London Lost Property

You may recall that I have a strange fascination with random ‘odd news’ stories; particularly ones on the subject of those objects which those children’s favourites the Wombles so eloquently describe as “the things that the everyday folk leave behind.” However everyday these folk are, they often end up leaving the oddest of personal possessions behind in some very random places, and that piques my curiosity.

For example, you might remember that, back in January, I spent some time puzzling over how anyone could forget they’d left a full-size replica Dalek (no, really) in their hotel room (presumably on the ground floor…) after checking out, alongside a host of other decidedly random hotel housekeeping finds.

I was reminded of that poor, lonely, abandoned Dalek earlier this week when I read about a new exhibition on a related theme which has just opened at the KK Outlet in Hoxton. Running until 30th June, ‘The Lost Collection’ brings together an intriguing selection of artworks which are quite literally lost property – art that has been left behind, unclaimed and unloved, on London’s public transport network.

Transport For London (TFL) gave the KK Outlet access to their famous Lost Property Office (LPO) and, after a thorough rummage, the result is an exhibition featuring a wide range of works by anonymous artists of all abilities. The gallery explains further:

This forgotten collection features creations from nameless artists; the work ranges from whole portfolios to carefully crafted drawings, paintings and photographs.

The anonymous nature of the work invites a creative interpretation from the viewer of the content and inspiration behind the work. Who were these creators? What were they trying to communicate and most importantly do they have any talent?

We’re inviting the public to cast their critical eye over this collection, discover an unsung artistic talent or even reclaim a lost masterpiece that was left on the TFL network.

I find the idea of this exhibition intriguing (and will make every effort to get down to Hoxton to see it!). I love the idea of the artists being necessarily anonymous; a concept that creates a level playing field for all the artists and art involved – whether they know it or not! – in this project.

When we know who the creator of a piece of art is, especially if it is an artist we love or, conversely, one we’re not particularly fond of, that knowledge colours our viewpoint and opinion of that work. Not knowing anything about the artist’s name or background democratises the viewing process; we’re judging the art as art in its own right, not as art by a specific and particularly controversial and/or famous artist.

And I hope someone visits the exhibition and really does spot their missing artwork on display – it would be lovely if at least one artist could be reunited with their lost art! You never know, this could even kick start the careers of a few previously unknown artists…

More Lost Property:

Strange as this exhibition may sound to some devotees of regular art exhibitions, the art on display at ‘The Lost Collection’ is actually nowhere near the strangest thing that has been handed into the LPO – not by a long chalk!

It is true that a lot of very ordinary things get handed in at the LPO every year (mobile phones, coats, handbags etc); in fact, a massive 200,000 personal possessions of various sorts were found on public transport in 2010, many of which were eventually reunited with their owners.

But some of the things that have been found in and around London’s public transport network over the years are just plain odd. In April 2007, Time Out magazine published a pretty definitive list of the most bizarre bits of lost property the LPO have ever had to deal with, which I reproduce here. Read this and wonder:

False teeth

False eyes

Replacement limbs

Two-and-a-half hundredweight of sultanas/currants

Lawn mower

Chinese typewriter

Breast implants

Four-foot teddy bear

Theatrical coffin



Stuffed eagle

14-foot boat

Divan bed

Outboard motor

Water skis

Park bench

Grandfather clock

Bishop’s crook

Garden slide

Inflatable doll

Jar of bull’s sperm

Urn of ashes

Three dead bats in container

Gas mask

Tibetan bell

Stuffed puffa fish

Vasectomy kit

Harpoon gun

Two human skulls in a bag

Further poof, if any were needed, that London is a very strange city indeed! Joking apart, this list does go some way to demonstrate the eccentric, odd and highly eclectic nature of humanity generally – and just how damn forgetful the vagaries of the human memory can make us, whatever our age.

Personally, I’m in awe of anyone who can get a grandfather clock, a park bench, a 14 foot boat or a divan bed onto London’s disconnected public transport system in the first place – but how did these objects get left behind? How do you forget you’re travelling with, say, a theatrical coffin anyway? Or does the struggle to get such an object off the bus just become too much, and it ends up being abandoned?

You can understand why someone might want a divan bed, a wheelchair, a lawnmower or a set of water skis, for example, but some of the items listed above seem infinitely less practical and rather more bizarre. Why on earth would anyone want a harpoon gun in London? To shoot the stuffed puffa fish and the stuffed eagle (before either were stuffed, presumably)? Inexplicable.

And the least said about the vasectomy kit and the jar of bull sperm the better…

Oh, and as creepy and bizarre as they may sound, the human skulls are likely to have have a much less sinister explanation than you might at first imagine – they probably once belonged to a careless and absent-minded medical type who had acquired them quite legitimately for anatomy research purposes (either that or we’re looking at Yorick and his understudy from a slightly incomplete production of Hamlet). Wherever they originally came from, I don’t envy whoever found them when they opened said bag to be confronted by four empty eye sockets!

5 thoughts on “London Lost Property

    1. Yes, so do I! Actually, I know someone who is a bit of a bat expert, and people often bring him dead bats that they’ve found so he can identify them – I suspect that’s what was supposed to happen with these bats, but the poor things were left on the train before it could….

      Thanks for your comment, glad you enjoyed the post :)

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