kilburn, brent, london, history of kilburn, london suburbs,kilburn high road

Kilburn is situated to the south east of Brent.

brent heritage website

Kilburn Tall Gate
Kilburn Toll Gate, 1860

Town Hall
Former Town Hall

Kilburn High Road
Kilburn High Road

Dyne Road, site of Willesden Town Hall
Dyne Road, the site of the Willesden Town Hall
Shoop Up Hill
Flats on Shoot Up Hill


Kilburn Station
Kilburn Station

| Mecca Bingo, the former Gaumont State Cinema,
the largest in the British Isles when it opened in 1937

Tricycle Theatre

Queen's Arms

The Stone Bridge

Kelebourne is the Anglo-Saxon name referring to the stream which flows from Hampstead to the Serpinetine in Hyde Park. It could be named after a Saxon called Cylla, or from the Saxon word for 'cattle stream'.

Kilburn grow around the Watling (now Edgware Road), which was a major route to the north since the Roman Times.

Kilburn Priory

A community of Augustinian canonesses, Kilburn Priory was set up where the Watling Road croossed the Kilburn brook in 1134. Now Belsize Road meets Kilburn High Road here. The Priory owned much of the land in the area and was a shopping place for pilgrims on their way to the shrines at St.Albans or Willesden. In 1536 Henry VIII dissolved the Priory, and nothing remains of it now.

The position of Kilburn on a major route facilitated the establishment of two inns in the middle of the 15th century - the Red Lion and the Cock, followed by others later. The Bell Inn was famous for its chalybeate spring (with iron impregnated water) which was heralded as cure for 'stomach ailments'. Soon it acquired notorious reputation as it attracted visitors from the nearby Blesize House, an immoral place of entertainment. The Bell was the scene for dog fighting and bare-knuckle bouts. In the 19th century the wells were in decline, but the now Kilburn Wells remained popular as a tea garden. The pub was demolished and rebuilt in 1863.

The Road Improvements

Although several houses (mainly on the Hampstead side) had been built in the area in the 17th century, the road conditions were bad and highway robbers were at large. Gifts from benevolent gentlemen like William Kempe, Edward Harvist and John Lyon were not enough to improve the situation, and in 1711 a turnpike was created at Kilburn Bridge to charge road users. This place is now near Queen's Arms at Maida Vale. Later it was moved to Shoot Up Hill and abolished in 1872

Kilburn became a notorious duelling spot in the late 18th and early 19th century. Some houses were built on the Kilburn Priory estate and at Kilburn Square, but Kilburn remained largely rural till the middle of the 19th century, with only the front of the Edgware Road built up.

At that time middle class professionals lived there. Writer William Harrison Ainsworth lived here in 1934, and between 1839 and 1856 the newsagent and future First Lord of the Admiralty W.H.Smith lived with his father at Kilburn House, just north of Kilburn Square.

Kilburn was serviced by the London & Birmingham Railway, with Kilburn High Road station opened in 1851, as well as by the Hampstead Junction Railway with Edgware Road (later Brondesbury) station from 1860. Kilburn and Brondesbury (Kilburn today) station was opened on the Metropolitan Railway in 1879. Bus and tram services into Central London were constantly improving.

Kilburn Grows

In the second half of the 19th century house building expanded, from South Kilburn moving northwards.. In 1857 - 67 local builder James Bailey developed an area around a triangular space called Cambridge Gardens. Later estates east of Edgware Road were built up, with streets named after places in Kent near the landowner's family seat, Quex Park. Churches, schools, newspapers and modern amenities followed, like street lighting (1849), Metropolitan Board of Works sewers. Kilburn became a thriving commercial centre. By 1909 there were 300 shops here, many owned by immigrants.

Industry was here, too. There was tile making in Kilburn as early as the 16th century. By 1890 there were coachbuilders, bicycle manufacturers, monumental masons (for Paddington Cenetery) and a railway signal factory. Light engineering and printing were also established by 1914.

In the 1890s Willesden Town Hall stood in Dyne Road (until 1970). There were some cinemas, and the New Empire music hall opened in 1909, Foyle's bookshop started in Kilburn, moving to Charing Cross Road in 1926. In 1837 the State Cinema, the largest in the British Isles, opened in 1937.

Despite commercial success there was considerable poverty in the area. Infant mortality and desease rate were high. After the First World War the remaining middle class moved out of Kilburn.

20th Century Kilburn

During the Second World War Kilburn suffered bomb damage, including a V1 hit on Canterbury Terrace that kiled 16 people. After the war the Greater London Plan was brought about the redevelopment of Kilburn Obsolete industry was replaced with flats. Unfortunately, many Victorian buildings also had to go. Blocks of flats were also built on Shoop Up Hill. A lot of labour was provided by Irish immigrants, many of whom settled in the area.

In the early 1960s a shopping precent was built in Kilburn Square, along with a 17 story 'pocket skyscraper'. Irish population now shared the area with imigrants from the Indian subcontinent. A Hindu temple joined the numerous places of worhsip in Kilburn in the 1970s.??

The Tricycle Theatre at Foresters' Hall from the late 1970s contitued the entertainment tradition of the area, and together with the Kilburn Festivals of the 1980s enhanced Kilburn's artistic reputation.

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© Brent Heritage website 2002