Hexagonal Map of London

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This map is taken from an book “The Unification of London: The Need and the Remedy” written by John Leighton and published in 1895. London is split up into neat hexagons, colour-coded according to their proximity to the centre of the metropolis (defined as St Paul’s Cathedral rather than the more normal Charing Cross.) The map is made available as part of the British Library‘s releases to Flickr’s Commons project – the UK’s top reference library donated over a million images to the project recently.

You can see all the graphics from the book here and download the book itself as a PDF here.

It looks like John Leighton was proposing a wayfinding system for London based on each area’s “zone colour”. Lamp posts would be used, with one handle always pointing to the north to orientate people, and colours, numbers and letters to show the zone. Bus blinds would have multiple colour indicating the zones buses passed through, and taxis would use appropriately coloured lights to indicate where they were willing to go. In a way, the idea of a uniform signposting system across London, across multiple objects and devices, is kind like the London Legible project, only 110 years earlier.

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The flaw of simplifying London localities into a series of hexagons is that there are six sides, whereas people are used to navigating using compass directions. The six sides allow for a North and South London, but no East London or West London – instead, NE, SE, SW and NW are proposed:

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What is more odd about this is that London already had its postal districts – N, E, SE, SW etc – defined, thirty years before the publication of this book. This additional system would have been very confusing.

See also – London as a series of squares and London as a series of blobs.

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Thanks to the British Library and to the Flickr Commons project. You can view the British Library record for the book.