Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Moon Under Water: Watford Central Station?

This is The Moon Under Water on Watford High Street. It is named after George Orwell's vision of the perfect pub, which he revealed in an Evening Standard column in 1946. Somehow I do not think he was envisaging the rise of J.D. Wetherspoon.

But there is a legend about The Moon Under Water: it is that it was intended to be the Metropolitan Railway's Watford terminus. The Wikipedia entry on Watford Met, for instance, says:
The original Watford Central station building was in Watford High Street, opposite the junction with Clarendon Road, and has known many guises. In the 1950s this was the Grange Furniture Store and the original Underground station canopy was still in evidence
and cites Charles Klapper's London's Lost Railways in support of this story.

But is it true? I'm not sure I quite believe the idea of the Metropolitan Railway building a station first and worrying about how it could get a railway to it later.

An article published in the Watford Observer in 2005 gives a more credible version of the history of The Moon Under Water.

First it describes the coming of the Metropolitan to Watford - the line opened in 1925:
The Metropolitan applied together with its GCR partner for powers to build a branch to Watford. Despite determined LNWR opposition, the route was authorised but it was fatally flawed from the outset. 
Watford Council had recently bought part of the Cassiobury Estate and objected to the proposed railway through the town park and recreation gardens. 
The price for their support of the Metropolitan's Bill was the removal of the last essential service of two-thirds of a mile of railway into the centre of Watford High Street.
But that was not the end of things:
An opportunity arose in 1927 for another route to extend the line into the centre of Watford. 
Through a third party, the Metropolitan was able to purchase an existing building at 44 Watford High Street together with two-and-a-half acres of backlands. 
The possibility of a single track extension in tunnel either from the existing station or following a diversionary route around the station was explored. 
Costs were extremely high and no Parliamentary powers were sought. The building was eventually leased out and was disposed of by London Transport in 1936.
So The Moon Under Water might have been the sight of Watford Central station, but it sounds from this as thought the Metropolitan never did any building on this site, merely leasing an existing building.

Unless, of course, you know different.

No comments: