A Brief History
London Transport Museum's collection originated in the 1920s, when the London General Omnibus Company decided to preserve two Victorian horse buses and an early motorbus for future generations. The Museum of British Transport opened in an old bus garage in Clapham, south London, during the 1960s, before moving to Syon Park in west London in 1973 as the London Transport Collection.
In 1980, the public displays moved again, this time to occupy the Flower Market building in Covent Garden as the London Transport Museum. In 2002, London Transport became Transport for London and, to reflect this, the Museum changed its name to London's Transport Museum. On 28 March 2005, we celebrated 25 years of welcoming visitors in Covent Garden.
The Flower Market building
Markets selling 'fruits, flowers, roots and herbs' were established in Covent Garden by the Earl of Bedford in 1670. By the 19th century, Covent Garden had become London's principal vegetable, fruit and flower market. In the 1830s permanent buildings replaced the traders' stalls in the central square. As the market grew, additional buildings for specialist trading grew up around the piazza.
The building that now houses London Transport Museum was designed as the dedicated Flower Market by William Rogers in 1871. For the next hundred years, this was the heart of London's wholesale flower business, famously trading every day except Christmas.
In 1974 all the market businesses moved out to modern warehouses at Nine Elms in south London. The old market buildings in Covent Garden were restored and the Flower Market became the home of the London Transport Museum, opening in March 1980.
The cast iron and glass architecture has an appropriate feel for a transport museum, being similar to a Victorian railway station. The major refurbishment of 2005-7 has respected the listed historic structure, but includes major improvements to stabilize the environment and incorporate energy-saving features such as photo-voltaic cells on the roof to provide electrical power.
Creating the new museum
Imagine the time and effort involved in moving home - then magnify that a few hundred times. This will give an idea of what an enormous task the creation of the new Museum in a Grade II-listed building has been.
Staff and contractors moved hundreds of objects of varying sizes and portability - from cap badges to a steam locomotive. They were carefully packed, and moved out of the Museum to safe storage in the Museum Depot at Acton. The removal of so many unique, and in some cases fragile or extremely heavy objects, without damaging a single item was a remarkable achievement.
Two years on, we are moving them all back to the main Museum site, along with over 1000 additional items. They will be displayed in new galleries that will tell the story of public transport and the development of London over the last 200 years. All modes of transport will be covered - walking, cycling, taxis and river transport as well as buses, trams and the Underground.
Our aim has been to bring the story of London's transport up to date and to revitalize the Museum's existing collection to tell the story of London's transport more effectively, and look at the future as well as the past and present. Our new exhibition themes include transport art and design heritage; public transport at war; London's massive expansion during the 20th century; and world city comparisons.
In revealing the history of transport in London, we will also be telling the fascinating stories of the lives of Londoners and the development of the Capital over the last 200 years.
The new museum opened on 22 November 2007 after a two year, £22 million refurbishment and redesign project. The museum received a grant of £9.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and very generous support from almost 100 corporate partners, trusts and foundations. New galleries tell the story of the development of London, its transport systems and the people who travelled and worked on them over the last 200 years. As well as exploring the past, the new Museum looks at future transport developments and how transport has shaped five other world cities - Delhi, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Stunning new galleries feature original artworks and advertising posters, and explore the extraordinary design heritage of London's transport system, as well as London transport at war and the expansion of the capital through the development of the London Underground.
- Bring the story of London's transport up to date
- Revitalize the existing collection to tell the story of London's transport more effectively
- Create more display space within a radically improved Museum environment
- Champion the role transport plays in the vitality and viability of the Capital
- Represent London on an international stage
- Conserve the current Grade II-listed Flower Market building
- Display more of the designated collections than ever before.
A new look
A new Museum deserves a new look to communicate its vision and feel.
We have retained the world-famous 'roundel' logo used by our parent organization, Transport for London, and given it an informal treatment through the use of modern, bright colours. A series of creative, fun roundels have also been developed to illustrate different themes and aspects of the Museum.
Our approach to our visual identity echoes that taken by Frank Pick in the early 20th century. As Chief Executive of London Transport, Pick employed cutting-edge contemporary designers and allowed them to bring the London Transport brand to life with playful and persuasive creativity. Frank Pick's strategy worked and led to the implementation of one of earliest examples of a clear and consistent corporate design policy that has survived for over a century and still inspires us today.