Latest Blue Plaque

Latest Blue Plaque

News just in from English Heritage:

On the 80th anniversary of the first public appearance of his Tube map design and the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, Harry Beck (1902-1974) is commemorated today with an English Heritage blue plaque at his birthplace, 14 Wesley Road, Leyton, E10.

Beck was born in Leyton, the son of Joshua and Eleanor Beck, who themselves had been born and raised in nearby West Ham. He would have spent about the first two years of his life living in the small terraced house in Wesley Road, which was then newly built. By 1911, the Beck family had moved to Highgate, where the young Harry was educated at Grove House School. He attended art classes locally – where he met Nora, who he married in 1933 – and also studied marble sculpture in Italy.

By 1925 Beck had started working on a contract for London Transport as an engineering draughtsman in the London Underground Signal Engineer’s office. It was during one spell in between jobs, in 1931, that he produced his first design for a diagrammatic map. Some 850,000 pocket-sized copies of the ‘diagram’ were printed in the first two months of 1933, and in March of that year Beck produced the first quad royal (40 by 50 inches) poster versions of the map. The Underground was thus made more accessible to its passengers and a new, easy to understand, way of navigating the city was born.

Blue plaqueLondon Transport Museum Director Sam Mullins said: ‘Beck’s map was revolutionary in its simplicity. It has become a London icon and influenced the design of many Metro maps across the globe, as well as being the inspiration for many contemporary artists and designers.’ Eighty years since its public debut, Beck’s iconic London Underground map – a ‘brave step in pure geometry’ – remains the template for the map used today.

‘It seems particularly fitting of English Heritage to have recognised Harry Beck’s contribution to London Underground with a blue plaque during our 150th anniversary year,’ said Mike Brown, Managing Director of London Underground. In turn, the London-wide blue plaques scheme has now also been running for nearly 150 years.