During the Year 10 visit to London Transport Museum in Covent Garden our students had many opportunities to study aspects of the development of London’s transport systems.
Part of the fun of this trip was that students could learn and apply their knowledge in the range of interactive activities at the museum. The collections at London Transport Museum comprise more than 450,000 objects and cover all aspects of public transport in London from 1800 to the present day. The objects reveal the social history of transport, the urban history of London and the technical advances that have moved millions of Londoners over two hundred years.
The London of 200 years ago was a compact city where most people got around on foot. Two Parisian imports changed the nature of vehicle traffic on London streets: the cabriolet and the omnibus. Light horse-drawn cabs, which could be manoeuvred down London’s maze of streets, became fashionable among rich Londoners. Trams ran earlier in the morning and were cheaper than buses, giving working-class Londoners their first access to affordable public transport.
Railways too played their part in shaping London’s development. The railway boom of the 1830s and 1840s saw routes to London created from every direction. Soon railway stations and depots were a presence right round the heart of London
After the 1860s, the expansion of local rail lines, underground and eventually Tube services, led to the growth of railway suburbs at the edge of London and beyond. Developers built new housing estates near rail or underground stations, and suburban communities quickly grew up around them, with electric trams and motorbuses making the new suburban lifestyle more appealing and convenient.
Many ordinary Londoners bought suburban homes which offered a more comfortable lifestyle than the inner city and the Metropolitan Railway, pushing out into London’s north-west, became a successful property developer in its own right. The company built housing estates on land alongside the rail lines, creating a commuter area dubbed ‘Metro-land’. Posters and a glossy annual guide were designed to attract new home buyers and promote the suburban ideal.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this trip was that students began to understand the relationship between transport and every aspect of the way in which we lead our lives.