The London Underground symbol is celebrating its centenary this year. Reporter TARA BRADY looks back at Harrow's Tube signs and how the borough became known as the heart of Metroland.

THE roundel, a symbol of London's public transport and a powerful icon of the city itself, is 100 years old this year.

From its humble beginnings as a platform name board in 1908, it has become a famous company trademark, providing a distinct identity for all of London's trains and buses.

Over the years there have been many attempts to re-design the logo and even completely do away with it. However, the sign has survived into the 21st century to become one of the most recognised designs in the world.

The origins of the roundel, originally known as the bar and circle, was first put on station platforms to make the name more visible on walls cluttered with commercial advertising.

A station in Harrow opened on August 2, 1880 and was renamed Harrow-on-the-Hill in June 1894.

Anthony Wood, chairman of Harrow Public Transport Users' Association, said: "It originally had two platforms, which developed to four and then the six which we still have. There was a quaint little entrance on to College Road and it was originally built for steam engines and foot-sloggers."

Commuters who pass through busy Harrow and Wealdstone Station every morning may be surprised to learn that the word 'weald' is Old English for 'forest' suggesting the busy High Street was once covered by heavy woodland. The station was opened in 1837 and was renamed Harrow and Wealdstone in May 1897.

And a man called Daniel Rayner, who owned a farm west of the borough, may be pleased to learn his surname ended up in lights in the form of Rayners Lane Station which opened on May 26, 1906.

Mr Wood said: "Rayners Lane Station was originally called Harrow Garden Village and the building was just a small hut."

From mid-1914, in a typical show of independence, the Metropolitan Railway which runs through the borough introduced an alternative version of the roundel in the form of a blue name plate mounted on a red diamond.

Mr Wood, who lives in Pinner, explained: "In 1933 the London Passenger Transport Board was created and wanted to create a unifying symbol. That is probably why Metropolitan's alternative version was replaced."

But even though Harrow's stations lost their unique logo Mr Wood is delighted London's most iconic roundel was preserved. He said: "The Underground would not be the same without the famous roundel. The design is very sensible and just proves how it stood the test of time. Even during the Second World War it was a symbol of hope for Londoners who sheltered in the deep underground stations. This didn't really happen in Harrow because the stations were not deep enough."

The suburban areas the Metropolitan Line reached soon became known as Metro-land with Harrow as the capital.

By the 1930s the availability of private housing was well within the range of most people's pockets and for the first three decades of the 20th century Harrow Weald and Pinner's population rose by thousands.

Patricia Clarke, 72, a historian from Pinner, said: "The arrival of the rail-ways was very significant producing more two-way contact between Harrow and the city.

"On the one hand it enabled more people to take work in London but it also meant more people wanted to find homes in the country.

"Houses began to sprout up all over with the local landowners tempting the city folk with plots of land."

The spirit of Metro-land was especially captured by poet laureate Sir John Betjeman. In his autobiographical Summoned by Bells, written in 1960, Betjeman penned "Metroland/Beckoned us out to lanes in beechy Bucks."

He later made a documentary for the BBC which was broadcast in 1973 and a plaque in his memory dedicated by Chiltern Railways reads "Sir John Betjeman, poet and friend of the rail-ways."

Mr Wood added: "If Harrow didn't have its good links into London it would affect its economy. Transport in the area is good but there are always ways we can improve and develop.

"If the population of the area is going to increase then transport is going to have to improve.

"We want to entice people to hop on a train or bus and feel confident when they see the famous roundel sign which has turned 100."