Collection spotlight: Transport for London


London's sporting calendar has long been advertised by Transport for London. Leading designers, illustrators and artists of the twentieth century took pride in designing posters for major annual events, such as Cup Finals, the Boat Race and Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Local football, rugby and cricket fixtures were also showcased to publicise how easy it was to reach sporting venues by public transport. 

Our collection of London Transport Museum posters are not only wonderful mementos of London’s past, but they showcase British illustrative design at its best. Here are a few popular pieces from the collection and the stories behind them.

Wimbledon, 1931 by Herry Perry

The Wimbledon promotional posters remind us of an era when printed advertisements held marketing power. After all, it wasn't until 1967 when the first match was televised in colour. The Underground promoted both the Wimbledon Championships and the Davis Cup. As they were both held at Wimbledon, a special bus service was available from Southfields station on the District line. In 1933, two posters were issued by the Underground to promote Wimbledon Championships. One was for display on platforms and booking office walls and another smaller one was for posting in Underground carriages. 

Herry Perry’s design was originally a panel poster, produced for display in Underground car interiors, as well as on the inside and outside of buses and trams. Because they did not have to fit a standard frame or wall space, they were smaller than other poster formats and vary slightly in size. The pink and green combination make this print a popular choice for contemporary homes that want to add a hint of a British accent to their interior stories.

Rugby at Twickenham, 1921 by Dame Laura Knight

Twickenham is the largest Rugby Union stadium in the United Kingdom and known across the world. It’s hard to believe, but Twickenham started life as a humble cabbage patch, bought by the RFU in 1907. The first match took place at the ground in 1909 and sporting events have been celebrated by Transport For London posters throughout the 20th century. However, the nearest Underground station was Richmond, from which it was then necessary to take a bus. The Rugby League Cup Final matches, which were held at Wembley, were far more accessible and subsequently the subject of more promotional posters.

The size of the original poster is referred to as a ‘double royal’ which has been the Underground’s standard size (40 x28 inches) since 1908. This print shows the use of darker colours compared to the lighter and brighter shades of the Underground’s posters from the 1930s.

The Oval - England V. West Indies, 1939 by Clifford Ellis & Rosemary Ellis

Surrey County Cricket Club at The Oval in Kennington is one of two principal cricket grounds in London. During the 1930s and onwards, Test Matches have often been held at The Oval and because of its accessible location from the Underground, promotional posters were used to advertise events to the public. Travel by tube, bus or coach to county games and fixtures at smaller grounds in and around London, were also occasionally promoted in posters. 

This print by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis uses a light blue and white colour palette to create a blue sky and fluffy cloud-like scene, depicting the bowler in a dynamic form. This design shows how these posters were characterful, light-hearted and a balance between the artist’s technique and Transport For London’s brand style. 

Cup Final, 1934 by Anna Katrina Zinkeisen

Perfect for football and travel fans, this poster conjures up the jubilation of interwar years. The first FA Cup Final to be played at Wembley Stadium was held on 28 April 1923. The Underground subsequently issued posters to promote the annual event throughout the 1920s and 1930s. These were usually in the panel poster format. Full size pictorial posters were occasionally issued to promote football across the city, but these rarely mentioned the names of individual clubs or grounds. 

More sporting prints from the London Transport Museum Archive

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