There are a number of programmes that I remember fondly from growing up, but that I never really expected to see on DVD – and â€œMetro-Landâ€? is one of them. However at the end of last month, it was finally released to buy on DVD. Up to now the only time I’ve seen the programme is on an ageing video recording from one of the times it has been repeated. (Incidentally, it will also be shown on 28th August as part of the BBC Betjeman retrospective.)
So what’s it all about? My parents house in Rickmansworth is built on land that used to belong to the Metropolitan Railway company. Prior to the formation of London Underground in 1933, when the railway company was absorbed and the line became the Metropolitan Line, the company had grand plans. Unlike the other lines that went to form London Underground the Metropolitan Railway was running express services, and a goods service, far out into the depths of Buckinghamshire to Aylesbury and beyond. Ultimately reaching Verney Junction and the village of Brill near Oxford.
In the 1920’s, the marketing department of the railway coined the term Metroland in an effort to encourage passengers onto the line. The company even went so far as to help along the building of new houses in the suburbs – hence why the land on which my parents house is built belonged to the railway.
The â€œMetro-Landâ€? DVD is a programme made by John Betjeman in 1973 where he explores some of the history of the railway, but more than that takes a snapshot of life in â€œMetro-Landâ€? fifty years after the term was coined.
The programme starts at Baker Street, exploring the former hotel that the company built over the top of the station. From there the programme moves along the line through familiar places, eventually reaching the area where I grew up. There are a number of points in the programme that attract local interest – for example there are segments filmed in Croxley Green, and Moor Park – there is even a segment where John Betjeman visits a house just round the corner from my parents that I used to walk past almost every day. Finally the programme ends up out at the far reaches of the railway, where the houses were never built, and the track has long since been lifted, out where in Betjeman’s words the dream died.
On top of the original programme, the DVD includes some extra footage including pictures from the 1930’s of the opening of the branch to Stanmore – now operated as part of the Jubilee Line. It also includes the centenary parade in 1963 to celebrate 100 years since the Metropolitan Railway started, the last steam working on the line in 1971, and the more recent Steam on the Met events.
Not surprisingly I’ve ordered a copy of the DVD already, can’t wait to see it in it’s remastered glory!