Cricklewood is situated on the eastern border of Brent.
Cricklewood lies in a valley between five hills (between Shoot-up Hill, Childs Hill, Hendon ('the high hill'), Dollis and Dudden Hills. In the times when the whole area was covered in thick woods, five streams used to run down the hills and meet. All of them are now culverted. The name was given by the Saxons, meaning 'wood with uneven outline' and was first recorded in 1295 in its normanised version of 'Le Crickeldwode'. Then it was a small settlement on Edgware Road.
By the 18th century there were several farms and hamlets in Cricklewood and nearby Childs Hill (named after a 14th century inhabitant Richard Child). Cricklewood was divided between the parishes of Willesden and Hendon.
In the middle of the 19th century Cricklewood was only 'a village one mile in length, consisting of only a few dwellings chiefly occupied by tradesmen of the metropolis. Despite being on an important Roman road, the area was notorious for deep mud and highway robberies.
The important landmark at that time was the Crown inn. First recorded in 1751 it was 'an ivy-clad house with pretty tea-gardens and a stille alley', complemented by a horse pond. Rather less idyllically, bare-knuckle prize fights took place in nearby fields.
The arrival of railways east of the Edgware Road in 1867 and the opening of Childs Hill (now Cricklewood) station in 1870 gave boost to house building north of the station to house railway workers. However, the passenger services were infrequent and stopped in 1902. The opening of Willesden Green Metropolitan Railway station in 1879 and the introduction of sewers helped the development of the region. The area was also serviced by buses, first horse drawn, then motored by 1911. There were trams running from Edgware to Cricklewood, and after the First World War, along Walm Lane to Willesden The tram routes were converted to trolleybuses in 1936.
Towards the end of the 19th century more houses and roads were built, along with churches, a school and shops. Among the streets was Chichele Road, laid out by local landlords All Soul's College, Oxford and named after college founder Henry Chichele. The 1914-15 Ordnance Survey map shows a 'picture palace' and a skating rink on Edgware Road.
From early 19th century seasonal agricultural labourers came to Cricklewood. After the Second World War Irish immigration here increased - some came from overcrowded Kilburn, and some from Ireland, ravaged by unemployment. Women worked as nurses, domestic staff or bus conductresses, as well as in light industry. Men worked in construction, rebuilding bomb damage and redeveloping slums. They used to congregate outside the Crown early in the morning, waiting for the transport to take them to the place of work. This tradition has been somewhat carried on today, although the labour force is no longer Irish.
In the late 19th century a lot of Jews moved from Brondesbury into Cricklewood and three synagogues had opened here before 1934. The present Parkside synagogue was built in 1938. After the Second World War many Jews moved out to Harrow and Northwood.
At the end of the 18th century Cricklewood boasted a windmill and a chairmaker. George Furness built the first factory in the area manufacturing photographic plates. In the beginning of the 20th century Cricklewood's industry consisted of the Phoenix Telephone Company, Smith's Potato Crisps and Badly Page aircraft factory. The latter expanded during the First World War, complemented by works of two French aircraft companies in this area.
In 1920 Smith's Industries moved their headquarters to Cricklewood and were employing 1,000 people. They made fuses, instruments and were famous for their electric clocks. In nearly ten years they became the town's largest employer. The construction of the North Circular Road contributed to the expansion of industry, with Staples & Co (matress makers), Bentley and Rolls Razor running production facilities in the area. By 1929 57 factories were situated at what became known as Staples Corner. In ten years time north Cricklewood was effectively an industrial estate, with factories all the way to Burnt Oak.
The Industrial Decline
Cricklewood's industry came to decline in the 1960s, causing unemployment and homelessness.
Among the new ventures was the Production Village, a television studio and entertainment complex set up by the Samuelsons (manufacturers of film equipment) in part of the disused Handley Page factory. The fist of the Hellraiser horror films were made in Cricklewood. Now this site is occupied by Holmes Place health club.
By the 1990s most jobs were in the service sector or in small workshop-based manufacturing. The entertainment industry connection continued, however, with the comic books of the writer Alan Coren and the popular BBC TV comedy Goodnight Sweetheart.