Metropolitan Railway Country Estates

Photo: Metro-Land poster advertising the Metropolitan Railway, 1863–1933

Photo: Metro-Land poster advertising the Metropolitan Railway, 1863–1933

The Metropolitan Railway was a passenger and goods railway that served London from 1863 to 1933, its main line ran up through North West London.   It was the first underground line in 1863.

In order to boost its profits the Metropolitan Railway needed more passengers.  So in 1919 a separate limited company; The Metropolitan Railway Country Estates (MRCE), was set up to manage and develop its nearby land into housing estates.  These housing estates were to establish a ready market of commuters in and out of London, creating a significant rise in ticket sales.

Between 1919 and 1933 the MRCE developed a series of private housing estates all down the line at Neasden, Wembley Park, Northwick Park, Eastcote, Rayners Lane, Ruislip, Hillingdon, Pinner, Rickmansworth, Chorley Wood and Amersham. In the early days the estates company built some houses itself, but the usual pattern was to lay out an estate and then sell plots to individual purchasers wishing to have a house built to their own specifications. Later on the design and construction was usually undertaken by other companies.

The MRCE had to follow minimum standards for building in the new suburbs including the maximum density of houses and their arrangement. The style of buildings were varied but there was a strong leaning towards ‘mock Tudor’ perhaps to emphasise the countrified location of the new dwellings.

Advertisers coined the phrase Metro-land, painting a picture of rural charm within easy reach of the city to entice people to settle there.  Londoners came in their droves, sold the dream of a new home on the edge of beautiful countryside but with modern conveniences including a fast rail service to central London.

Development continued to the north-west of London in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex.  In the 1950s the MRCE began to look further afield and acquired sites in Runcorn and Alkrington. It purchased the land in Billericay in 1961.