Church End, Willesden, London, St.Mary's Church

Church End is situated in the middle of Brent, bordering on Willesden, Neasden and Stonebridge.

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St Mary's Church Willesden
St.Mary's Church in 1904
St Mary's Church Willesden
St.Mary's Church
St.Mary's Church, Willesden
St.Mary's Church in 2002

St.Mary's Church in 2002
willesden cottages
St.Mary's Cottages

'the most charming and secluded village in the neighbourhood of the metropolis'.

Novelist William Harrison Ainsworth describing Willesden

The Beginning

By 1000 all this area, surrounded by marshland, was in the hands of St.Paul's Cathedral.

Church End grew round St.Mary's Church, first mentioned in 1181 and recorded as St.Mary's around 1280. It stood to the west of Willesden Green and the area around the church was known as Church End.

The land was owned by All Souls' College, Oxford, (from the 15th century), Westminster Abbey (from 1506) and St.Bartholomew's Hospital.

Between the 14th and 16th centuries St.Mary's Church houses the shrine to the Virgin Mary called Our Lady of Willesden. Despite regarded by some as controversial, it attracted many pilgrims. In 1538, four years after Henry VIII became Head of the Church of England, the statue was burnt at Chelsea.

A village with several inns grew around Church End in the 18th century.

Railways Bring Development

The coming of the Metropolitan Railway to Willesden boosted the development of this region. It was essentially an agricultural area, with many seasonal labours, possibly Irish, living in tents. There were stables at Church End in the 1870s, but no industry with the exception of laundries and some shops.

In 1866 the London & North Western Railway opened Willesden Junction Station. It was a long way from Church End and did not have an immediate effect of the parish. However, more houses were built, for example, the Meyrick Road estate constructed by the United Land Company in 1870s. Bus ran regular services between Church End and Kilburn. More development followed with the Metropolitan Railway running services to Willesden Green from 1879.

By the turn of the century Church End had some blind, picture frames and cabinet makers. The area was working class and one of the poorest parishes in the Diocese of London.


In the 1960s much of Church End was redeveloped, maisonettes were built in its west part. At the same time the area was hit by unemployment, which was higher in Church End than in the neighbouring wards.

In 1998 Brent Council transferred housing estates at Church End and Roundwood to Fortunegate Community Housing which is regenerating the area.

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© Brent Heritage website 2002