The world’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan opened in 1863 running from London’s Paddington to Farringdon Road. Expansion to the north-west of London was soon underway reaching Harrow in 1880 and Amersham in 1892. Whilst the central section was a huge success, the extensions were less so, reaching out to then sparsely populated areas and not serving any large towns.
The management’s solution was simple (and revolutionary) if the traffic wasn’t there, they would create it! The railway’s marketing department came up with the name Metro-land and set to work. The Met, had a big advantage, unlike other railway companies that had to sell surplus land, they were allowed to retain theirs. So, acres of land along their tracks were available to sell and then to house future customers.
The marketing went into full gear with regular Metroland magazines, promoting an idyllic country lifestyle with beautiful homes within easy reach of London. From the end of WW1 through to the 1920s Metroland boomed, as London’s new middle class taking advantage of affordable mortgages fell for the companies advertising. Architecture was typically conservative rather than revolutionary with a strong leaning to so called Tudorbethan styling for housing and shops. Towns such as Harrow, Pinner and Wembley are all classic Metroland developments.
Within the M25, London’s massive growth means that the open fields promoted are less easy to find. Infill and redevelopment have also played their part to erase the metroland image, traces though still remain. Further afield, Chorleywood and Amersham, protected by the green belt, still have plenty of open space to enjoy.