Saturday 31 October 2020

Uncovering Kilburn’s History – Part 6

 Welcome back! If you missed Part 5, please click on the “link” to read it. We’ll begin this week with a look at some local homes.


1. Albert Road, South Kilburn, late 1940s. (From “The Willesden Survey, 1949”)


By 1900, there was a growing divide in Kilburn between the more prosperous north and the poor south. The conditions in some areas of South Kilburn were dire – in 1881 a report was made to a meeting at Kilburn Town Hall on the living conditions in Victoria Place, behind the Cock Tavern. 161 people, including 84 children, lived in 26 small dwellings, which were accessed from the High Road along a narrow passage, which went by the pub’s urinal, the walls of which were covered in bad language. 


In 1898 the Vestry reported on ‘houses let in lodgings’ in Palmerston Road and Kelson and Netherwood Streets off Kilburn High Road. Although they did not see any cases of ‘actual want or destitution’, many of the residents kept hens as a source of food in winter when men were out of work. Houses were in need of cleansing and the repair of plaster. ‘The total number of souls in the 160 houses was 2264, of which 668 were children under 10 years of age, an average of a little more than 14 for each house, against 7 for the rest of the Parish.’


Kilburn Vale, on the Hampstead side, had been reported to be ‘in a most foul, unwholesome state, well before the turn of the century’, and remained slums until the 1930s.




2. The Animal's War Memorial Dispensary building in Cambridge Avenue, 2020. (Photo by Irina Porter)


It wasn’t just people who needed better treatment. An interesting memorial commemorating World War I is located at 10 Cambridge Avenue. In 1931 the RSPCA bought this building for the Animals War Memorial Dispensary, as a practical tribute to countless horses, dogs, donkeys, pigeons and many other types of animals used by the army and who gave their lives for their human masters. The dispensary was where ‘the sick, injured or unwanted animals of poor people could receive, free of charge, the best possible veterinary attention, or a painless death.’ By the mid-1930s, more than 50,000 animals and birds were treated at the Kilburn Dispensary. It closed in 2016.


The years between the First and Second World Wars also saw the emergence of large-scale municipal housing, in particular the Westcroft Housing Estate on the Hampstead side. In the 1930s some new developments, in particular on Shoot Up Hill, took the form of mansion blocks of flats. On the Willesden side of the High Road, however, there was little in the way of housing improvements for people in Kilburn during the inter-war years.


3. Warwick Lodge, Shoot Up Hill, a 1930s mansion block of private flats. (Photo by Irina Porter)


The overcrowding and living conditions in South Kilburn meant that many people lacked basic amenities for washing, and the opening of Granville Road Baths in July 1937 was a welcome addition to local facilities. Willesden Council bought a terrace with cottages and stables at the rear, and the baths were specially designed for the confined site – nevertheless, providing not only a 100ft x 33ft swimming pool with diving boards of a competition standard, but also private slipper baths (where people could have a bath for a small fee), lockers, cubicles and a public laundry with a washing machine. A superintendent lived in a flat on the premises.


4. Granville Road Baths, and a Leon Kossoff painting of the swimming pool. (Images from the internet)


The baths became a subject of paintings by artist Leon Kossoff in 1960s, who had his studio in Willesden. They continued to be a popular local facility until demolished in 1990s, and now the space is occupied by Len Williams Court. 


Whatever Kilburn lacked in home comforts, there was no shortage of places of entertainment, and we’ll take a tour of some of the grander venues over the years. The Kilburn Theatre Royal, which occupied the former Kilburn Town Hall building in Belsize Road, operated as a cinema from 1909 to 1941, known as the Kilburn Picture Palace and Theatre of Varieties. In later years the building housed Shannon’s Night Club, a warehouse and a Decca Recording Studios in 1990s. It is currently used as offices. 


5. A Theatre Royal poster, and the Kilburn Empire, early 1900s. (Images from the internet)


The Kilburn Empire, opened in 1906 at 9-11 The Parade (the triangle of Kilburn High Road and Kilburn Vale), offering music hall, circus and films (the great escapologist Houdini performed there in 1909). It remained a cinema under various names until 1981, was then used as a religious building, and a paint-ball game centre, until demolished in 1994 to make way for the Regents Plaza Hotel. 


The Grange Cinema opened on the site of the The Grange mansion in 1914. It had over 2,000 seats, a stage, an organ and the Winter Garden café, and was the largest purpose-built cinema in the country at the time. Sixty years later the cinema closed, and the building became the National Club in 1976, and was a popular music venue for the large Irish community in the area. As well as Irish showbands, it featured many famous performers, including Johnny Cash, Simply Red and David Bowie, until it closed in 1999. Now the building is used by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and since 1991 it has been a Grade II listed building.


6. The Grange Cinema c.1930, and as a Christian centre in 2018. (Old image from internet, photo by John Hill)


7. Kilburn's Gaumont State Cinema, c. 1970. (Brent Archives online image 427)


The biggest jewel in Kilburn’s crown was the Gaumont State Cinema, which opened on 20 December 1937. Owned and commissioned by the Hyams brothers and designed by the famous cinema architect George Coles, it seated 4,000 people, had a separate dance hall and a restaurant. It was the largest cinema in Europe at the time, and remains the third largest ever built in the UK. The 120 feet (37 metres) high tower inspired by a 1930s New York skyscraper, housing its own radio studio, could be seen for miles and immediately became the local landmark. The opulent interior reflected the trends of the day and included a Wurlitzer organ on a rising and revolving platform, which remained one of the largest fully functioning Wurlitzer organs in Britain well into 21st century, and one of the few remaining in its original location. 


From the opening performance which starred Gracie Fields, George Formby, Larry Adler and Henry Hall and his band, the Gaumont State became a popular entertainment venue, hosting variety, pantomimes, circus, ballet and concert performances in addition to film screenings. Over the years it featured such acts as Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ella Fitzgerald, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Who and many others. 


8. Bill Haley (1957), John Lennon and Mick Jagger (1963) at the State. (Brent Archives 433, 9036 & 9034)


In 1980s the building became Mecca Bingo. In 2007 it closed and was under the
threat from developers. Eventually it was bought by Ruach City Church, 70 years to the day after the original opening of the Gaumont State. The building has a Grade II listed status.
(You can find more information on music venues in Willesden on Music Maps here - )


During the Second World War Kilburn suffered some bomb damage, but not on a massive scale, which is lucky, considering the concentration of railway lines in the area. The first raid hit the area around Kilburn High Road on the Brent side in September 1940. 1944 was one of the worst years, with V1s arriving later that year to hit West End Lane, Ardwick Road, Burgess Hill and Fortune Green Road, as well as the Willesden side of Shoot Up Hill. The writer, George Orwell, had to rescue his books and other belongings from the flat in Mortimer Crescent, where he had written “Animal Farm”, after that was destroyed by a V1. In January and March 1945 two V2 rockets brought greater devastation damaging hundreds of houses on Hampstead and Willesden sides – the latter being in Dartmouth Road.


By the end of the war there was an urgent need for housing, and factory-built houses (popularly known as “prefabs”) which could be put up quickly on cleared sites were a temporary solution, although a few of them stayed until 1960s. On the Hampstead side there was a large prefab estate around Lichfield Road and Westcroft Close. Willesden had large sites of them elsewhere in the borough, but there were 28 prefabs around Christchurch Square, Close and Terrace and 33 more in Christchurch Avenue.


9. The 1945 "Willesden Chronicle" article and a Uni-Seco prefab of the type built at Priory Park Road.
    (Cutting from the local newspaper microfilms at Brent Archives, photo from the internet)


A small prefab estate in Priory Park Road was the first one to be built on a cleared bomb site. On 26 October 1945, the Willesden Chronicle reported that work on the site began on 1 May, the houses were erected quickly, but had to wait a while for fittings. It was well worth the wait for the delighted occupants, who came from overcrowded homes in various parts of the borough and ‘could hardly find sufficient superlatives’ to describe the new dwellings of their own. 


The wider aim of providing better housing in Kilburn after the war was inspired by Patrick Abercromie’s 1944 Greater London Plan. Obsolete industry, overcrowded and dilapidated slums were to be replaced with housing and community facilities. Unfortunately, many Victorian buildings also had to go. The housing conditions were particularly bad in Carlton / South Kilburn. The Willesden Survey of 1949 stated that this was the area with the highest average density in the borough, in some cases with 15 people in two-storey houses. Many of the bigger houses, built in 1850s-60s for wealthy families were being let as single rooms to boarders. 


10. Willesden Council's original plans / perspective drawing for the South Kilburn Redevelopment.
      (From “The Willesden Survey, 1949”)


The South Kilburn redevelopment plan was drawn up in 1948, covering an area of 87 acres between the main line railway in the north, and Carlton Vale / Kilburn Lane in the south. Much of its new Council housing would be in three or four-storey blocks of flats, and the first of these were built on bomb-damaged sites at Canterbury Terrace and Chichester Road.


11. Newly built Willesden Council flats at Canterbury Terrace, 1949. (From “The Willesden Survey, 1949”)


Under Willesden’s original plans, there would have been plenty of green space, with a large area of school playing fields at the heart of the redevelopment serving three schools. At the western end of the playing fields would be a shopping area, providing all local needs, and a community centre (possibly including a branch library). 


12. Percy Road, South Kilburn, just before its development in the 1960s. (Photos courtesy of John Hill)

However, as the scheme moved into the 1950s, and was extended in 1963, taller blocks of flats began to form part of the plans. Percy Road, in the photos above, ran south from Granville Road, opposite the baths, across Carlton Vale and down towards Malvern Road. It was virtually wiped off the map during the redevelopment, with the Immaculate Heart of Mary R.C. Church (seen behind the playing children in the colour picture – entitled “Last Days of Percy Road”) one of the few buildings to survive, and now Dickens and Austen Houses would be behind you. The final phase of this part of South Kilburn’s redevelopment ended in the 1970s.


13. Two views of Cambridge Road, from the early and late 1960s. (Photos courtesy of John Hill)


The photos below show the western end of the South Kilburn redevelopment in progress, with William Saville House (and William Dunbar House behind it) already built in the first picture, while construction is underway on Craik Court, which hides them in the later colour view. 


14. Carlton Vale, in the mid and late 1960s. (Photos courtesy of John Hill)


Further north, in the early 1960s, Kilburn Square saw the replacement of its 3/4 storey Victorian terraced houses with a shopping centre and market, along with a 17-storey block of flats labelled the 'pocket skyscraper' (officially just numbers 11-90 Kilburn Square!).


15. Two views of the 'pocket skyscraper', from 1964 and c.1970. (Brent Archives image 236 / from the internet)


We will finish this series by looking at modern Kilburn, from the 1970s onwards, next week. I hope you can join me then.

Irina Porter,
Willesden Local History Society.

A special thank you to John Hill, for sharing his father’s 1960s photographs, and to local historian Dick Weindling, co-author of 'Kilburn and West Hampstead Past' and History of
Kilburn and West Hampstead blog .


Friday 30 October 2020

Brent Scrutiny Task Group set up on GP services and accessibility

It is about 5 years since Scrutiny has looked at GP services in Brent and there have been many changes since then as well as current issues around accessibility during the Covid pandemic. A quick glance at locally based Facebook sites will demonstrate there are issues around accessiblity to face to face appointments, difficulties in making contact via the telephone and differences between surgeries regarding email contact and on-line consultations.

It is welcome then that a strong General Practioner and Primary Care Accessibility Group has been formed consisiting of  Cllr Mary Daly as Chair plus Cllr Abdi Aden, Cllr Tony Ethapemi,  Cllr Claudia Hector, Cllr Gaynor Lloyd and Cllr Ahmad Shahzad.


The scope of the Task Force will be discussed at 5pm on Monday at a meeting that is available to watch on Zoom

The Task 

i) To gather findings based on quantitative data and information about GP accessibility based on face-to-face appointments, physical and digital access, and qualitative information from patients’ experiences with particular reference to those who are older, have mental health needs or a disability, and who have long-term health conditions.

ii) To review the overall local offer of GP services, including the extended GP access hub service, and evaluate any variation in accessibility by practice and the underlying reasons for any variation with particular reference to clinical capacity and nursing.

iii) To evaluate the local demand to access primary care, changes in demand during the Covid 19 pandemic and changes in access to GP services during the pandemic with particular reference to digital accessibility and face-to-face appointments.

iv) To understand the role of primary care in addressing health inequalities by gathering findings on population health, deprivation and demographic trends in the borough with particular reference to Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) patients.

v) To develop a report and recommendations for local NHS organisations and the local authority’s Cabinet based on the findings and evidence gathered during the review.

It is suggested that there are five evidence sessions for this task group. The proposed structure for the meetings will be meetings with representatives from NHS organisations and GPs for evidence session 1 and evidence session 2, meetings with Healthwatch Brent and patient advocacy groups for evidence session 3, and a meeting with the voluntary sector and other relevant community organisations for evidence session 4. There will be a meeting with community organisations for evidence session 5.

Key Lines of Enquiry

To structure the evidence sessions, the scrutiny task group will focus on particular key lines of enquiry to ensure there is accountability about local primary care services.

These will include, but not be limited to, the following suggested key lines of enquiry.

1. What is the local demand for GP services and what are the particular needs of Brent residents, including vulnerable patient groups, in relation to accessing GP care?

2. Is there sufficient provision of GP services in the London Borough of Brent based on local population health needs and the growing population in the borough and is there a difference in provision or accessibility between the north and south of Brent?

3. What has been the long-term trend in how GP services are accessed and what has been happening during the Covid 19 pandemic in terms of the balance between remote appointments using digital technology and face-to-face appointments?

4. Is there a danger of exclusion from primary care services for those patients who are not able to use the digital or online options and rely on face-to-face appointments?

5. What strategy is needed to address variation and ensure that there is fair and equitable access to GP services available to Brent residents across the borough?

6. What does benchmarking data show about primary care and GP performance in Brent compared with the other clinical commissioning groups in North West London?

7. What is the role of Patient Participation Groups in addressing accessibility issues? 


Brent-wide Cavalcade for Jobs - Saturday November 7th from 10am


From Brent Trades Council





Assembly 10am Sainsbury's Willesden Green Car Park and drive through Church End, Harlesden, Wembley, Sudbury, Kenton, Edgware, Cricklewood, Kilburn and back to Willesden.






Take a photo of the convoy as it passes by  it and post a message saying 'WE WON'T PAY FOR THE BILLIONAIRES' CRISIS, WE WILL FIGHTBACK' or make up your own message and post on

Share the photos across social media and then send them all to Boris Johnson. 

Share on Twitter using hashtag:
#WEWILLNOTPAYFORTHEBILLIONAIRESCRISIS If you are on Twitter, tweet the photo using the hashtag . Tag our MPs, tag Rishi Sunak, so they all know about the protest.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Brent zoom meeting on government's planning 'reforms' 5pm tonight - details

Cllr Kelcher, Chair of Brent Planning Committee, has written to local groups and resident associations about a meeting scheduled for 5pm this evening regarding a campaign against the proposed new planning proposals.  Wembley Matters called for a cross-party campaign about this in August:

Cross party campaign needed to oppose Jenrick's assault on the community's already limited say on new developments

From Cllr Kelcher

I have huge concerns about the government’s radical plans to reform the local planning system through their new planning white paper Planning for the future.
These plans could:
1) Reduce local input and the opportunities for local people to have their say in planning decisions with a massive reduction in the powers of Planning Committees.
2) Create, what the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has called, “a new generation of slums” with an increase to permitted development rights. 
3) Reduce the amount of affordable housing we can build in Brent as developments of up to 40 or 50 units will no longer be compelled to provide some affordable units.
4) Introduce automatic permission for people in houses to add two storeys to their property without planning permission, completely changing the character of our local neighbourhoods.

Therefore, as Brent’s Chair of Planning, I have joined with the Vice Chair of Planning, and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, to organise an information and engagement session for local residents associations and interested groups.
We will be discussing the plan, and how we can work together as one borough to stand up against the reforms that will be most harmful to Brent.

 1700-1800, 27/10/2020  

 Meeting ID: 840 5877 0390 Passcode: 091709

£10m bill to rectify safety issues at Network Homes' Grand Union Heights in Alperton


Grand Union Heights

Network Homes, whose Head Office is in Wembley Park,  have written to residents of Grand Union Heights, Alperton to tell them that the cost of remedying safety issues in  the development will be £10 million.  The development was subject to a fire 'waking watch' until earlier this year when fire alarms were installed according to local sources. One guard remains.

Network Homes have requested that residents who use their flats for 'financial gain' (landlords?) should submit their own claim for government funds:

We’ve submitted the application for the remediation work at Grand Union Heights to the government’s £1bn Building Safety Fund. This does not guarantee that the government will approve the application. Even if we’re successful, the fund does not cover every cost incurred at Grand Union Heights. You need to fill out a state aid form if you ‘use your property for financial gain’. We are unable to do this on your behalf so please spend some time going over the documents to ensure you understand if you need to fill it out. We’ll let you know the outcome when we hear back from the government – we expect it will take them about a month. Whatever the outcome, we’ll hold a webinar where we’ll go through the next steps and you’ll be able to ask us any questions you may have.

Given the developments in Alperton, South Kilburn and Wembley Park we can expect similar claims to be submitted.

Covid19 Update from NHS NW London+Flu vaccination

Covid-19 – London remains on a ‘high’ alert level (tier 2) The number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise across almost all boroughs in NW London and remains over 100 per 100,000 population. 

It is important that all parts of our community adhere to public health advice on hand washing, face coverings and social distancing if the spread of Covid-19 is to be slowed. 

Reassurance to the public: 

• We would like to reassure patients and the public that we have been working hard over the last few weeks, to prepare for a second wave and plans are in place to support care homes; primary, community, mental health and hospital care. 

• Across health services in NW London we have learnt a lot form the first wave and we are in the best possible place to continue to treat patients safely and effectively through the weeks and months ahead. 

• We have put in place rigorous infection control measures to keep both patients and staff safe, including separating people who may have Covid-19 from those who do not. 

 • The NHS is here for you and safe. If you have been called for an appointment, it is because you need it. Please make sure you attend if you are asked to do so – it is much safer to attend hospital when required than not to come in due to misplaced fears. Flu guidance for people on the shielded list 

• As a person on the NHS Shielded Patient List, it is vital that you get your free flu jab. Flu can be deadly, and the flu vaccine is the best way to protect those who are shielding from COVID-19 from becoming ill with the flu. You will be contacted by the NHS to arrange your flu jab. 

• If you have not heard from the NHS about your flu jab, please contact your GP practice to arrange it 

• To protect you from the risk of catching flu, household contacts of people on the NHS Shielded Patient List are also eligible this year for a free flu jab. A household contact is a person that lives with you or is expected to be in your home across most days over the winter. Your household contacts should ask their GP or pharmacist about the free flu jab 

Get your flu jab at your local pharmacy 

 • Eligible patients over the age of 18 can now book a flu vaccination at their local community pharmacy in person or by telephone. 

• You can usually book online as well, although due to unprecedented demand this year, fewer online slots may be available this week. People wishing to book a flu jab in pharmacy are advised to telephone ahead to local 

• Pharmacies expect more flu vaccine stock to arrive in November, so please check back to or later this month if you are unable to get an appointment this week.