Trial rides on the new London Underground, 150 years ago

Mr and Mrs Gladstone on the Metropolitan Railway, Trial Ride, 24th May 2012

Yesterday marked 150 years since the first 'trial ride' on the London Underground, the first underground railway system in the world. I know this only because I visited the National Portrait Gallery in March and found this photograph (more precisely, this is my photograph of the photograph). The gallery's accompanying text is as follows...

Mr and Mrs Gladstone on the Metropolitan Railway

The 'railway mania' in the first half of the nineteenth century greatly improved access to and from London. However, acute road traffic congestion created a need for a rail network within the city itself. In February 1860 work began on the Metropolitan Railway, the first underground railway system in the world. The first line, from Paddington Station to Farringdon Street, opened on 10 January 1863. Public figures including William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98), then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his wife Catherine (1812-1900), were invited to take 'trial rides' on the line prior to the opening.

Catherine Gladstone (nee Glynne) often accompanied her husband on public occasions, including the very first London underground train journey on 24 May 1862. She recognized the importance of their image as a couple and was the first woman to regularly appear alongside her husband on the platform during political speeches. Increasingly committed to charity work and fundraising, she became a celebrated figure in her own right and a market developed for her portrait in the form of photographs and commemorative memorabilia.


As this is a photo of an old photo, I think I can set the copyright for the image. As such, please refer to the footer of my blog for license terms (Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 England & Wales License).