Monday 5 February 2024

New building on the Preston Road Library site – and a famous name!

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

The new building on 2 February 2024.


It was September 2016 when Brent’s Cabinet decided to redevelop the former Preston Road Library site in Carlton Avenue East for a block of flats, with space for a community library on the ground floor. In November 2022, a Council press release celebrated the topping-out ceremony, “New community library and 12 council homes rise up out of the ground”, attended by Cllr. Muhammed Butt, who ‘accepted an engraved trowel on behalf of Brent Council gifted to him by John Bolton, director of Kier Construction’, and some of his Cabinet colleagues.


Now it finally looks as if the building, which has a controversial history, is nearing completion! However, it is not that history, or the architectural merits (or otherwise?) of the new block in its 1930s suburban setting, which is the main point of this article. It is the name of the building that I want to share with you - Henry Cooper House.


Why name the building after a famous British boxer? I’m sure it must be because he lived in the Preston Road area for fifteen years from 1960 to 1975, a time which included the height of his boxing career. He is mentioned in
Part 4 of The Preston Road Story (published on Wembley Matters in 2020), along with information about the library and Preston Community Library, which began with the support of the hundreds of local residents who had objected to Brent Council’s plans to close six of its twelve public libraries in 2011.


Henry Cooper in 1966. (Photo from “Henry Cooper – the authorised biography”)


Back in November 2018, Wembley Matters shared the news that a blue plaque to Sir Henry Cooper hand been unveiled above the shop at 4 Ealing Road, where he’d owned and run a greengrocer’s shop between 1965 and 1968.


Henry Cooper at his shop, and the blue plaque now above it.


As a result of Wembley History Society being asked to support the efforts of a local resident, who was successful in commemorating Sir Henry with this blue plaque, I researched and wrote about his life and local links, and also gave an illustrated talk about them last year, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his legendary boxing match against Cassius Clay (now better known as Muhammed Ali).


A ticket for the Clay v Cooper fight at Wembley Stadium in June 1963. (Image from the internet)


But Henry did not only live in Wembley, at 5 Ledway Drive, for fifteen years. With his wife, Albina, they raised a family here. I wonder whether they took their sons, Henry Marco and John Pietro to their local Preston Road Library, after it opened in 1964? 


Albina and Henry at home with their sons in, late 1960s. (Image from the internet)


The naming of the new building as Henry Cooper House was news to me. I only found out last week, when a local resident tipped me off about it, but it came as a pleasant surprise. I hope that all twelve of the new Council homes there will be let to local people in housing need at genuinely affordable rents!


And I wonder if Brent Council will invite Henry and John Cooper to the official opening of the building named after their father?

Philip Grant


Anonymous said...

Another Labour Party joke project. The flats are at least 12 months late and more than £1 million more expensive to build than planned. Had to bail it out with extra finance from CIL.

As the saying goes Butt & Co could not organise a "piss up in a brewery".

Why are Brent Roads full of potholes and dangerous pavements every where? - because under the Butt Leadership the Labour Council wastes money on the Civic Centre and projects that always overspend.

Anonymous said...

Naming a library after a boxer seems a bit odd to me. Libraries are places for learning and community, and associating it with a sport known for violence might send the wrong message. Particularly as the World Medical Association recommends it is banned.

I think a name linked to books, education, or community values would be more fitting.

Philip Grant said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous (5 February at 16:56).

I think the library, which has a separate entrance, will probably keep its name as Preston Community Library.

Henry Cooper House appears to be the name for the block of 12 Brent Council flats.

I don't know who decided on that name, but he was a famous local resident of the Preston Road area. And although Henry became famous for his boxing, he was also a well-liked sports personality and human being, who did a lot for charity during his life.

Anonymous said...

Henry Cooper had a greengrocers shop in Ealing Road Wembley so lived and also worked locally - glad he's being remembered in this way.

Anonymous said...

Will these Council Homes be at Social rents or Brent's familiar Affordable tag that Brent residents can't afford if the can't claim housing benefit and have two jobs and two bread winners. Poor sad Brent.

Philip Grant said...

Anonymous (7 February at 12:56) has asked about the rent level that will be charged for these new Council flats.

I don't know the answer and could not find any entry for this development in details of "New Council Homes" in the housing section of Brent's website!

The building has yet to be handed-over to Brent by the contractors, Kier, but I think the best that new tenants can hope for (if they are all let to Council tenants, and not made "shared ownership" or open market sale for viability reasons) is London Affordable Rent level.

On my calculations, increasing the 2022/2023 figures by 7% from April 2023, and another 7.7% (CPI + 1%) to arrive at what the rent would be from 1 April 2024, the LAR rent, exclusive of service charges, would be around:
£194 a week for each of the six 1-bedroom flats;
£205 a week for each of the four 2-bedroom flats; and
£217 a week for each of the two 3-bedroom flats.