The Tube has had a great year with visitors flocking to the capital for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and London 2012. Whether you’re a regular commuter or a weekend traveller, the underground system plays a part in all our lives, connecting us quickly and smoothly (hopefully) with friends and a host of city attractions.
In 2013, London Underground, the world’s first underground railway, celebrates its 150th anniversary and to mark the event its history is beautifully detailed in a new book, Underground – How the Tube Shaped London, the official anniversary publication of the London Underground.
Packed with iconic images – the Tube logo, maps, posters and architectural details, the book draws on previously unseen sources to celebrate the crucial role of the underground in the creation and everyday life of modern London.
Compiled by Sam Mullins, director of the London Transport Museum, and two former head curators, Oliver Green and David Bownes, this lavishly illustrated volume charts the Tube’s progress from north to south, east and west across the length and breadth of the metropolis and beyond.
The 260-page volume blends social history with the story of the pioneering engineers, designers and social reformers who created the system, reflecting on the problems of keeping a fast-growing city on the move. From providing access to the business heart of the Victorian City of London to the leisure delights of the Edwardian West End, through the growth of the suburbs and the vital role of the Underground as shelter during the Blitz, the story continues through urban regeneration to the challenge of upgrading the original network to meet the needs of the 21st Century and its daily march of more than four million users. Every district has had a part to play.
Ever since its inaugural journey in January 9, 1863 the first underground track, the mighty Metropolitan Railway had the intention of forging its way further. It reached Rickmansworth and Pinner in the 1880s. Proposals to extend to Watford in 1914 had to be postponed due to the outbreak of World War Two. The extension of the Northern Line to service Elstree and Bushey Heath was also scrapped at this time.
Post-war, the area dubbed Metro-land rolled out from Willesden to Amersham, with housing estates popping up along the line in Northwood and Chorleywood among others, with Charles W Clark’s country house-style stations heralding the spread of suburbia.
In Watford, the original central station building was in Watford High Street, opposite the junction with Clarendon Road. It never opened for its intended purpose and is now a Wetherspoons pub.
Watford ’Met’ station, adjacent to Cassiobury Park, opened on November 4, 1925, as part of the extension of the line from Moor Park and on July 1, 1933 the Metropolitan was absorbed into the London Passenger Transport Board network.
Underground – How the Tube Shaped London is published by Allan Lane, price £25 hardback. www.penguin.co.uk
Sam Mullins, director of the London Transport Museum, is at the Chorleywood Literary Festival on Wednesday, November 14 at 7,30pm. Details: 01923 283566, www.cwlitfest.org