We use symbols for many reasons. They can be used to promote persons, places, or ideals. They can identify places or convey information. They’ve been used for these purposes since the earliest civilisations, too, so they can sometimes lose their meaning over the years. London is peppered with all of these symbols and much more. Some of them can be right in front of you, but you won’t notice them unless you really look. Others are well-known, but still, have some hidden meaning that most wouldn’t recognise. Enjoy these five symbols from past and modern London and their meanings.
London Symphony Orchestra Logo
The London Symphony Orchestra has been around since 1904, and prior to its formation, there were no permanently salaried orchestras in London, each group being formed as needed and paid per concert. Created with musicians from the Queen’s Hall orchestra, the LSO has been around for 112 years, and its current logo is quite stylish. The single red line flows, and its curves clearly spell out LSO. If you look carefully, you may also be able to discern the shape of a human figure, a conductor, weaving his baton to lead the orchestra.
We see markings on the street all the time, usually spray-painted on the sidewalks or in the streets themselves. Some of the more mysterious can be found on kerbstones that have been in place since the Victorian period. The markings on the stones tend to vary, and no one is really sure what they mean, whether they noted the stonemasons who carved them or acted as informational guides. The spray-painted symbols, meanwhile, are utilised primarily by utility companies and tend to denote where different cables are and whether there’s any danger the workmen need to know before they begin.
Station Identification Numbers
The London Underground can be difficult to navigate for even the savviest of Londoners, but what happens in the event of an emergency? The Station Identification Numbers found on little blue plaques in each Underground station are meant to help both rescue workers and maintenance workers alike identify what part of the station they are in and figure out where they need to go. The top number on the signs denotes what level underground the person is on, while the bottom number identifies that particular location. They’re meant to be clearly visible in case of low light or foggy conditions (such as a fire or a bomb going off).
Fire Insurance Markers
Long before emergency services, especially firefighters, were a government responsibility, fire protection was the concern of private and volunteer companies. In London, insurance companies had their own groups of firefighters would be sent out to protect the homes of those who had purchased their services, with the first of these being Sun Fire Office in 1710. Each insurance company would put its own sign, known as a “fire mark,” on the outside of the building for its firefighters to identify and high enough to prevent it from being stolen. The earliest ones had the insurance policy number stamped into them, though this was later dropped as the companies began to use “fire plates” instead. Ultimately, as municipal fire brigades began, the insurance companies stopped making the plaques and the fire marks have become something of a collector’s item.
Museum of London Logo
Formed in 1976, the Museum of London documents the city’s history from its earliest prehistoric settlements up to the present. The museum’s logo as a symbol plays into its history. Developed as part of a rebranding in 2009, the current logo was designed by the firm of Coley Porter Bell. What may look like blobs of colour is actually a “conceptual form of London’s thumbprint”. Each one of those colours actually represents a rough outline of the city’s borders at different times in its history. While the colours change a little for the Docklands and Archaeology museums, the distinctive logo links the three locations together and reinforces the historical nature of the London Museum.