Secret signs

All over London are signs, some obtrusive, others almost hidden from view. Some symbols you might see every day without understanding the signs purpose. Here are just five of them with what I’ve managed to glean about their meanings. From marks on kerbstones that academics have failed to agree upon their meanings, to those mysterious blue markers that appeared on the M25 a few years ago. Look up while standing waiting for a train, yet more signs.

Victorian kerbstones


These can be found all over London from symbols akin to a Maltese cross to just letters carved on kerbstones. Could they be the stonemason’s marker or, as it’s been speculated, Freemason secret signs. Nobody really knows; Ashley Cowie here proposes some interesting theories, but in the end we shall probably never know.

Yellow hydrants


You’ll pass these everywhere, often screwed to walls or attached to railings. Their purpose is to direct the fire services to the nearest hydrant. The top number indicates the size of the main (presumably it’s an indication of who wet you’ll get should the pope be punctured), while the lower gives the distance from the sign. Early signs were in feet and inches, while for modern versions the information is given in metric – hopefully the firemen on a shout wouldn’t confuse the numbers.

Pavement graffiti


In London we are blessed with over 50 different utility companies each with their own agenda. A common complaint is that as soon as one repair is completed another utility turns up to dig in the same place. At least there is some unity with the dots and dashes: red-electric cables; blue-water; yellow-gas; green-CCTV network and TV cables; and white for instructions.

Station identification numbers

You might be thankful for these little blue numbers that exist on the Underground should you need rescuing. The top number denotes the level below ground, the lower its position within the network.

Driver location signs


In the past 10 years these little blue market posts have popped up alongside the motorways. Placed every 500 metres, the top number is self explanatory, while the letter denotes the carriageway-hence clockwise around the M2 is ‘A’, counter clockwise ‘B’. The bottom value is the distance in kilometres from a designated datum location which for the M25 is an arbitrary point near junction 31.

Pictures:Kerbstone symbols © Ashley Cowie
Utility marks © Clifton Hotwells Improvement Society
Station identification numbers Debbie Ding (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

What do you have to say for yourself?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s