A return trip to John Betjeman’s Metro-land, 50 years on from his classic TV documentary

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The late poet laureate’s hymn to the commuter towns of Middlesex, Herts and Bucks is still a great guide to the Metropolitan line, the world’s first urban ‘underground’ railway

Here is a plan for a day out on the Metropolitan line of London’s underground, although we will at no stage be under ground, and will travel 25 miles from London. First, however, a little history.

In 1863, the Metropolitan Railway (Met) built the first subterranean railway – from Paddington to Farringdon. Five years later, the Met, an ambitious and restless outfit, added to this an above-ground northern prong, from Baker Street to St John’s Wood, in the hope of capturing commuter traffic. As this prong, known as the Extension Line at the time – and still called that by one endearingly affected friend of mine – bifurcated and stretched into Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, the Met built homes adjacent to it in the nostalgic Tudorbethan style. Between 1915 and 1933 (when the Met suffered the indignity of becoming a mere “line” of the London Underground), these were marketed as Metro-land.

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