Category Archives: Moquette

A brief history of London Tran-Sports!

By Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

Did you know that London Underground has its own football league? Every year two divisions of teams compete for the cup. It’s a popular competition with non-league enthusiasts. The London Underground Football League was set up in 1996. In the early years you had to work on a particular line to play for their squad. Since then it’s been opened up to all TfL employees, and players can transfer without changing jobs!

Piccadilly FC players in their new moquette-inspired 2020 kit, London Transport Museum, September 2020

Transport employee sports teams have a long history. Early in the twentieth century, companies operating London transport ran sports team for employees, to help keep company morale high. These included subsidised facilities like tennis courts, football pitches and athletics tracks.

A trophy in the shape of a little silver cherub sitting on three silver balls
Trophy; awarded to women employees for singles lawn tennis championship, 1935, London Transport Museum Collection
A gold trophy in the shape of three naked men holding a cup
Cup commemorating the winners of sports competitions played between 1929 and 1974 by London Transport and Metro de Paris, 1929- 1974, London Transport Museum collection

In 1933 these clubs and societies became part of London Transport, which at one time owned 11 sports grounds. The depots and garages had their own teams, and some of the most popular sports included football, cricket and darts. There were also popular athletics competitions and there were international competitions against teams from the Paris Metro.

Black and white photo of six men in swimming gear with two trophy cups in front of them
Winners of LGOC swimming trophy 1913, London Transport Museum Collection

Many of the clubs closed in 1984 when London Transport restructured, and eventually following government cuts, the sports grounds were sold off in the 1990s. At that point, the company arranged to use other facilities and set up the football league – which has been running ever since.

Ellie Miles and the Piccadilly FC team at London Transport Museum

Earlier this month, the Piccadilly FC team presented their new moquette-inspired kit at London Transport Museum. The kit is now part of our collection. This year’s football league has been disrupted by the pandemic, but players are hoping to play the last games this Autumn if it can be done safely.

Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile

By Georgia Morley, curator

I have been very fortunate to work as Project Curator on ‘Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile’ from 2017-2018. This project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has given us the opportunity to look into the use of moquette on the transport system since the 1920s.

Assisted by two Young Freelancers, Elizabeth Clark and Marie Stewart, we have uncovered many fascinating stories behind the design, manufacturing and use of moquette through the ages.

History 

Moquette – which means carpet in French – is a tough woollen fabric that is used in upholstery on public transport all over the world. The fabric is produced using a weaving technique known as jacquard, and is typically made of 85% wool, 15% nylon mix, with a cotton backing. Before the use of moquette on public transport vehicles, seats were either unpadded timber seats and benches or upholstered in rattan, leather, leathercloth, cotton or silk velvets.

Men working in a shop. One is fitting a moquette.
Trimming shop at Acton Works, fitting ‘Chesham’ moquette design by Marion Dorn, 1954

Research and collection

London Transport Museum’s collection holds over 400 samples of moquette from the 1920s to the present day. We conducted in depth research at many different institutions and collections that hold moquette across London and the UK. By meeting some of the specialist project partners we have gained an insight into why this fabric is so iconic to the life and soul of London and its transport system for over 100 years.

black and white image of people on a train.
‘Caledonian’ moquette design by Marion Dorn on proposed Amersham (Metropolitan) line, 1946

During the research we conducted oral histories with key figures, collected new moquette designs and photographs of moquette in use today. We uncovered a new design by the iconic designer Enid Marx and discovered a new designer of moquette from the 1930s.

We worked in partnership with St Mungo’s, a charitable organisation which supports those who are homeless or have experienced homelessness. A ten-week course at ‘St Mungo’s Recovery College’ was run by a freelance educator and artist practitioner celebrating the design and history of moquette.

Three people on a stage, one is holding a mic and speaking.
Speakers at the ‘Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile’ symposium, 2017

Visitors gained an insight into moquette through a wide range of public events at London Transport Museum and Acton Depot including; Urban Fabric (Friday Late), London Uncovered (Depot Open Weekend), Design Connections: Robert Elms in conversation with Wallace Sewell and Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile (Symposium). The events brought together the project partners along with a varied audience of practitioners, lecturers, historians, museum professionals, volunteers, students as well as the public.

We are now sharing all our new discoveries with the public on our Collections Online website.