Willesden

Willesden

[wilz-duhn]

Willesden is an area in North West London which forms part of the London Borough of Brent. It is situated 5 miles (8 km) north west of Charing Cross. The suburb has strong links to Ireland and has a sizable Irish population.

History

Etymology

The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon Willesdune, meaning The Hill of the Spring, and a settlement bearing this name dates back to 939 AD. The Doomsday Book of 1086 records it as Wellesdone. The town's motto is Laborare est orare.

Early history

From the 14th to 16th centuries, the town was a place of pilgrimage due to the presence of two ancient statues of the Virgin Mary at the Church of St Mary. One of these statues is thought to be a Black Madonna, which was insulted by the Lollards and burnt in 1538.

Modern history

The parish of Willesden remained predominantly rural up until 1875, when its population was 18,500. However, this changed with the opening of the Metropolitan Railway (later the Metropolitan Line) station of Willesden Green on 24 November 1879. By 1906 the population had grown to 140,000, a phenomenon of rapid growth that was to be repeated in the 1920s in neighbouring areas such as Harrow. The Metropolitan Line service was withdrawn in 1940, when the station was served by the Bakerloo Line, and later the Jubilee Line.

World War 1 caused Willesden to change from a predominately Middle Class suburb to a Working Class part of London. After the war, Willesden grew rapidly as numerous factories opened up with numerous flats and houses. The local council encouraged building to prevent large unemployment and decline. To the present day, Willesden has been shaped by the patterns of migration which marks it out as one of the most diverse areas in the United Kingdom. City of London Corporation records show that the first black person recorded in Brent was Sarah Eco, who was christened in St. Mary’s church in Willesden on 15 September 1723. The 1901 census recorded that 42% of the population was born in London (Willesden only became a municipal borough in 1933). It is at this time that the area became predominantly working-class. A small Irish community had formed in Willesden by this time, which grew rapidly during the period of the Second World War. A small Jewish Community of refugees from Europe also formed during the war, with 3.5% of the population in 1951 born in Germany, Poland, Russia or Austria. During the war, Willesden suffered large damage due to the heavy concentration of industry, such as munition factories, and railways in the area.

The period from 1960 saw migrants settling from the Caribbean and the Indian Subcontinent. Since the 1960s, Willesden has been popular with young working holidaymakers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, although this popularity has declined somewhat in favour of other areas since about 2003.

Willesden went into a period of decline during the 1970s and 1980s as much of the housing was inadequate due to overcrowding as industry was mixed with housing. The whole of central Willesden bar (the area by the Willesden Green station) was earmarked for redevelopment; however, this did not come to fruition. In the late 1980s, traders were given money to revamp the High Street to prevent it closing. This worked and Willesden since then has been rejuvenated into a thriving suburb of London.

Willesden is in between Harlesden, Stonebridge Park and the Kilburn area. It is mostly in the NW10 postcode district, but stretches to NW2. The official border of Harlesden and Willesden is Donnington Road and Harlesden Road. However, the many residents who live as south as Roundwood Road are considered to be part of Willesden and the Willesden Green Ward boundary reflects this. Dollis Hill is also sometimes referred as being part of Willesden.

In 1965 the Municipal Borough of Willesden was abolished and it became part of the London Borough of Brent in Greater London.

Politics

The Willesden Green ward is represented on Brent Council by two Liberal Democrat councillors, Mohammed Anwar and Gavin Sneddon, and one Labour councillor, Lesley Jones.

Willesden forms part of the Brent East parliamentary constituency and is home to the local MP, Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather. In the next general election, the majority of Brent East and all of Brent South would be merged into the new Brent Central seat .

Transport

Willesden is well connected in terms of transport by rail, road and bus. A large bus garage built in 1902 and thus many bus routes start or run through the town. These routes are shown in the table below. The majority of buses are run by Metroline for Transport for London. The Queen visited it during her Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Willesden has its own tube station, Willesden Green, which is on the Jubilee Line. The railways have been instrumental in developing Willesden from a quiet village to a vibrant town. The station was opened in 1879 by the Metropolitan Railway and has a grand 1920s facade. The Metropolitan connected Willesden to London, Harrow, Uxbridge, Rickmansworth and Aylesbury. The Metropolitan no longer stops at the station. Dollis Hill and Neasden stations are also within walking distance for some Willesden residents.

By road, Willesden is connected to many places as the A41 road/A5 road runs close by in nearby Kilburn/Cricklewood. The North Circular Road, the inner orbital road of London, is nearby running through Neasden.

Willesden bus routes

No. Operation Route
6 24 Hours Willesden - Kensal Rise - Oxford Circus - Trafalgar Square - Aldwych
52 Daily Willesden - Ladbroke Grove - Notting Hill - Kensington - Knightsbridge - Victoria
N52 Nightly Willesden - Ladbroke Grove - Notting Hill - Kensington - Knightsbridge - Trafalgar Square - Westminster - Victoria
98 Daily Willesden - Kilburn - Edgware Road - Marble Arch - Oxford Circus - Holborn
N98 Nightly Stanmore - Queensbury - Kingsbury - Neasden - Willesden - Kilburn - Marble Arch - Holborn
206 Daily Kilburn Park station - Willesden Hospital - Harlesden - Neasden
226 Daily Golders Green - Cricklewood - Willesden - Harlesden - Park Royal - Ealing Broadway
260 Daily Shepherds Bush - North Acton - Harlesden - Willesden - Cricklewood - Golders Green
266 24 Hours Hammersmith - Acton - Harlesden - Willesden - Cricklewood - Brent Cross Shopping Centre
297 24 Hours Willesden - Neasden - Wembley - Alperton - Perivale - Ealing Broadway
302 Daily Mill Hill Broadway - Burnt Oak - Kingsbury Green - Neasden - Willesden - Kensal Rise
460 Daily Willesden - Cricklewood - Golders Green - Finchley - North Finchley

Infrastructure facilities

Nearest places

In popular culture

  • The town was featured in the popular novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith in 2000 which was subsequently made into a TV series. Moreover, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros sang from 'Willesden to Cricklewood' on their album Rock Art and the X-ray Style.
  • "Willesden Green" is also the title of a song written by Ray Davies and performed by The Kinks and is included in the soundtrack of the 1971 film "Percy". The Kinks Willesden Green Lyrics:

  • Zadie Smith's younger brother, Ben Smith, is an underground British rapper who goes by the name Doc Brown. He features on the track "Think Back" from the album The Enthusiast produced by the British dj Evil Ed. He raps "Born and bred in Kilburn" but also says "Veteran Willesden tenant. Brent the borough of residence"
  • Willesden Green is a running reference/joke on the animated TV cartoon series DangerMouse.
  • Peter Davison, best known as Doctor Who, stars in The Last Detective (from 2002) which is filmed and set in and around Willesden.
  • Jonathon Creek is regularly filmed around Willesden.
  • The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band make a short reference to Willesden Green on their track "Shirt", the second track of their 1969 album Tadpoles. quote: "Now, here in Willesden Green, yes, brrr, it is a bit chilly but no matter. Here comes a gentleman and we're going to talk to him about shirts"
  • Lead Balloon a BBC4 sitcom starring Jack Dee is filmed mainly in Willesden.
  • Famous law firm Dumack of Willesden (whose infamous managing partner is Donald (from Willesden)).

References

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