve images and am happy to share. Here is southbound error:
        https://flic.kr/p/6NMy6S
        North:
        https://www.flickr.com/photos/46371769@N00/3810365983/

        The problem with this one is with the “E” shape. The central horizontal line should not connect to the vertical.
        And here is a correct maze:
        https://flic.kr/p/6NH848

  • 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.