Documentary Captures of North West London: Sir John Betjeman’s Metro-land

Metro-land is a thoughtful, personal and likeable 1973 documentary written and presented by Sir John Betjeman, then Poet Laureate. It features the area of North West London where he grew up and the effect that the Metropolitan line had on it.

It was shown on UK TV last night in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Tube. Here are a few of the Quirky highlights he featured in the programme:

Highfort Court, Buck Lane (aka Kingsbury Castle)

Highfort Court

This extraordinary 1937 suburban house in the shape of a castle was designed by architect Ernest Trobridge. It apparently demonstrates his “Swedenborgian belief in symbolism, hence chimneys as turrets and entrance as drawbridge” (The Freedoms of Suburbia by Paul Barker).

John Hugh Smyth-Pigott’s house, St John’s Wood

John Hugh Smyth-Pigott's house

Betjeman said this neo-Gothic house had a dark atmosphere where one could imagine someone over your shoulder, staring. Let’s hope Vanessa Feltz, tv and radio presenter and current owner isn’t experiencing the same sensation.

The former resident referenced in Metro-Land is John Hugh Smyth-Pigott, self-proclaimed incarnation of Jesus Christ and leader of an exploitative Christian cult. He lived there along with his “brides”.

Here’s the story of the Agapemone cult.

Watkin’s Folly

Watkin's folly, Wembley

Watkin’s Folly, Watkin’s Tower, Wembley Park Tower, the London Stump, call it what you will, but this tower was intended to rival and be taller than the Eiffel Tower. It was to be slap bang in the middle of a pleasure park where Wembley Stadium is these days. And the fact that the football stadium is there now might give you a clue as to the fate of the tower.

It was begun in 1892, and 47 m of the tower was built, however the foundations weren’t the steadiest as the design had been changed to include 4 legs rather than the proposed 8, and the construction company ran out of money. It was completely demolished by 1907.

Many thanks to the BBC for showing this documentary again and Happy 150th Anniversary to the Tube!

Julie McNamee
Born in Belfast and now living in London, Julie McNamee is involved in internet marketing as a day job and blogging as a hobby. She's interested in all things quirky and Fortean, as well as art, photography and theatre. Her blog Quirky Travel, specializes in London and Paris top tips and off the beaten path information with subjects such as London film locations and unusual Paris museums.
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