Kilburn Kensal Green collage


The following local history books on Willesden were researched by WLHS members. To order, please contact WLHS by email or write to 51 West Ella Road, London NW10 9PT to confirm availability and postage charges.

1000 Years of St. Mary, Willesden’by Cliff Wadsworth based extensively on the work of F. A. Wood and K. J. Valentine. A5 format, 36pp; 36 images; Price £3.00.

Unlike the previously published St. Mary, Willesden – A History & Guide (1996), this booklet attempts to tell the story of the church over 1000 years or so. Willesden is fortunate that we still have much of the F.A.Wood (1822-1904) Collection available for study. It is this work that forms the basis of the booklet. One subject, however, has subsequently been studied in more detail than Wood managed; that concerning the shrine of our Blessed Lady of Willesden. Ken Valentine (1920-1996) published an almost definitive study, and his paper is reflected here. Other facts were found in the Vestry minutes and other documents in Brent Archive, and later information was collected from St.Mary’s Parish Magazines and the Willesden Chronicle.

A G.P. in Kilburn 1916 -1955 – Dr Frank Percy Bennett (1871 – 1960) by Gwen Molloy. A4 format; 6pp; 3 images. Price £1.50.

Our patron has written an interesting if brief account of her father’s life as a GP in Kilburn. Dr Bennett treated patients from the slums ‘over the Edgware Road’ to wealthy private patients over a period of 40 years.

Artists of Willesden. By Gwen Bennet-Molloy.  A4 booklet, 7sides A4 format, stapled. Price £1.50.

(Notes of research made by Gwen Molloy for a talk given in 1995.) Willesden has been home to some famous artists, from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, including George Morland, William Crimean Simpson and his wife Maria Eliza, Louis Wain, Scottie Wilson, Leon Kossof, and others. Notes with some black and white illustrations.

A Walk Round St.Mary’s Churchyard by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 28pp; 6 images. Price £3.00.

This guide to the old Willesden cemetery describes some of the interesting people buried there. Burials have taken place at St.Mary’s probably since the 10th century, and certainly from the 13th century. St.Mary’s churchyard, if it is referred to at all, is usually recorded as the resting place of writer Charles Reade, and highwayman Jack Sheppard. The former is certainly one of the most famous people buried there, but, despite there still being some believers, the latter’s burial is not marked nor recorded. In 1865 the churchyard covered less than one acre. On the north side of the church the boundary was where it is now, but on the east it extended further into Neasden Lane enclosing the paved area where now is a public seat. On the south side it ran behind the range of buildings which include the Vestry Hall, Church Path being then simply a path across the churchyard. On the west the boundary was along the path which now runs from the cemetery gates towards the railway. In 1866, when the Acton Branch railway line was being built, the local Burial Board bought an additional 4 acres of ground from John Prout, enlarging the churchyard on the western side to what it is today. This became known as the “New Section” and opened in 1868. In the short time up to 1884, more than 4000 burials took place in the consecrated part, and about 300 in the unconsecrated part.

Brent Stadiums, Swimming Baths, and Skating Rinks. by Cliff Wadsworth – £3.00

The swimming and Skating facilities described here include those realised, some which only reached the planning stage,and one oddball that was built but never used.

With stadiums, selection has been a little more difficult, since in Victorian times every small group of houses seems to have had an on-air sports facility of some kind. Examples are the football and athletics facility behind the Coach and Horses, Stonebridge, and the “new grounds” behind the White Hart at Church End, where Finchley Harriers and Neasden Cycling Club trained and raced.

Cinemas and Theatres of Willesden by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 44pp, 31 images, £3.00.

This booklet covers Music Halls, Theatres, and Cinemas of Willesden and environs, some planned but not realised, others reaching the brick and mortar stage. One difficulty in presenting this handbook is the number of times theatres were renamed in their operational life. Sometimes they boasted more than one title at a time!

Dollis Hill Research Station and the Secret Wartime Bunker. by Cliff Wadsworth; A5 format, 28 pp, 12 images. Out of Print

Much of the research work for this booklet was carried out to support an exhibition on the Research Station at the Grange Museum Neasden. It gathers together of primary and secondary references to the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill where the author worked from 1954 to 1977, and its’ now famous underground bunker. The effect of the establishment on technical innovation in electronics and related topics was unsurpassed in Brent and, for that matter, in the country. No attempt has been made to produce a technical history – a vast undertaking which needs attention, but one which will have to await a suitable author. As a local landmark, no Brent edifice has a more prominent site, and the quality of the main block is high, as were most public buildings of the time. The building is locally listed and has recently been fairly sensitively developed, so future generations may also enjoy the sight of the ‘college on the hill with the green dome’

A Distant View of Gladstone Park and Dollis Hill House by Juliette Soester & Cliff Wadsworth; 2002. A5 format, 36 pp, 22 images. Price £3.00.

This booklet originated through Juliette’s wish to record some of the old images of Gladstone Park she had collected over the years. Initially there was no intention to consider the history of Dollis Hill House, but residence and park are linked so closely that it is difficult to separate their histories. It soon became obvious that there is enough historical material to produce a tome of biblical proportions. This account is a mixed selection of items to present a general overview.

F.A.Wood. by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 36 pp, Price £3.00.

Frederick Augustus Wood (1822-1904) was one of Willesden’s greatest historians as well as a philanthropist and municipal worker of substance. He has never before been honoured with a biography, but better late than never. Wood lived in Willesden between 1866 and 1893, and spent the autumn of his life in Somerset. In addition to the life story, (which was difficult to research), the Wood Collection, all 150 volumes, has been examined and a new contents list compiled.

George Furness; Willesden’s Greatest Resident? by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 22pp; 7 images. Out of print

Willesden has a long and reasonably well-documented past. But one thing in short supply is the number of long-term residents of international fame. George Furness, who described himself as a “contractor of public works” is arguably one of Willesden’s most famous residents.
He was born at Great Longstone, Derbyshire, on October 31st 1820, and well established in his career before coming to London. His main profession was as a contractor; one who estimates costs, bids for, and arranges finance for civil engineering contracts, and if successful, engages and controls the work force. To advance his growing reputation, he took offices in Westminster, and, in 1856, bought Roundwood House, Willesden, where he lived until his death in 1900.
At a time when international travel was not the easy experience it is today, he travelled on business to Russia, Italy, France, and Brazil; to some of these several times. His journeying in England was frequent. Furness was a personal friend of Thomas Brassey, and worked with Sir John Rennie, Joseph Locke, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and Sir Joseph Bazalgette. Besides completing major contracts, he found time to be a director of businesses, become a reliable and efficient builder, run a successful brickworks, become one of the largest freeholders in Willesden, and to lead in local government and church affairs.

Harlesden Green In The 1870’s by Amos Beeson. A5 format, 24pp, 10 images, Price £2.00.

Amos Beeson (1859-1938) was a well known figure in Harlesden for more than 70 years, and his family hardware business a local institution for even longer. In his later years around 1930, Amos gave lectures on the Harlesden of his youth under titles such as “Harlesden Green as it was 60 years ago.” These talks were illustrated by slides of photographs and of his own watercolour paintings. To assist his memory he wrote notebooks containing outlines of the talks. Although these were scrappy and not intended to be read by others, they are of interest to local historians, since there are not many first hand descriptive accounts of Harlesden in the 1870’s. They describe a tour of Harlesden and the surrounding area, starting at Kensal Green, up the Harrow Road to Harlesden Green, the Green itself, diversions to Willesden Junction, along Acton Lane to where Harlesden station now stands, then back along the Harrow Road as far as Stonebridge. Cliff Wadsworth has edited the text, and added notes on the Beeson family.

Harrow Road. by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 28pp, 15 images, Price £3.00.

This study commenced through interest in O.Claude Robson, the Willesden Surveyor from 1875 to 1918, and his battles to improve the district roads. Thus, this Harrow Road story has a strong Willesden bias.
Although Willesden has a half share in part of Roman Watling Street on its eastern border, until the coming of the North Circular Road in the 1920’s/30’s, Harrow Road was the borough’s main highway. The booklet covers the origins of the 10-mile road, the benefits of the large bequest by John Lyon (founder of Harrow School), its years as a turnpike road, and a remarkable early plan for a major realignment of the highway. Some of the mysteries of crossing the Brent are explored.

Ken Valentine – A Master Local Historian by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 36pp; 15 photographs. Price £3.00.

This was written as a tribute to this talented WLHS member. Ken was known to the widest audience through publication of local history works, particularly the masterful ‘Neasden: a Historical Study’, but there were many other strands woven into his interesting life. Certainly, Willesden in general, and Neasden in particular, never had a greater champion. The booklet includes a description of the Ken Valentine Collection presented to Brent Archive, and an interesting article by Ken on researching local history.

Lost Willesden Railway Stations (Second Edition) by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format; 32 pp with 25 images. Price £3.00.

This booklet started out in response to finding a second photo of Old Willesden station in Acton Lane (closed in 1866). The other missing stations are ‘Willesden Junction – Main Line’, ‘Kensal Green & Harlesden’, ‘Harrow Road’, ‘Dudding Hill’, and the most obscure, ‘Royal Show Ground’. Not only for anoraks!

Music at the Grand Junction by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 20 pp, Price £2.00.

A few years ago a very successful reunion of residents of Lower Place (a little known area of Willesden) was held. This booklet was produced to contribute to the festivities. It describes the fag end of musical evenings at the Grand Junction Arms in Acton Lane around the 1970’s.

Nothing too Large! Nothing too Small! by Vera Thompson. A5 format, 28pp. Price £3.00.

Vera Thompson has written the history of the local firm of Garnier & Co. which, until recently, traded in Strode Road. The business has been at the forefront of vitreous enamelling for more than 100 years, yet is little known in Willesden. Vera should know what she is talking about since she owned the Company from 1971 to 1991.

Our Lady of Willesden by Ken Valentine A5 format, 12pp. Price £2.00.

Using such ecclesiastical records as still exist, this essay searches for the truth about Willesden’s late-medieval shrine and pilgrimage, abolished in 1538. Much of what is commonly said on the subject is shown to be false or unsubstantiated: the pilgrimage probably started after 1474, but was certainly well established by 1500. The author quotes royal accounts to show that Elizabeth of York, Queen of Henry VII, sent offerings to the shrine more than once. He shows that it was Thomas Bilney’s sermon at Willesden in 1527 that led to the prominence given to the shrine and its pilgrimage in the writings of More and Tyndale and to its continued citation alongside Walsingham, Worcester, and Ipswich as late as 1563.
In an appendix it is demonstrated that a detailed description of the shrine purporting to have been sent to Thomas Cromwell c.1537 was actually concocted by an enthusiastic antiquarian in 1877, borrowing phrases and sentences from genuine letters in British Cotton MSS to give verisimilitude.

Robson the Roadmaker by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 38 pp; 9 images. Price £3.00.

O.Claude Robson is not well known as a founder of modern Willesden, but from the time the newly formed Willesden Local Board appointed him their surveyor in 1875, until he retired in 1918, he carried out an enormous amount of work for the district. His involvement in roadmaking, sewerage and drainage, the fire brigade, and provision of parks, has left permanent memorials to him. This quietly dynamic, gentlemanly, and hard working man, and his grand works for Willesden, deserve to be recorded.

Saint Andrew’s Hospital, Dollis Hill by Ken Valentine. A4 format; 6pp, 1 image. Price £1.50.

This in depth study of the beginning and ending of this locally famous hospital is particularly well researched.

The Parish Church of Brondesbury, Christ Church with St. Laurence. By Gwen Bennett Molloy (1997.) 15 sides A4, stapled. – £1.50.

This booklet is a linking of two previous works on the past of Christ Church. The first was Dr. Jack Miller’s publication, Christ Church Centenary booklet, 1866-1966, and the second, The Parish Church of Brondesbury, 1967-1992. Both have been lightly edited, and additional text brings the story up to date.

The Quiet Waters By‘ (3rdEdition) by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format; 40 pp with 10 images. Price £3.00.

The Quiet Waters By, originally written in 1985, comprises notes and memories about the canal stimulated by many strolls along the Grand Union Canal in the Willesden area. This revision is considerably larger than previous versions and brings the story up to date.

The Roberts Family of Willesden. By K.J Valentine.  Essay, 4 sides A4, stapled. – £1.50.

 No family is more important in the history of Willesden than the Roberts Family, who lived for three centuries at Neasden. Yet the traditional accounts of the family’s history contain an unusually large number of errors. The main purpose of this essay is to correct and amplify the received tradition.

Roundwood Park by Cliff Wadsworth. (4th Edition) A5 format; 24 pp with 13 images. Price £2.00.

This updated and enlarged edition of one of our best-selling booklets now includes O.C.Robson’s plans for the Park which were presented to the Willesden Local Board on 3/1/1893. It is interesting to see how much of his vision was realised.

The Story of a Road – Dyne Road Brondesbury by Gwen Molloy. A4 format; 6 pp with 3 illustrations. Price £1.50.

Gwen Molloy, has struggled against failing sight to produce this booklet about the road in which she once lived. Memories and researched facts mix well in this short but illuminating sketch.

The Waterways of Brent by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format; 44 pp with 25 illustrations. Out of Print

Brent is not famous for its waterways, yet, in varying degrees, they have been important to the development and prosperity of the area. The main natural rivers are; the Brent and its tributaries, the Wealdstone Brook, the Wembley Brook, and the Mitchell Brook; the Kilburn River; and a multitude of small streams that feed them. The artificial waterways comprise the Grand Junction Canal (renamed the Grand Union Canal in 1929 following amalgamations), and its feeder from the Brent Reservoir. The route of each waterway is described and historical notes included.

Traditional Pubs of Brent; Vol.1 – Willesden by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 48pp, 30 images. Price £4. 00

Although Willesden has no very old inns in original condition, the history of pubs in the borough is long. All our oldest hostelries have been rebuilt, some several times, or demolished. The most ancient still standing date from the early or mid-19th century. It seemed a good time to publish a reference booklet on our old pubs, for two reasons. In the 1980’s our licensing laws were relaxed to such an extent that new pubs and wine bars appeared in every major street. These new establishments (which are not included) have had a major effect on the older traditional pubs. Some of the latter, like the Spotted Dog, Neasden, the Pantiles, St.Raphael’s, the Coach & Horses, Stonebridge, the Orange Tree, Stonebridge, the Green Man, Harlesden, and the White Horse, Church End, have already closed, and others are threatened. Another reason is that long-standing pub signs are being changed without any respect for their history, and sometimes to names that are ridiculous. A comprehensive index is included, and each pub described under the name it has borne longest.

Traditional Pubs of Brent; Volume 2 – Wembley & Kingsbury by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format, 40pp, 29 illustrations, Price £3.00.

This companion volume to the previously published ‘Willesden’ booklet is in the same style. Thirty-eight pubs are included. The oldest pub sites, not surprisingly, are along the oldest roads; the Swan and Black Horse on Harrow Road, the Kings Arms and Red Lion on Edgware Road, the Chequers and Plough on Ealing Road, the Plough on Kenton Road and the Mitre on Watford Road. The Green Man on the top of Wembley Hill, although close to the old Harrow Road is the exception to the rule. The Clutterbuck family of Stanmore appear to have owned most of them at one time or another!

Steam, Sheds, and Semaphores. Trainspotting around Willesden, by Cliff Wadsworth. A5 format; 32pp; 14 images. Price £3.00.

Not many people will admit to trainspotting in their past – it has gathered the aura of weirdness and of mis-spent youth. But there are many worse hobbies. Certainly, it stays with most participants for life, usually lying dormant until stimulated by circumstance. This memoir records some ‘steam’ trainspotting mainly in Willesden but also further afield.

Trees of Roundwood Park’ by Margaret Pratt. Out of print

Willesden Childhood and Schooling 1925 -1950 – A Social Contrast by Gwen Molloy & Cliff Wadsworth; A5 format, 56 pp, 22 images. Out of print

This booklet contrasts the schooling and living conditions of the WLHS Patron and Chairman. Gwen was brought up in the 1920’s in a typical middle-class background. Her family was moderately wealthy, and provided a good Kilburn environment and private schooling. She left the area to go to University at the beginning of the War (1939). Cliff, by contrast, came from a proud hard working family who never had much money but tried to ‘do the best for their son’. Soon after Gwen left Kilburn for her degree studies, Cliff started at a local community school. It was wartime. The intention of the booklet is to record the two different Willesden lifestyles from the first half of the 20th century, particularly in terms of living environments and education.