Zebra crossing with belisha beacons, mid C20, Abbey Road.
Reasons for Designation
The Abbey Road Zebra Crossing, mid C20, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historical interest: as the zebra crossing made internationally famous on the cover of The Beatles' 1969 Abbey Road album, and as a celebrated example of this important form of road safety crossing invented by Lord Hore-Belisha;
* Group value: with the nearby Grade II Abbey Road Studios, a recording studio of huge renown used by many celebrated artists including The Beatles.
The pedestrian crossing in its modern form dates to 1934 and was introduced by Lord Hore-Belisha (1893-1957) who was the Liberal Minister for Transport. The first examples were in London but following the Road Traffic Act of 1934 were rolled out nationally in 1935. Originally the sides of the crossing were demarcated on the road by metal studs with diagonally opposing amber glass beacons on black and white poles to identify the crossing point. The beacons were not internally lit at this date. The crossings and the beacons were immediately referred to as Belisha Beacons after Lord Hore-Belisha. The black and white stripes, as well as flashing beacons, were added from March 1949 following public calls to increase their visibility and thus the safety of pedestrians. The distinctive stripes led to the crossings being known as 'Zebra Crossings', the start of a group of crossings named after fauna such as Pelican, Puffin and Toucan. The zebra crossing's dimensions and design details were formalised by the 'Zebra' Pedestrian Crossing Regulations 1971. Modern beacons are in plastic and a further modification has seen the insertion of zig-zag lines on the approaches to the crossings to alert drivers that they must not park in these areas. Zebra crossings can now be found all over the world.
The Abbey Road album was The Beatles' final album recording and was first released on 26 September 1969. The majority of the album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, 3 Abbey Road and the album cover shot on the nearby zebra crossing to the SE. Brian Southall, author of the 1997 history of Abbey Road Studios, reports that the idea for the cover originated with a Paul McCartney sketch of four stick men on the crossing. The photographer was Iain Macmillan who knew the Beatles through working with Yoko Ono and the photograph was taken on 8 August 1969. The photographer was only given about fifteen minutes and used a stepladder to take photographs while a policeman stopped the traffic.
It is an unusual cover in that it does not include the name of the band or album, but rather lets the image speak for itself; a decision taken by John Kosh, the creative director for Apple who rightly believed that as the most famous band in the world, text was unnecessary. The album topped both the UK and US charts. Come Together, the opening track, is probably the best known.
The cover image is very famous in itself and spawned conspiracy theories about coded messages implicit in the image: the notion that Paul McCartney was in fact dead as, for example, he is the only Beatle shown without shoes and out of step. Paul parodied the cover himself and referred to the conspiracy theory when photographed on the crossing with an Old English Sheepdog for the cover of his 1993 album 'Paul is Live', and there have been many other parodies internationally which are a testament to the significance and fame of the image. Recent examples include: a nude parody by the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their The Abbey Road EP (1988); Kanye West's 'Live Orchestration' album (2006) and a somewhat dark parody by the Argentinean comedy group Longua de Trapo ('Vinte e Um Anos na Estrade' album of 2000) where the band appear to have been run over.
The date that the crossing was installed on Abbey Road and the date of the added zebra stripes is not known (although the latter is presumed to date to the 1950s.) There has long been a suggestion that the crossing was slightly moved to the SE in the 1970s, closer to the junction with Grove Road. However, comparison between the cover photograph, other historic photos and its present position indicates that it is in fact in essentially the same position as in 1969. The crossing remains a place of pilgrimage, with the studios, for Beatles fans from all over the world. Groups of tourists always gather to photograph the crossing and walk the walk and there is a live video streaming web-cam.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 01/02/2017
Zebra crossing with belisha beacons, mid C20, Abbey Road.
DESCRIPTION: the zebra crossing is located on Abbey Road to the SE of Abbey Road Studios, outside Abbey House, 1-121, Abbey Road. It has six wide 'zebra' stripes painted in white onto the Tarmac road surface, flanked by two lines of dashed marks either side of the crossing and zig-zag approach lines along the approach kerbs and down the centre of the road, signifying to drivers that there is no parking on the approaches. Both the dashed marks and zig-zag lines are later additions, added since The Beatles' Abbey Road album cover photograph was taken in 1969, and are not of special interest. Two belisha beacons, are located at the NE and SW corners of the crossing with amber globes, probably plastic, atop black and white painted metal poles with stepped bases. Their date is not known but they are not of the earliest phase of beacons of 1930s vintage when the poles were straight and the globes in glass. Graffiti and stickers have been applied to the poles in a manner mirroring the graffiti applied to the garden wall of the nearby Abbey Road Studios. The belisha beacons are not visible on the album cover image but would have been in place at that time as the beacons pre-dated the zebra stripes on this type of crossing (and such stripes are absent from the album cover).