A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land
By Joshua Abbott
Art Deco, Modernist & Brutalist architecture in the suburbs of London
Publication date: Summer 2020Support this project
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Modernism in Metro-Land started as a website in 2011 and has grown to explore modernist buildings throughout suburban London. Inspired by John Betjeman’s Metro-Land (1973) television programme and the architectural books by Ian Nairn, the website examines the growth of the suburbs from the 1920s to the present day through its modernist designs. Featuring architects such as Charles Holden, Erno Goldfinger and Norman Foster, Modernism in Metro-Land also shows the development of modernist architecture in Britain from its introduction in the 1920s right up to the brink of the 21st century. As well as the website, Modernism in Metro-Land also hosts tours of the modernist stations of the Piccadilly and Central Lines, as well as being a fixture of the annual Open House London weekend with its Stanmore Art Deco house walking tour.
A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land will be a pocket guide to the modernist buildings of the suburbs. Covering nine London boroughs and two counties, the book will help you explore the modernist heritage of Metro-Land, with over 100 colour photographs. There will be a short description of each building as well as a map for each area to help you find the buildings you want to see.
* From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-land: Metro-land (or Metroland) is a name given to the suburban areas that were built to the north-west of London in the counties of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex in the early part of the 20th century that were served by the Metropolitan Railway (the Met). The railway company was in the privileged position of being allowed to retain surplus land; from 1919 this was developed for housing by the nominally independent Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Limited (MRCE). The term "Metro-land" was coined by the Met's marketing department in 1915 when the Guide to the Extension Line became the Metro-land guide. It promoted a dream of a modern home in beautiful countryside with a fast railway service to central London until the Met was absorbed into the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933.
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Joshua Abbott is a 39-year-old printer working in London and living in Welwyn Garden City. He has been running the Modernism in Metro-Land website since 2011, as well as conducting tours of the suburbs modernist and art deco buildings.
Metro-Land and Modernism
The idea of Metro-Land has been around for just over 100 years. In 1915, an employee of the Metropolitan Railway, James Garland, came up with the concept of Metro-Land to help sell some the excess land the Met had acquired in extending its railways out from the capital into the greenery north of London. The expansion of the Metropolitan Railway was driven by the company’s General Manager, Robert Selbie, who wanted an extension to link up the capital to villages such as Wembley, Harrow, Pinner and Ruislip, and towns such as Amersham and Aylesbury. The surplus land was handed over to a newly formed company, the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Limited (MRCE) which drew up plans to create commuter suburbs at some of the villages along the new railway. The first estates were built at Neasden (Kingsbury Garden Village), Wembley (Wembley Garden Suburb), Pinner (Cecil Park and the Grange Estate) and Rickmansworth (the Cecil Estate). These new garden villages were largely fashioned in the Arts and Crafts style, created by architects such as Oliver Hill who designed Wembley Garden Village.
The idea of Metro-Land, echoed by the tiled cottages of the garden villages, was to create a rural idyll for the commuter to escape to (via the Metropolitan Railway) after a day working in the city. Posters show houses surrounded by gardens and parks where the harassed white collar worker could enjoy his free time and live in harmony with nature (at least until Monday morning). Metro-Land didn't just have the MCRE to publicise it, but also it’s own Poet Laureate. John Betjeman hymned Metro-Land praises in verses such as “Harrow-on-the-Hill” and “Middlesex”, where the poet talked of such obscure places as Perivale, Wealdstone and Ruislip Gardens. Later on screen his Metro-Land documentary, broadcast in 1973, would become a television classic.
- 19th August 2019 August 2019 Update
It has been awhile since I sent an update about the progress of A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land, so I thought I would let you know how things are going. The book is currently in the Final Design stage, with the layout being finalised. The copy has all been edited and checked, and the maps for each section created. The book is due to be published next year, and a firm date will…17th January 2019 100%
As I am sure you all know by now, on Wednesday we passed the 100% funding mark, which means A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land will be published! Thanks once again to all of you for pledging towards the book and making it a reality. Thank you to everyone who supported the project by publicising it on their social media channels as well, the momentum really helped push the project forward…13th January 2019 So Close!
Happy New Year, and I hope you all had a good festive period. "A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land" is now 95% towards funding with over 700 supporters. Thank you to all who have pledged and made a donation to the project. Hopefully you will be able to get your hands on the book sooner rather than later now!
We have a special offer on the Piccadilly Circus pledge level, which…19th November 2018 November Update
This update is to let you know about our crowdfunding progress, and about three new pledge levels we have introduced. We have now reached 84% towards our total with over 600 supporters. Thank you to everyone who has pledged so far. We know you all eager to get your hands on a copy of the book, and we thank you for your patience. We are getting closer and hopefully it won’t…28th August 2018 August Update
Just a quick update on progress for A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land. We are now at over 70% towards our total, with 500+ backers, so we are getting closer and closer! Thanks again to everyone who has pledges and also spread the word on social media.
In terms of the putting the book together,I am nearly finished visiting all the extra buildings I wanted to add, recently…13th June 2018 June Update
We are now officially over the halfway mark towards funding A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land, currently at 51% and over 430 supporters! Thank you very much everyone who has pledged for the book and anyone who has helped by promoting it on social media.
The last couple of months have been busy with promoting the crowdfunding campaign. I was a guest on the Robert Elms…17th April 2018 April Update
I just wanted to give you a brief update on our crowdfunding campaign for A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land. We are currently at 35% towards our total with over 315 backers! So we are over a third of the way there, thank you for your pledges and your support.
Once again, if there is anyone you know who might be interested please send them the link for pledging https…6th March 2018 March Update- 20% Reached!
I just wanted to send a quick message to everyone who has pledged to support A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land, and say THANK YOU! Your backing for the project at this early stage has been wonderful and I am really grateful for your support.
We have now reached 20% and have over 160 supporters, but there is still a long way to go. If there is anyone you know who might be interested…
These people are helping to fund A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land.