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Art Deco, Modernist & Brutalist architecture ​in the suburbs of London

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 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.

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.


April Update

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Hello Everyone,


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…

March Update- 20% Reached!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018



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…

Jonathan Howarth
Jonathan Howarth asked:

When is the book expected to be published/shipped?

Joshua Abbott
Joshua Abbott replied:

Hi Jonathan,

From the time the pledge target is reached, it can take up to a year for the book to be published. So the quicker we get to 100% the quicker you can get a copy!


Kenneth Henderson
Kenneth Henderson asked:

What is the pledge target amount? It doesn’t seem to say this anywhere.

Joshua Abbott
Joshua Abbott replied:

Hi Kenneth,

The pledge target amount is just over £17,000.


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