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 Mornington Crescent

Last Update 25 January 2005

All text and images copyright © Gil Williamson 1997-2005

Mornington Crescent - The History

The game of Mornington Crescent was invented in the late nineteenth century by the drivers of Hackney carriages as a serious attempt to design a one-way system around the increasingly busy area of Euston in London. It is variously credited to Arthur Mowe, a Cockney, and Horstmann Ure, a second generation Silesian immigrant.

A simple, but profitable, variation on the game is still played by London taxi drivers, because their motto is "He was a stranger, and I took him in". Cabbies try to include Mornington Crescent in every journey. This helps to maximise fares for journeys which would not naturally contain a diversion via the Euston district.

An Edinburgh, Scotland, taxi driver holds the current unofficial record. Fraser McFurtive (37) managed to include Mornington Crescent in a journey between Drumsheugh Gardens and Milton Road West (both in Edinburgh), on the excuse that he was avoiding congestion in Princes Street (without mentioning that there is also a Princes Street in London).

Sven (48, 26, 27), a muscular Swedish taxi driver, is currently a contender for the distance title. He is en route between Kongsgatan and Tegelbacken (both in Stockholm), but, like most of us, has so far failed to reach Mornington Crescent, though he has been in London for several years now. It has been contended that, since his passenger returned to Stockholm by air in 1993, his attempt ought to be declared null and void. But not yet... hey, give the guy a chance! Declare it null and void when he's finished.

A totally different game of the same name is played on BBC Radio.. regrettably, mostly for laughs. To their credit, however, the radio-based exponents of the game are very fast on their feet, since they do not have to travel anywhere. They have contributed some of the more recent rule changes, including "Begging and Pleading" (an end-game decoration) and "Gruntfuttock's Posture" (in which the moves of the game are retrospectively altered in order to favour one player or another - also known as "editing the broadcast tape").

Today, the real game is played by grizzled aficionados (though it is not necessary to be foreign) without the aid of the London A-Z or the map of the London Underground. In fact, even the Penguin-keepers' Yearbook is outlawed from the professional game, which attracts hushed groups of onlookers on street corners from Ouagadougou to Ulan Bator, and even Basingstoke.

 The Mecca of M.C.

 The Mecca of M.C.

Mornington Crescent - The Game

There cannot be anyone in the civilised world who does not already know the basic rules of Mornington Crescent, so we shall not insult our readers by re-iterating them here. Suffice to say, if you have temporarily forgotten them, or if you come from, say, the uncivilised world, such as, for example, France, you will certainly pick them up as you go along. Beginners will discover that Mornington Crescent is a little like golf, a little like shove-ha'penny, quite a lot like watching your laundry in the tumble-drier, and most closely resembles feeling around in the dark for a pocketful of loose change dropped in an unlit, damp alleyway on a Saturday night after a few beers. That is to say: frustrating, hard on the right forefinger, disorienting, even more disorienting, sheer hell on the right forefinger, and frustrating... probably in that order.

The game as presented here is, of course, a cut-down version. Nevertheless, it has all the characteristics of the real game, and the computer plays only slightly less well than a human player, giving the novice a fighting chance.

It is based on a portion of the London Underground system, as it was prior to 1971.

This computer version has 36 place names, as opposed to the 26,000 or so in the full game, and it may be thought a little niggardly. We do not consider this to be a bad thing, because it encourages subtlety, as you will see.

Watch out for a change of rules between games, and even during games. This is one of the best features of the game, as you probably know.

Oh... and please remember that your score will be sent to your employer as part of your next staff assessment; may be quoted in court in the event of a character reference being required; and a good score, accredited by Samantha, will shortly be necessary in the states of California and Utah when applying for a licence to impersonate Marcel Marceau in a public place, so, please, NO CHEATING! You have been warned. Since your computer can legally impersonate Marcel Marceau without a permit, you may find it cheats quite readily. However, computers are rather unsophisticated in deception, and you will quickly recognise its little ploys. We favour a sharp kick to the Turbo button as a discipline, but others prefer just to withdraw power until it promises to behave.

Now Play !

 Mornington Crescent

WARNING: At least one 1996 version of Internet Explorer has a Java JIT compiler which malfunctions with this applet. Either upgrade your IE version (often a good idea anyway) or switch off Java JIT in View/Options/Advanced.

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Once you have a basic skill, or if my applet fails to work for you, you may like to pit your wits against other human players. There are a number of excellent sites, especially the following:

The Refined and Delightful Dan Parslow Mornington Crescent server
The Very Orange Mornington Crescent server
MC5 - The "If at first you don't succeed, try again later" MC server
The Archive of the Now-Defunct but Excellent York Mornington Crescent