Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

51. London Underground map


Had the London Underground publicity department had its way back in 1933, the Tube map as we know it would never have come into being. Initially rejected as being too ‘radical’, Harry Beck’s colourful and, at the time, revolutionary design is now a globally recognised symbol of our capital city. Tube stations famously played a huge role in the Second World War, acting as air-raid shelters, government offices and storage space for British Museum treasures. Today, the Underground delivers more than one billion passengers to 270 stations a year.

‘[The objective is] to enable the traveller so to employ his time, his money and his energy, that he may derive the greatest possible amount of pleasure and instruction from his visit to the greatest city in the modern world’
(London and its Environs: Handbook for Travellers, 1889, Baedeker)

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