Metro-Land was the word first created by the Metropolitan Railway (Met) in 1915 to describe the area to the north west of London in Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire through which the Metropolitan Railway operated and served.
As the Metropolitan Railway developed its lines during the late 19th century, the company also started to acquire large amounts of land adjacent to its lines, originally for developing its tracks and depot facilities. However, the Met gained powers to allow the land to be used to for non-railway operating purposes, resulting in the land being used for housing development instead. The first housing estates were built at Wembley Park and Pinner (Cecil Park) in the early 1900s and were managed by the Surplus Lands Committee. However, in 1908, Robert Selbie was appointed manager of the Met and he was instrumental in transforming the Met main line route from the sparsley populated area that it had been into the commuter land that became known as Metro-Land.
Further housing developments were brought to a temporary halt during the First World War but soon resumed in 1919 with the creation of the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Ltd (M.R.C.E) who managed and developed the railway's estates. Officially they were a separate company, independent of the railway but in practice, under the control of the Metropolitan's directors. Over a period of 13 years, the M.R.C.E built a series of new residential estates following the route of the Met line at Neasden, Wembley Park, Northwick Park, Eastcote, Rayners Lane, Ruislip, Hillingdon, Pinner, Rickmansworth and Amersham. Generally the estate planning and lay out was organised by M.R.C.E and then the plots were sold on to the individual purchasers (usually property developers) who could have the housing built to their own specifications.
Metro-Land was also the name adopted for guide books that were published annually by the Metropolitan Railway Publicity Department between 1915 and 1932. The books contained evocative descriptions and photographs of the historic villages and rural countryside that made up the area surrounding the Metropolitan Railway lines. They also featured special articles for walkers and 'ramblers', advise on how to get around London, an update on the latest project from the Met, maps of the Met line routes and lists of local amenities and accommodation. Most importantly however, was the section entitled House Seekers which provided details on the various new housing estates and country homes, their distance from Baker Street and frequency of the local train service, the purchase costs, local rates for water and electricity and the type of soil the area possessed . Collectively, this information was aimed at the season ticket holding passengers who would live in Metro-Land and make the daily commute to work into the City by train. Metro-Land was promoted as having the perfect combination of the beautiful countryside yet with every modern convenience and still within easy and quick access to central London.
In the advertising, the Met Publicity Department used some what over the top poetic language and prose in order to describe the "rural tradition with civilised progress". The language must have sounded old-fashioned and contrived even then but it proved to be an important part of a highly successful marketing plan.
In 1924, the British Empire Exhibition opened at Wembley which included the iconic football stadium. At the same time, the Met developed a large housing-estate close to the exhibition site. The British Empire Exhibition provided excellent business for the Met and was featured on the front cover of the 1924 edition of the Metro-Land guide book.
In addition to the annual Metro-Land guide book, other publications and activities were also launched by the Commercial Department of the Met as part of the campaign to fully exploit the newness and opportunities posed by Metro-Land. New-style posters were also produced which incorporated maps, showing the Metropolitan Railway line routes and emphasising the closeness of Metro-Land to London.
Obviously, as the housing estates grew, new communities developed and as part of this, new businesses and local amenities emerged. However Metro-Land was essentially about the notion of creating of a better life, away from the noise and pollution of the city and enjoying the benefits of the healthy, country life alongside the spacious, modern living facilities that the new housing could offer but still within commuting distance of central London.
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