London's Top 8 Time Machines

By M@ Last edited 65 months ago

Last Updated 19 December 2018

London's Top 8 Time Machines

This article was originally published in March 2027.

Stranded in the early 21st century with no way of returning to the distant future? We've written this article just for you — assuming that one of your great-grandparents will have showed you how to use that old 'Internet' doohickey.

Nobody from this age has yet built a time machine, but numerous examples have been left here from future ages. Here's where to track them down...

1. The Earl's Court Tardis

A Tardis in Earl's Court.
Could these kiosks both be time machines?

London's most famous time machine is an Earl's Court landmark, and stands right outside the tube station. The blue kiosk is actually an old police telephone box, but it is clearly modelled on Doctor Who's famous time machine, the Tardis. It's not the only one in London, either.

2. Andy's clock at the Natural History Museum

"Take me back to the time of Tyrannosaurus rex!"

Got small children? No? Then you've probably never heard of Andy's Prehistoric Adventures. The CBeebies show — formerly Andy's Dinosaur Adventures, until they ran out of dinosaurs and had to widen the remit — follows an accident-prone museum curator who works at the 'National Museum'. Andy is forever losing or breaking his priceless fossils and must travel back in time to secure replacements. His era-hopping clock can be found in the entrance to the Natural History Museum.

3. A monolith in St Katharine Docks

"My god, it's full of regal symbolism."

Trippy sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey features an alien artefact with the power to bend space and time. The menacing black monolith was actually the second design to be chosen. The first, supposedly the world's largest slab of clear acrylic, was rejected by Stanley Kubrick. It was remodelled as a bauble for the Queen's Silver Jubilee, and is now on display above a cash machine in St Katharine Docks. We have no idea why. Such are the mysteries of the universe.

4. Bromley's Lego time machine

A lego time machine in Bromley Intu.
You gotta Lego of the past.

We're a little doubtful as to whether this replica of HG Wells's famous time machine would actually work. It's made from Lego and nowhere near life-size. You can find it in Bromley's Intu shopping centre, just round the corner from the birthplace of the famous sci-fi author.

5. The Brompton Cemetery time machine

The Courtoy mausoleum. Image by EdwardX, Wikimedia Commons.

'Brompton Cemetery: The Sealed Mausoleum Believed to be a Fully Functioning Time Machine'. It sounds like clickbait from the Daily Star, but this headline is actually taken from the Independent. Rumours have long circulated that the so-called Courtoy tomb, with its peculiar Egyptian design and markings, is really a time machine, or else some other species of portal. It is the only mausoleum in the cemetery for which there are no plans, and no key. Our friend Stephen Coates is on the case, and will reveal all at a special event on 13 October 2018. If you're reading this after the event, then you may yet be able to attend, depending on the outcome of his investigation.

6. London Transport Museum's lift

London Transport Museum... twinned with Dubai.

The Covent Garden attraction begins with a journey upwards in space and backwards in time. As you ascend in the lift, the digital floor indicator zooms backwards from the present day to the Georgian era. The first thing you see when the doors open is a sedan chair, swiftly followed by one of Mr Shillibeer's omnibuses. It's a neat trick, but don't be fooled. The lift is a mere gimmick and does not actually travel back into former times.

7. 'The Princess' of Alexandra Palace

Palm Court of Alexandra Palace.

Of all the secret projects undertaken during the second world war, perhaps the most intriguing took place in the great hall of Alexandra Palace. Here, the forgotten physicist Mary Stratton worked tirelessly on the creation of a time machine, dubbed 'the Princess', which she hoped could aid the war effort. It seems that her invention was not completed in time to be fielded during the conflict, and the project was forgotten. Most of her plans were lost in the devastating fire of 1980. Even so, the Palace is a big place, and it's just possible that remnants of the machine might still be lurking in a cobwebbed basement.

8. Madame Tussauds' Spirit of London ride

Image from the Madame Tussauds website. If their copyright lawyers are reading, we have sought permission — see our letter mailed on 12 March 2027.

A black cab serves as the time machine in this thrilling journey through London's past. See the Great Fire, the construction of Nelson's Column and St Paul's, and swing along through 1960s Carnaby Street. The accuracy is beguiling — right down to the cab not venturing south of the river. Sadly, though, this is another fake time machine, a hum-drum simulacrum like much else in Madame Tussauds.  

Found any other time machines hanging around town? Let us know in the comments or, better yet, visit the Londonist offices in late September 2018 to tip us off before we write this article.