Kingsbury borders on Preston and Wembley and lies to the north of Brent.
The Early Years
The history of Kingsbury goes back to the Bronze age and Roman times. However, only scattered remains of these ancient periods have been found - ancient cremation burials near the Welsh Harp Reservoir and some Roman material at the site of St.Andrew's Church and at the junction of Buck Lane and Kingsbury Road. The known settlement began to develop during the Anglo-Saxon times, in the 10th century AD, when this area was between two ancient north-south routes, Walting Street (Edgware Road) and Honeypot Lane. The name itself comes from the Ango-Saxon Cyngesbyrig (first mentioned in AD 957), meaning 'the King's stronghold'.
The Anglo-Saxons probably first settled in southern Kingsbury. Around the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 much of Kingsbury belonged to Ulward Wit, a Saxon thane (landlord). Later the land belonged to the Normans.
The Middle Ages
During the middle ages a number of scattered settlements sprang up in Kingsbury. The area was covered in forests. Local people cleared the woodland and turned in into fields, claiming the land for themselves. The parish centered on the Kingsbury Church, boasting its own school run by the curate, as recorded in 1530.
The area near to Kingsbury, first mentioned as Chalkhill in 1240, came into possession of the Knights Hospitaliers. Freren Manor just north of the Kingsbury Chirch, was named after them ('Freren' meaning 'brothers). The Order was suppressed in 1540 and their land give to St.Paul's Cathedral in 1544.
The village suffered a severe blow during the Black Death of 1349, with 13 deaths recorded in 1350 'at the time of the pestilence'. Houses were abandoned and people moved to the north of the area, around Kingsbury Green. Within the next 100 years a local trading centre developed there.
The 19th Century
The rural life continued well into the 1920s. As forests were cleared, there was a sharp growth in population at the turn of the 17th century. Most people worked the land, with several gentlemen living at villas. John Chalkhill was an Elizabethan poet. From 1771 to 1774 the writer Oliver Goldsmith lived at Hyde Farm, which was visited by his friends Dr.Johnson, James Boswell and Joshua Reynolds. The growth continued in the 19th century, with 140 houses in 1900.
At the turn of the 19th century hay and animal farming predominated in Kingsbury. By 1838, 97% of land was under grass. Large numbers of agricultural labourers came from Ireland to work there, and many settled in Kingsbury. There was a Roman Catholic school here from 1865.
In the 1830s the Welsh Harp Reservoir was constructed to supply water to the Grand Union Canal. In the second half of the 19ths century the Welsh Harp pub and the grounds surrounding the Reservoir became popular places of recreation and entertainment. Among the attractions were a fishery and a Kingsbury Race Course.
In the late 19th century the decline in hay demand hit local farmers. Seasonal unemployment, high rents, appalling sewage, poor transport and flooding contributed to the decline of the area. The small population meant that the Council (Wembley Urban District from 1894 to 1900, then Kingsbury Urban District from 1900 to 1934) could not raise enough money to improve things.
The population remained largely rural, wtih some imposing country villas. In 1899 a country seat, Kinbury Manor was built for the Duches of Sutherland.In 1929 John Logie Baird received the first television signals from Europe in its stabling block.
In the beginning of the 20th century the construction of the railway, the development of an aircraft Kingsbury during the First World War and the British Empire of Exhibition of 1924-5 instigated the growth of Kinsbury. From 1921 to 1931 Kingsbury experienced the largest population increase of any district in north London, from 1,856 to 16,636 (a rise of 796%) (see Trobridge houses).
In 1932 Kingsbury underground station was opened, and in Queensbury in 1934 (the latter is not a Saxon name, but the result of a competition organised by an estate agent).
In southern Kingsbury a new church was needed, and in 1933 the Church of St.Andrew's, an important Victorian building, was moved from Wells Street (near Oxford Street in central London) to the site near the old St.Andrews church.
The Borough of Brent
In 1965 Conservative Wembley (with which Kingsbury Urban District was re-amalgamated with in 1934) combined with Labour Willesden to form the London Borough of Brent. Before this a plan was devised to build a high-density council estate at Chalkhill to help move people out of overcrowded Willesden. Chalkhill House, a 17th century building in Forty Lace was demolished in 1963, as were the suburban houses of the Chalkhill estate. The scheme was very unpopular with the Conservative Wembley councillors, and the new Borough of Brent was born amid considerable political bitterness. Built between 1966 and 1970 The Chalkhill Estate was not a great success and has now been demolished.
In the 1960s and 70s East African emigrants came to Kingsbury and opened up some local shops which would otherwise have closed.
In 1984 the open land bordering Fryent Way, which had been purchased by Middlesex County Council in 1935 and had remained as farmland until the early 1970s, became Fryent Open Space.
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© Brent Heritage website 2002