diamond geezer

 Saturday, June 01, 2013

METROPOLITAN: Metro-land

As a child of Metroland, I've ridden the purple line hundreds of times before. I've also blogged about it in depth, back on the centenary of Sir John Betjeman's birth. But is that going to stop me from going back and spending another month on the Metropolitan line? Hell no, there's nothing quite like going home.

Steam trains ran on the Metropolitan line last weekend as part of the Underground's 150th birthday celebrations. Four journeys between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham, some single, some return, with those in the outward direction hauled by steam. Tickets cost up to £45, which seems a princely sum for the opportunity to end up precisely back where you started, and all without being able to see the locomotive on the front. A cheaper option was to stand on a platform as the train went by, so long as you were in the right place at the right time, and so long as no bloke with a camera stepped out in front of you as she passed. The far end of the Met was crawling with enthusiasts soaking up the sunshine and taking the opportunity to snap history. At Chorleywood and Chalfont they waited, one eye on their watch, the other on the distant tracks. At Moor Park the thundering approach of a diesel caught some out, but they rallied in time to capture the steam loco bringing up the rear. Some may even have stared at the train without attempting to record its passing in some way, but they were in the minority.



At Amersham, shiny old and shiny new coexisted in a peculiar way. In pulled the steam train to disgorge its complement of heritage riders, while a toot from the siding signalled that the next S Stock was preparing to enter the platform alongside. On platform 3, there was stuff for sale. A table was laid out with copious Tube 150 goodies, of the sort you can normally buy miles away in the London Transport Museum. A smaller table was laid out with leaflets from the Epping Ongar railway, reminding their target audience to come to Essex later this month to ride the same train considerably more cheaply. Meanwhile the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre had a stall in the Waiting Room, hoping to entice enthusiasts to a Tube 150 event in August. They're responsible for restoring Met Loco No. 1, which puffed through central London tunnels in January, and which appeared on several semi-reasonably-priced souvenirs.

For those who could tear themselves away from the station, there was a treat at the top of Hill Avenue. An old toyshop has been taken over, for just three weeks, by a special pop-up museum. The protagonists are the local experts at Amersham Museum, and the theme is the birth of Amersham-on-the-Hill. The town has an entirely split personality, both in age and in character, entirely due to the coming of the Metropolitan Railway. The old market town in the valley appears in the Domesday Book and is proper Buckinghamshire lovely. Local landowners at the end of the 19th century were intent on keeping it that way, and campaigned successfully to keep the new-fangled railway out of the town. Instead the tracks were built across the common on the hill, where a halt was opened to little effect.

It took a decade or two for the Met to realise the potential of the surrounding farmland for housing, at which point suburban avenues curled inexorably across the landscape. A new sub-town was created, this being Amersham On The Hill, luring in city workers in search of a better class of home. Hundreds of aspirational houses and bungalows were built by the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Company, none of them cheap, but still wilfully affordable by modern standards. To the south of the station was the Weller Estate, with its grand oversized cottages set in spacious gardens, much of which is now a conservation area. Lower down the hill is High Over Park, the location of various Mediterranean-white Sun Houses and the Y-shaped High and Over. The latter is a modernist home in ocean-liner style, much drooled over by Betjeman in his Metroland documentary. A lot of Amersham-on-the Hill has been somewhat downgraded by residential infill, with all sorts of lesser homes built in what used to be the MRCE's gardens. But it's still a green and very pleasant place to live, and entirely worthy of a special exhibition.



The commuter town's history is duly aired in a series of display boards around the perimeter, augmented by railway mementoes and a model station. Above a 1930s sitting room is a row of Metroland brochure covers sewn, yes sewn, by an enterprising and creative local. In the other half of the shop is a collection of Bayko, the plastic construction toy that allowed interwar children to play at architects, and a model railway layout lined by tin houses. Those last two might only have been present last weekend, I'm not sure, but the curators won't have left the room empty. It's the pop up exhibition's last day today, not that it's big enough to merit rushing, you understand, but I'm glad I was around to pop in.

At all other times, Amersham Museum opens every Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holiday Monday (2.00 – 4.30pm) from March to October, and additionally on Wednesdays and Thursdays from May to September. Admission £2. Hunt down the Tudor house in Old Amersham High Street, and enjoy.
Talk: The Development of Amersham-on-the-Hill - Wednesday 5th June (Julian Hunt will explain the development of shops and housing in Amersham-on-the-Hill since the station’s opening in 1892)
Talk: Metroland - Wednesday 3rd July (Oliver Green will talk about ‘Metroland’ and compare Amersham’s Metroland housing with other developments along the line)


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream