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Willesden Old Library.jpg
Willesden Green Old Library Building
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Location within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ227846
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district NW10, NW2
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°32′48″N0°13′46″W / 51.5468°N 0.2295°W / 51.5468; -0.2295 Coordinates: 51°32′48″N0°13′46″W / 51.5468°N 0.2295°W / 51.5468; -0.2295

Willesden ( /ˈwɪlzdən/ ) is an area of northwest London, situated 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Charing Cross. It is historically a parish in the county of Middlesex that was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Willesden in 1933, and has formed part of the London Borough of Brent in Greater London since 1965. [1] Dollis Hill is also sometimes referred to as being part of Willesden.


With its close proximity to affluent neighbourhoods Brondesbury Park, Queen's Park and Kensal Rise, the area surrounding Willesden Green station has seen increased gentrification in the past several years, with rapidly rising property prices. The Daily Telegraph called Willesden Green one of London's "new middle class" areas. [2] [3] The area has a population of 44,295 as of 2011 including the Willesden Green, Dollis Hill and Dudden Hill wards. Willesden Green has one of the city's highest Irish populations, and is also strongly associated with Afro-Caribbeans and Latin Americans. [4]

Willesden is mostly in the NW10 postcode district, but part of it is in the NW2 postcode district.



The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon Willesdune, meaning the Hill of the Spring, [5] and a Manor (landholding) bearing this name was recorded in 939 AD. The Domesday Book of 1086 records the manor as Wellesdone. [5] However, on 19th century maps of the town such as those from the 'Ordnance Survey First Series', the town is shown as Wilsdon. [6] The motto of Willesden Borough Council was Laborare est orare ("to labour is to pray"). [7] The current spelling was adopted by the London and Birmingham Railway in 1844, when they opened a local station. [8]

Early history

Church of St. Mary on Neasden Lane, Willesden St. Marys Church, Neasden Lane, NW10 (geograph 2822687).jpg
Church of St. Mary on Neasden Lane, Willesden

Willesden became a civil parish#ancient parish in the medieval period. 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 have been a Black Madonna, venerated as Our Lady of Willesden, which was insulted by the Lollards, taken to Thomas Cromwell's house and burnt in 1538 on a large bonfire of "notable images" including those of Our Lady of Walsingham, Our Lady of Worcester, and Our Lady of Ipswich. There was also a "holy well" which was thought to possess miraculous qualities, particularly for blindness and other eye disorders. Much of the district supplied apples, pears and vegetables to the city of London for many years from the early years of the industrial revolution.

Industrial history

Iris 15 HP (1912) MHV Iris 15 hp 1912.jpg
Iris 15 HP (1912)

The Iris was a British car brand that was manufactured from 1906 by Legros & Knowles Ltd in Willesden. Lucien Alphonse Legros (1866–1933), son of the artist Alphonse Legros, and Guy Knowles, scion of a wealthy and artistic family, founded Legros & Knowles Ltd in Cumberland Park, Willesden Junction, in 1904 to build and repair vehicles. [9] [10] [11]

Modern history

Willesden Green station opened in 1879 Willesdengreenstation.jpg
Willesden Green station opened in 1879

The parish of Willesden remained predominantly rural up until 1875, when its population was 18,500. It included the villages and hamlets of Brondesbury, Dollis Hill, Dudden Hill, Harlesden, Kilburn, Mapesbury, Oxgate and Stonebridge. [12] 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,[ citation needed ] and later the Jubilee line.

The First World War caused Willesden to change from a predominantly middle class suburb to a working class part of London. After the war, Willesden grew rapidly as many factories opened up with numerous flats and terraced 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. [13] The 1901 United Kingdom census recorded that 42% of the population was born in London. In 1923, the specialist coach builder Freestone and Webb established their base in Willesden, producing bespoke cars on Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis until 1956.

Willesden became a municipal borough in 1933, and 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 bombing damage due to the heavy concentration of manufacturing industry, such as munition factories, the location of 'Smiths Instruments" (Used defensive aircraft instrumentation). Mulliner-Park Ward (Coach builders to Rolls Royce and Bentley, hand built cars). Power Station location, canal and major railway locomotive overhaul facilities located in the area.

The prayer hall of Willesden Jewish Cemetery Willesden Jewish Cemetery prayer hall.jpg
The prayer hall of Willesden Jewish Cemetery

The period from 1960 saw migrants settling from the Caribbean and the Indian Subcontinent. Additionally, from 1963 it was the site of the Kuo Yuan, the first Chinese restaurant to serve Pekinese dishes in Britain. [14] 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 shops closing.

The area surrounding Willesden Green station has become more middle-class and gentrified with marked property price rises in 2014 and 2015. [2] [3]

Willesden French Market Willesden French Market 2006.jpg
Willesden French Market


The Willesden Green ward is represented on Brent Council by three Labour councillors, Janice Long, Saqlain Choudry, and Tom Miller.

Willesden forms part of the Brent Central parliamentary constituency and is home to the local Labour Party MP Dawn Butler.


According to the 2011 census, the Willesden Green ward had a population of 15,587. Ethnically, 22% of the population was Other White, followed by 20% White British, 8.2% Other Asian, 8.1% Black African and 7.1% Black Caribbean. [15] 52.7% were BAME. [16] The most spoken foreign language is Portuguese. 2,621 of the tenure households were privately rented; 1,625 were socially rented; 1,540 were owned. [15]


Roundwood Park is on the south-western side while Gladstone Park is nearby to the north of Willesden. It lies about 130 feet (40 m) to 200 feet (60 m) above sea level.


Rail and Tube

Map of Metro-land showing the Metropolitan Railway passing through Willesden, 1924 Metro-land-map.jpg
Map of Metro-land showing the Metropolitan Railway passing through Willesden, 1924

Several rail and London Underground lines pass through Willesden, calling at local stations including:

The Jubilee line connects the area directly to Stanmore via Wembley Park northbound, and to Central London southbound. Key southbound destinations include Baker Street, Bond Street, Westminster, Waterloo and Canary Wharf. Most southbound services terminate at Stratford. [17]

Northbound Bakerloo line trains from Willesden Junction terminate at nearby Stonebridge Park, with some continuing towards Wembley Central and Harrow & Wealdstone. Like the Bakerloo line, southbound services also pass through Central London, with trains to Paddington, Marylebone, Baker Street, Oxford Circus, Waterloo and Elephant & Castle. [17]

Metropolitan line trains pass through Willesden Green and Dollis Hill, but do not stop. This has not always been the case: Willesden Green station was opened by the Metropolitan Railway in 1879, and the area owes much of its development to the Metropolitan Railway and Metro-land. Today, passengers from Willesden can access the Metropolitan line by using the Jubilee line and changing at either Wembley Central to the north, or Finchley Road to the south. [17] [18]

Willesden Junction is served by several London Overground routes:

LineDirectionTerminusCalling at...
Watford DC line Overground roundel (no text).svg Northbound Watford Junction National Rail logo.svg Harlesden, Stonebridge Park, Wembley Central National Rail logo.svg , North Wembley, South Kenton, Kenton, Harrow & Wealdstone National Rail logo.svg , Headstone Lane, Hatch End, Carpenders Park, Bushey National Rail logo.svg , Watford High Street
Watford DC line Overground roundel (no text).svg Southbound Euston National Rail logo.svg Northern line roundel (no text).svg Victoria line roundel (no text).svg Kensal Green, Queen's Park Bakerloo line roundel (no text).svg , Kilburn High Road, South Hampstead
North London line Overground roundel (no text).svg Eastbound Stratford National Rail logo.svg Elizabeth line roundel (no text).svg Central line roundel (no text).svg Jubilee line roundel (no text).svg DLR no-text roundel.svg Kensal Rise, Brondesbury Park, Brondesbury, West Hampstead, Finchley Road & Frognal, Hampstead Heath, Gospel Oak Overground roundel (no text).svg , Kentish Town West, Camden Road, Caledonian Road & Barnsbury, Highbury & Islington National Rail logo.svg Overground roundel (no text).svg Victoria line roundel (no text).svg , Canonbury Overground roundel (no text).svg . Dalston Kingsland, Hackney Central National Rail logo.svg Overground roundel (no text).svg , Homerton, Hackney Wick
North London line Overground roundel (no text).svg Westbound Richmond National Rail logo.svg Acton Central, South Acton, Gunnersbury District line roundel (no text).svg , Kew Gardens
West London line Overground roundel (no text).svg Westbound Clapham Junction National Rail logo.svg Shepherd's Bush National Rail logo.svg Central line roundel (no text).svg , Kensington Olympia National Rail logo.svg District line roundel (no text).svg , West Brompton National Rail logo.svg District line roundel (no text).svg , Imperial Wharf

Stations in Willesden straddle London fare zones 2 and 3. [17]

Willesden Green station Willesden Green Tube Station.JPG
Willesden Green station


Several key routes pass through or around Willesden:

A219 Scrubs Lane White City

Shepherd's Bush


A404 Harrow Road/Manor Park Road Kensal




A406 North Circular Road Ealing

UK-Motorway-icon.svg M4 for Heathrow BSicon FLUG.svg


Brent Cross

UK-Motorway-icon.svg M1 for Luton BSicon FLUG.svg


UK-Motorway-icon.svg M11 for Stansted BSicon FLUG.svg

A407 High RoadWillesden Junction Cricklewood

Golders Green

A4000 Old Oak Lane Acton -
A4003 Willesden Lane- Kilburn
A4088 Dudding Hill Lane- Wembley
A5 Shoot Up Hill Kilburn

Maida Vale


Marble Arch


UK-Motorway-icon.svg M1 for Luton BSicon FLUG.svg

Brent Cross



A large bus garage was built in 1902 and thus, many bus routes start or run through the town. The Queen visited it during her Golden Jubilee celebrations. London Buses routes serving Willesden are: 6, 52, 98, 206, 226, 260, 266, 297, 460 and N98.


To the north of Willesden, Quietway 3 runs unbroken between Gladstone Park and Shoot Up Hill on quiet, residential streets. The route is coordinated by Transport for London (TfL) and is planned to extend eastbound into West Hampstead towards Regent's Park. [19]

A direct, traffic-free cycle route runs to the south of Willesden along the Grand Union Canal towpath. Cyclists share the route with pedestrians, but the towpath provides cyclists with an unbroken, traffic-free connection to Paddington. From Paddington, cyclists can access further Central London destinations using traffic-free Cycle Superhighway 3.

Notable people from Willesden Green

Well I tried to settle down Fulham Broadway
And I tried to make my home in Golders Green
But I gotta get that train
And go back home again
Oh how I miss the folks back home in Willesden Green

You know, I tried, I really tried to settle in this big city
And I always thought I could make it all on my very own
But there's one thing that keeps calling me
To that little, that little semi-detached
That's the folks, yeah, the folks back home
In Willesden Green

See also

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