Saturday 10 February 2024

Some history events in Brent which may be of interest!

Guest post by local historian Philip Grant 


Passport of Lotte Rosendahl, issued in 1939. [The Jawne Team / Courtesy of Yael Nemenoff]


There is a variety of history events taking place locally over the next month or so, which you may not have heard or read about. Martin has kindly agreed that I can share the details with you, so that you can make the most of what is on offer, if they are of interest to you.


Already on, in the family space at Willesden Green Library, is a small exhibition which opened on Holocaust Memorial Day called "Kindertransport Children in Willesden". It tells the stories of some of the around 10,000 unaccompanied children who were brought to this country to escape the growing Nazi threat to Jews in German-controlled lands in 1938-39. The passport pictured above was issued to one of them. This exhibition is only available to view until 28 February.



Also taking place at Willesden Green Library, in the Exhibition Gallery on the second floor from Monday 19 February, is a major Brent Museum / Learning through the Arts exhibition: “The Road to Freedom – Ending Slavery in Britain”. This free exhibition will be on until the beginning of September (but if you go in the opening week, you can also see the Kindertransport exhibition in the same visit!).


It is only 190 years ago that slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire. I wrote about the inhuman stain of slavery (and the indentured labour which followed it) on our history, in an article last month about why we should commemorate the centenary of the British Empire Exhibition


The title of Nabil Al-Kinani’s talk on Friday 16 February.


As part of that commemoration, Wembley History Society is welcoming Nabil Al-Kinani, to share a different perspective at its meeting on Friday 16 February at 7.30pm. Nabil’s talk, on “Decolonising Wembley” will explore the legacy of the 1924 Exhibition, examining the attitudes of the time, and asking whether the 21st Century developments in the Wembley Park area reflect a more modern and sensitive take on our post-colonial world. Visitors are welcome, for a small charge, at the Society’s meetings, which take place at St Andrew’s Church Hall, Church Lane, Kingsbury, NW9 8RZ.


Liam MacCarthy, and the Liam MacCarthy Cup.


One country which had recently been given semi-independent Dominion status, within the British Empire, in the early 1920s was the Irish Free State. Two men, whose names are now remembered through sporting trophies, for hurling and Gaelic football, are the subject of a much-anticipated talk at Willesden Green Library, on Thursday 14 March at 6.30pm. One was born in London, to Irish parents, while the other came to work here as a Civil Servant, and both were heavily involved in the capital’s branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Marcus Howard’s talk on “Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire: The Forgotten Sons of Ireland” will look at their political, as well as their sporting activities. You can find more details and reserve your free place for this talk on this Brent Libraries, Arts and Heritage Eventbrite page.


Sam Maguire (centre, with ball), captain of the London Hibernians Gaelic football team, 1903.


If you missed the premier of the film “Brent Women of Renown” last November, there is another chance to see it at a Willesden Local History Society meeting on Wednesday 20 March at 7.30pm. The three women featured are Kilburn suffragette Violet Doudney, aviator Amy Johnson and Dame Stephanie Shirley, who came to Britain as a five-year old Kindertransport child, and grew up to become a mathematician and pioneer computer engineer at the Post Office Research Station in Dollis Hill.


Amy Johnson working at Stag Lane Aerodrome, early 1930.


The film will be presented by its producer Angela Payne, and director Amanda Epe, who will also talk about the Cricklewood Town Team project which led to its creation. The meeting takes place at St Mary's Parish Centre, Neasden Lane, NW10 2TS. Non-members of the Society will be welcome to attend, for a small charge.


Car bodies under construction at Kingsbury Works in 1924.


The last event I will mention is a free illustrated local history talk which I will be giving myself, at a Kingsbury Library coffee morning on Tuesday 26 March at 11am. Kingsbury is now seen as a mainly residential area, but during the First World War its rural fields provided space for several aircraft factories. “Kingsbury Works, 1915 to 1980” tells the story of one of these (with lots of pictures!), and how the buildings there developed after they were taken over by Vanden Plas coachbuilders in 1923.


A 1935 Kingsbury-built Bentley limousine, which went on a sales tour around India.


Since I first gave this talk online during lockdown, I’ve found out even more about Kingsbury Works, and gathered many more illustrations, so I am looking forward to sharing this version at a Brent Libraries event. The most recent addition to my information is the site’s association with vampires (but no need to send for Buffy)! You can find more details, and book your free place for this talk, on the Eventbrite page for it.


Philip Grant.








Anonymous said...

The days when Brent had some industry for people to get jobs other than working in hospitality, retail, care and a multiplicity of low paid jobs. The council's higher paid officers all live out of borough. This Labour Administration is killing Brent and will eventually make it THE poorest Borough in London.

Don't forget to praise Cllr Butt and his cabinet cronies.

Anonymous said...

Indeed all the industry we used to have around the Stadium including the film/TV studios - also in Alperton. Long term jobs for families to estsblish themselves.

Trevor Ellis said...

My opinion is that nothing stays the same, especially in the context of industry.

Anonymous said...

No industry means no proper investment in an area and no families living here long term as there is no proper employment.

Philip Grant said...

Thank you all for your comments about industry in Brent (or the growing lack of it).

It is a fact that many of the industries we used to have across the borough have disappeared. All the more reason for local historians, like me (but I'm far from the only one, going back at least 50 years), to research, write and share that part of our history, so that it is not forgotten.

You can see some interesting displays about the history of local industries in the Brent Museum permanent exhibition on the second floor at Willesden Green Library (well worth a visit - take your children or grandchildren during half-term!).

You can also find out more from illustrated articles on the Brent Archives local history website:
and from some of the "local history in lockdown" articles that Martin published during 2020.

Part 3 of Margaret Pratt's series "Uncovering the history of Church End and Chapel End, Willesden" shines a light on the various industries in that part of the borough:

And if you are free on the morning of Tuesday 26 March, and would like to come to my illustrated talk about Kingsbury Works, the "link" at the end of my article above will take you to the page where you can reserve your place at that Kingsbury Library coffee morning event.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for alerting me to these two interesting exhibitions at Willesden Green Library. For anyone who is interested, the book The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen tells the story of Lisa Jura, who travelled to London on the Kindertransport and lived in a hostel for Jewish children on Willesden Lane.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Anonymous (15 February at 12:18),

Thank you for your comment. I went to see the Kindertransport display at Willesden Green Library (ground floor, on the right at the far end from the High Road entrance) and learned a lot from it.

Brent Libraries has a number of copies of "The Children of Willesden Lane" which you can borrow. These filed under shelf-mark number 940.531J, and may be filed in the General Non-Fiction, Children's Non-Fiction or the "History and Warfare" sections.

If you would like to borrow a copy, it might be easiest to reserve the book online (either search on the online catalogue for the title, or Mona Golabek as author).