Wembley! ‘The Heart Of Football’. Pele’s words, not mine. Wembley Park Station predates the original incarnation of the stadium first opened on the Metropolitan Line on 14th October 1893. It was built to serve the pleasure gardens created at Wembley Park by Edward Watkin, the then chairman of the Metropolitan Railway.
The original park was sold on by the company when the site was selected for the British Empire exhibition of 1924. The stadium that was built for the exhibition of course became the original Wembley Stadium, itself subsequently demolished in 2002 with the replacement finally opening in 2007.
Today, the station is served both by the Metropolitan Line and the Jubilee Line(transferred from Bakerloo in 1979) which calls at the intermediate stops between there and Wembley Park. It was comprehensively rebuilt in the early 2000s to deal with the demands of the new stadium. Having used it after several match days, I have to say it does work fairly well. You have to be fairly quick on your toes after the full time whistle goes mind you or you’ll be shut behind Police Horses controlling entry to the station for awhile.
The Pub: Watkin’s Folly, 1 Empire Park, HA9 oEW
Wembley Park Station feels rather deserted on a non-match day. The new arch of Wembley looms large on the horizon, but no-one’s home.It was rather rainy and bleak on our visit so we tried to head somewhere close to the station. We stumbled on a place called ‘Watkin’s Folly.’ This refers to the tower Edward Watkin had started to build as part of his amusement gardens at Wembley. At a proposed 358 metres, it would have been taller than The Shard and loomed large over London. Sadly it never quite got off the ground(excuse the pun..) and work stopped at 47 metres. It was demolished in 1907.
Like Wembley Park Station, the pub was very quiet on our visit. I would imagine it would be absolutely rammed on match days and probably not that enjoyable. The seating is red throughout with a mixture of sofas and chairs. With the lights on the ceiling changing colour periodically combined with the shiny floor, it has a bit of a Casino vibe to it. There were no ales on tap during our visit so we settled for a Kronenberg. We didn’t eat here after the fine food at Amersham, but it does both traditional English dishes and Indian Tapas.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Watkins Folly. However if you are after a drink before matchday, I would recommend perhaps going around Baker Street to The Volunteer or Great Portland Street to The Albany before jumping on the Met line. That said, it might be worth a go before a gig at Wembley Arena. The drinks will certainly be cheaper than they are inside the arena!