The Delirious Museum: A Journey from the Louvre to Las Vegas

The Missing Footnote

Abstract and concrete maps of the Circle Line

Plotted onto a street map the shape of the Circle Line is a very distorted ellipse. The shape of the Circle Line on external link arrow the official London Underground map is that of a bottle lying on its side. Make of that what you will.


external link arrow Ouroboros

[ From The Delirious Museum, Chapter 6, ‘From Soane to Soane’, describing a London itinerary that leads from St Pancras Old Churchyard to Lincoln's Inn Fields. ]

At the corner of Euston Road, instead of turning down Gower Street, descend the steps embedded within the Wellcome Trust building into Euston Square Underground Station.

Imagine a rectilinear arch inverted, buried and excavated. The space left over after this process is the shape of the station (a shape in common with most underpasses). In order to avoid confusion ‘Transport for London’ has made a small ‘Ticket Hall’ label for the space which is displayed on the wall for your information.

This ‘Ticket Hall’ is an elaborate and accidental homage to the form of Philip Hardwick’s Euston Arch that, until 1962, stood in Euston Square, now the area in front of the mainline station on Euston Road.

There is a story that stones from the arch were dumped in Limehouse Basin and there is a society (The Euston Arch Trust) dedicated to the re-instatement of the monument.

There are photographs and a film of the Arch at:

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It is also possible to order a self-assembly 19” (48cm.) paper model of the arch at:

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So the arch now exists simultaneously as rubble, a memory, photographs, a film and a fragile scale model.

The underground station is on the Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City and Circle Lines. Travelling on the Circle Line is the opposite of dérive or drift - there are two directions but they both get you back to the same point.

This is the smallest of London’s concentric circles in a series completed by the North and South Circular roads and the M25. These, too, go nowhere. So, if you want, you can take a break from walking and experience the subterranean landscapes of the tunnels through the cinematic windows of an underground railway carriage.

From the train it is possible to view the labyrinths that others must negotiate. Travel in the direction that seems most appropriate . . . clockwise and anti-clockwise will both return eventually to ‘Euston Square’. At Baker Street look north over the tracks to the concourse and a view through a gateway inscribed ‘Wembley, Harrow, Uxbridge, Watford & Amersham’. If you put your head out of the door at Barbican you will see a beautiful, fortified house on stilts at the end of the platform. Just outside Liverpool Street there is a glasshouse perched over the track. At Sloane Square search briefly for vestiges of the pub (the Hole in the Wall) that once stood on the clockwise platform or think about the pipe that carries the Westbourne River over your head.

At South Kensington you can see the disused, ghost platforms on the other side of the tracks built in a period of intense competition between railway companies. The pub at South Kensington station was beyond the ticket barrier – as it was at Baker Street. Between Farringdon station and Kings Cross station is the section of the line that most resembles the prison etchings of Piranesi. When you reach Edgware Road listen out for the Westway. At Aldgate – an architecturally mysterious space – expect to wait 8 minutes while drivers change. The journey will take about 1 hour but you can relax in the knowledge that you will not get lost. An audio recording of the journey should fit neatly onto a CD. People will get on and off the train without completing the circle but this is a misuse of the line. Your circular, external link arrow Ouroboros-like voyage is the correct way to use the Circle Line. It is an interlude between events and situations. So do not ‘alight for museums’ or ‘change for national rail services’ no matter how often you are advised to do this. Offer your seat to people who may be in more need of it than you.

Here is a typical itinerary for the anti-clockwise journey showing arrival times:

  • 15:14    Euston Square (departure)
  • 15:16    Portland Street
  • 15:20    Baker Street
  • 15:22    Edgware Road
  • 15:24    Paddington
  • 15:26    Bayswater
  • 15:29    Notting Hill Gate
  • 15:30    Kensington High Street
  • 15:34    Gloucester Road
  • 15:35    South Kensington
  • 15:37    Sloane Square
  • 15:40    Victoria
  • 15:41    St James’s Park
  • 15:43    Westminster
  • 15:45    Embankment
  • 15:46    Temple
  • 15:48    Blackfriars
  • 15:50    Mansion House
  • 15:51    Cannon Street
  • 15:52    Monument
  • 15:54    Tower Hill
  • 15:56    Aldgate (depart 16:04, then stop in tunnel 16:05-16:06)
  • 16:07    Liverpool Street
  • 16:09    Moorgate
  • 16:11    Barbican
  • 16:12    Farringdon
  • 16:16    Kings Cross St Pancras
  • 16:19    Euston Square