Why mock Tudor?
The main influence on the look of 20th century suburbia was the Arts and Crafts movement of the previous century. Nikolaus Pevsner calls Charles Voysey’s Norney Grange house built in 1897 for the Revd W Leighton Crane at Shackleford in Surrey a ‘standard example ineptly imitated by hundreds of speculative builders all along the arterial roads and all over the suburbs. However … it remains no small feat to have created the pattern for the vast majority of buildings carried out over a period of thirty years or more.’
Another big influence was Mackay Hugh Baillie-Scott. This disciple of William Morris designed Heath Close and Waterlow Close in Hampstead Garden Suburb (1909) and in 1920-21 The Tudors, Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire for a director of Sandersons, the wallpaper company. In this house, unlike the thousands that it later inspired, the half timbering shows structural beams and isn’t just planks tacked on for effect. But why did speculative builders favour this style from their pattern books rather than neo Georgian which was also then fashionable ? One factor to consider is that these builders’ clients were status-consciousness. In south east England there was a boom not a depression during the 1930s and this caused a huge increase in owner occupation. Neo Georgian was associated with council housing; Mock Tudor (which contemporaries neo Arts-and-Crafts) was a sign that the occupants had been able to scrape together a mortgage.
The inexorable spread
New housing was built along the Metropolitan Railway’s Extension Line soon after the first branch was built it in 1879 from Baker Street to Willesden Green. Then in 1884 it reached Northwood where a local developer called Frank Murray Maxwell Hallowell Carew laid out a 767-acre estate.
The Metropolitan Railway itself first became a developer when it formed its Metropolitan Surplus Lands Committee in 1885 and developed the Cecil Park Estate in Pinner (right).The then-independent Harrow and Uxbridge railway company opened a line connecting to the Metropolitan Railway on June 30 1904. Lord Aberconway, the chairman of the Met, made a speech at the opening, which gathered guests in a marquee festooned with Iceland Poppies, where the feast included lobster salad, sweetbreads, kidneys, meringues and ‘pine creams’. Aberconway told his guests that some of those persons present would no doubt live to see the districts through which the new line passes develop and furnish homes for London’s ever-expanding population.
The Uxbridge Gazette, which had a special edition wrote that ‘Uxbridge is expected to grow into a first-class residential neighbourhood and health resort.’ The Metropolitan railway took over the branch in 1906.
Soon afterwards came an ambitious scheme for a fully -fledged garden city, ‘which the local council (Middlesex?) promoted under the Housing and Planning Act of 1909. Ruislip Manor station opened in 1912 to serve the projected estate, which was to be built along the lines of Letchworth Garden City to plan by the firm of A and J Souter. But only a few properties went up before the disruption of the Great War.
Why ‘Metro-land’ ?
The word was coined in 1915 by the Met’s publicity department with the relaunching of what had previously been the ‘Guide to the Extension Line’ as an annual guide intended to encourage travel and give information about new developments. It was published until 1932, the last year before the Met was absorbed into the new London Passenger Transport Board. The man who gave substance to the term was Robert H Selbie, the railway’s general manager from 1908 to the year of his death. In 1919 he formed the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Company. It’s first estates were at Chalk Hill, Wembley Park (123 acres); Kingsbury (40 acres) and the Cedars Estate Rickmansworth (45 acres). Metropolitan Railway Country Estates’s houses attracted a price premium. At Rayners Lane in 1929 they divided an area of virgin farmland between themselves and T. F. Nash and Company of Eastcote. Metropolitan Railway Country Estates, led by E. S Reid, an ex-director of highways for Harrow Council, built the more prestigious Harrow Garden Suburb to the north of the railway line, while Nash used their high-speed construction techniques to run up cheaper development to the south, with houses selling for as little as £535 in 1930. To quote from Harrow Council’s conservation area appraisal: ‘Nash excelled in publicising and marketing the estate.
In 1934 a temporary triumphal arch was erected at the north end of Alexandra Avenue as part of a major promotion. A garage providing courtesy cars to enable prospective buyers to view plots was also provided. This was a clever trick that disguised quite how far these houses were from the station.’ The two stand-out public buildings in Rayners Lane are one of Charles Holden’s finest Piccadilly Line stations, replacing the older station in 1938, and the cinema, (now a centre for the Zoroastrian community), built in 1936 by the architect F E Bromidge, with its landmark feature, a stylised elephant’s head.
Development continued after the curtain came down on the Metropolitan Railway; this followed the reorganisation that created London Transport, carried through by Herbert Morrison of the London County Council in 1933. Important developers in this period included R. T. Warren (Ickenham) and George M Ball’s Manor Homes (Ruislip Manor). Northwood Hills was created by a partnership between local businessman Norman Peachey and a builder called Harry Neale in an area of fields along the road between Pinner Green and Northwood. Queensbury was so called following a rather feebly-supported local press competition to find a name for this new settlement north of the ancient village of Kingsbury.
For a more complete list of builders involved in developing Middlesex go to this page.
Here is a thesis published in 1999 by Alan Litt on the inter-war housing boom with a detailed look at the history of speculative building.
The Best of Metroland: 30s villas given conservation area status
Travelling around successor authorities to Middlesex, we find:
Spelthorne: this, one of the few authorities in former Middlesex that isn’t a London borough, created a number of conservation areas in the early 1990s that included nothing at all from the inter-war years during which most building took place. (However possibly with a prod from English Heritage it listed in 2002 the modernist 1960s estate Manygate Lane in Shepperton.)
Hounslow in 28 conservations areas which include Bedford Park, the spiritual ancestor of Metroland; most of these are Victorian such as Spring Grove but there is some interest in 1930s developments in Grove Park especially those built on Hartington Road in the early 1930s for the Kinnaird Park Estate Company Ltd. More on Grove Park here.
Hillingdon: the most westerly London local authority and the one with the most surviving countryside. Here is its appraisal of the Eastcote Park Estate conservation area consisting almost entirely of semis laid out in a single development in the 1930s next to parkland. The developers were Comben and Wakeling, also responsible for the Hatch End Park Estate in Hatch End. Hillingdon has also designated Northwood Hills (v.s.) as an ‘area of special local character’.
Ealing: some of the best work of Haymills Ltd is in this borough; here is a link to a PDF of Ealing’s appraisal of the Hanger Hill Estate near Holden’s iconic Park Royal Piccadilly Line station: ‘superior suburbia’, Pevsner called it ..
Brent: the council has recognised five estates by renowned inter-war developers including Haymills on the curving slopes of Barn Hill together with their nearby ‘moderne’ flats development at Lawns Court, F&C Costin’s Mount Stewart estate on Preston Hill, Northwick Circle, also by Costin, and in Kenton, Sudbury Court by Comben and Wakeling (see also in Hillingdon and Harrow). Also the Buck Lane conservation area in Kingsbury containing work by the visionary architect Ernest Trobridge (1884-1942).
Harrow: this authority has perhaps gone the furthest in recognising and giving legal protection to the work of the builders of the 1930s. Here is its typically informative guide to the Pinnerwood Estate in Hatch End, and this is what they have to say about the Art Deco of Rayners Lane.
Barnet: here you can find a downloadable PDF of Barnet Council’s appraisal of the Watling Estate, Burnt Oak. Barnet don’t seem to have listed any speculative developer’s suburbia, but this is an example (which we also look at here) of a London County Council estate, built to the designs of the architect George Forrest, between 1927 and 1930.
Hertsmere now in Hertfordshire which has now swallowed up the old Middlesex town of Potters Bar: the Darkes Lane West conservation area, including some influential pre WWI houses by the Potters Bar Garden Estates Company in a development extended in the 1920s.
Enfield: this council gives due attention to the non-mock Tudor 1930s development of Southgate Station and the surrounding parades; it has also singled out the Grange Park estate, developed just before World War 1 and then between the wars by Richard Metherell, who had previously built much of Muswell Hill.