I’m from Metro-Land. Its northern edge. A place created to evoke pure nostalgia. To shape and create an idea of the English countryside.
If you draw a wedge with the point at Baker Street station in London and which radiates out to the North West of the city, there you have Metro-Land. Developed in the early twentieth century, in just a few years, to provide affordable but oh-so-English housing to the burgeoning middle class. It was a dream of England.
The railway company produced the Metro-Land Guide which enticed Londoners to visit this country of brand-new Tudor pubs.
It wasn’t all twee. Modernism crept in. Please check out this glorious website: Modernism in Metroland. Growing up, this was the part of Metro-Land I felt and noticed. The rest was so much backdrop. The highlight of any trip into London was to drive past the Hoover Building, which was abandoned at the time. That building filled my dreams as a child.
Talking of backdrops. You have seen Metro-Land, even if you haven’t been to the United Kingdom. It pervades movies (partially, I’m sure, because places like Pinewood Studios are right there in Metro-Land) and books. Today Metro-Land is a different place. From Zadie Smith’s NW:
The window logs Kilburn’s skyline. Ungentrified, ungentrifiable. Boom and bust never come here. Here bust is permanent. Empty State Empire, empty Odeon, graffiti-streaked sidings rising and falling like a rickety roller coaster. Higgledy piggledy rooftops and chimneys, some high, some low, packed tightly, shaken fags in a box. Behind the opposite window, retreating Willesden. Number 37. In the 1880s or thereabout the whole thing went up at once—an optimistic vision of Metroland. Little terraces, faux-tudor piles. All the mod cons! Indoor toilet, hot water. Well-appointed country living for those tired of the city. Fast forward. Disappointed city living for those tired of their countries.