When You Start Seeing Roundels Everywhere

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago

Last Updated 07 September 2023

When You Start Seeing Roundels Everywhere

Roundels: THE logo of London. But you won't just find them in the city's tube stations and on its bus stops — once you start looking, roundels are EVERYWHERE...

Roundels that are visible from space Google Maps

A roundel shaped road
Image: Google Maps

Ever stopped dead in your tracks, as you realise you're walking over a giant roundel? That's what happened to us recently in South Croydon's Houlder Crescent (see above), which is not so much a crescent as a huge tarmac roundel. Yes, yes, there are infinite roundabouts in London, but the straight path through the centre of the grassy core here really lends it a definite roundel appearance. As chance would have it, to the immediate north is this even larger roundel:

Another 'roundel' form the air
Image: Google Maps

The 'bar' through the middle (in this case Denning Avenue) is sadly not as central as we'd like, but the concentric red roofed houses more than make up for it, bringing to life the red ring of the classic roundel. Or are we just spending too much time thinking about roundels?

A roundel on a statue

A grand bust with a roundel shape at the bottom
Did Samuel Plimsoll actually invent the roundel? Image: duncan cumming via creative commons

Everyone knows the roundel was created in the early 1900s, then perfected by Frank Pick and Edward Johnston soon after. Or so they would have you believe. On Victoria Embankment, you'll find the lavish memorial to Samuel Plimsoll, the man behind the 'Plimsoll line' — not a long-lost tube line, but a measure by which ships can safely load up with cargo. On Plimsoll's bust is not one, but two of these Plimsoll lines, which you'll surely agree bear more than a passing resemblance to our friend, the roundel. Plimsoll came up with it in 1876 — two years before Frank Pick was born.

An ancient Egyptian roundel

What looks like a roundel on an old bit of stone in a glass case
OK, now that's an old roundel. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

And roundels go back a way before that too. A trip to the British Museum reveals a hunk of ancient Egyptian stone (above) which is very clearly an early draft of the roundel. Could this have once been part of a Ptolemaic bus stop? Almost certainly. And sitting next to it: possibly the earliest moquette design known to man. Facts are facts, people.

A lunar roundel

The moon with a contrail running right through the middle
Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

You know we said that once you start looking, you can't stop seeing roundels... how about this snap we got of the moon with a contrail running right through the centre. Maybe it's a sign from Frank Pick in the Great Beyond. Maybe we need to have a lie down.

Various other roundels

Some other roundel-not-roundels that've caught our attention around London. Got a good one you'd like to add? Email your pic to [email protected] and we'll consider it.

A Southern train pulling into a station
The Southern Trains logo is... yup, a roundel. Image: John Ray via creative commons
A granite roundel advertising a granite and marble factory outlet
This one in Vauxhall isn't exactly subtle. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist
A roundel with a carving of two young boys in a boat
A particularly ornate roundel in Hyde Park. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist
A beigel with a slice of cheese creating a roundel 'bar' through the middle
This might just be us having a roundel-induced breakdown. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist