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Kilburn, London


Kilburn Library
Kilburn is located in Greater London
 Kilburn shown within Greater London
OS grid reference
London borough Brent
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district NW6
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Hampstead and Kilburn
London Assembly Brent and Harrow
Barnet and Camden
List of places

Kilburn is an area of north-west London, England, which is divided between three London Boroughs: most of Kilburn is in either Brent or Camden but a small section is inside Westminster. It is situated 3.75 miles (6.0 km) north-west of Charing Cross. The main thoroughfare running northwest-southeast is Kilburn High Road, part of the modern A5 road which forms the boundary between the boroughs of Brent and Camden. The road dates back to pre-Roman times and is part of the Roman road known as Watling Street. The town of Kilburn has its origins in a 12th-century priory on the banks of the Kilburn Brook. Kilburn today is a busy and multicultural London district. It has the highest Irish population of any London area, as well as a large Afro-Caribbean population. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.[1]


  • History 1
  • Governance 2
  • Demographics 3
  • Landmarks 4
    • Kilburn High Road 4.1
    • Gaumont State Cinema 4.2
    • The Tricycle Theatre 4.3
    • Other buildings 4.4
  • Location in context 5
  • Transport 6
    • Tube/train 6.1
    • Bus 6.2
  • Sport 7
  • Notable residents 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Kilburn High Road originated as an ancient trackway, part of a Celtic route between the settlements now known as Canterbury and St Albans. Under Roman rule, the route was paved. In Anglo-Saxon times the road became known as Watling Street.[2]

A paving stone on Kilburn High Road commemorates the route of Watling Street.
A paving stone commemorates the former Wells on the corner of Belsize Road and the High Road
The Red Lion, est. 1444

Kilburn grew up on the banks of a stream which has been known variously as Cuneburna, Kelebourne and Cyebourne, which flows from Hampstead down through Hyde Park and into the River Thames. It is suggested the name means either Royal River or Cattle River ('Bourne' being an Anglo-Saxon word for 'river'). The river is known today as the River Westbourne. From the 1850s it was piped underground and is now one of London's many underground rivers.

The name Kilburn was first recorded in 1134 as Cuneburna, referring to the priory which had been built on the site of the cell of a hermit known as Godwyn.[3] Godwyn had built his hermitage by the Kilburn river during the reign of Henry I, and both his hermitage and the priory took their name from the river.[4]

Kilburn Priory was a small community of nuns, probably Augustinian canonesses. It was founded in 1134 at the Kilburn river crossing on Watling Street (the modern-day junction of Kilburn High Road and Belsize Road). Kilburn Priory's position on Watling Street meant that it became a popular resting point for pilgrims heading for the shrines at St Albans and Willesden. The Priory was dissolved in 1536-37 by Henry VIII, and nothing remains of it today.[5] The priory lands included a mansion and a hostium (a guesthouse), which may have been the origin of the Red Lion pub, thought to have been founded in 1444. Opposite, the Bell Inn was opened around 1600, on the site of the old mansion.[4]

The fashion for taking 'medicinal waters' in the 18th century came to Kilburn when a well of chalybeate waters (water impregnated with iron) was discovered near the Bell Inn in 1714. In an attempt to compete with the nearby Hampstead Well, gardens and a 'great room' were opened to promote the well, and its waters were promoted in journals of the day as cure for 'stomach ailments':[4]

In the 19th century the wells declined, but the Kilburn Wells remained popular as a tea garden. The Bell was demolished and rebuilt in 1863, the building which stands there today. The Kilburn stretch of Watling Street, now called Edgware Road and Kilburn High Road, was gradually built up with inns and farm houses. Despite the discovery of a medicinal well in 1714, and the creation of gardens and a fine room to exploit the water, Kilburn did not attract any significant building until around 1819 in the area near St John's Wood.[4]

Between 1839 and 1856 the newsagent and future First Lord of the Admiralty William Henry Smith lived in a house to the west of Kilburn High Road. Much of the area was developed in the last decades of the 19th century by Solomon Barnett, who named many of the streets after places in the West Country (e.g. Torbay) or after popular poets of the day (e.g. Tennyson) in honour of his wife.


A map showing the Kilburn ward of Hampstead Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

The boundary between the boroughs of Camden and Brent runs along the middle of Kilburn High Road. The electoral wards of 'Kilburn (Camden)' and 'Kilburn (Brent)' cover most of the area.


Kilburn has a number of different ethnic groups, including people of Irish, Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Eritrean and Ethiopian descent. As the area is split between more than one London borough, statistics are gathered from different parts of Kilburn.[7][8]

13% of the population was born in Ireland with an even higher percentage of second-generation (born in England of Irish descent) people, giving it the highest Irish population of any London area.[9] Irish community activities, pubs, local GAA sports clubs,[10] and annual St Patrick's Day celebrations are prominent in parts of the area. The 2007 Irish-language film Kings has been associated with Kilburn, and is based on Jimmy Murphy's play, The Kings of the Kilburn High Road.[11]


Kilburn High Road

Kilburn High Road is the main road in Kilburn. It follows a part of the line of the Roman route, Iter III in the Antonine Itinerary, which later took the Anglo-Saxon name Watling Street. This was based on an earlier Celtic route from Verlamion to Durovernum Cantiacorum, modern day St Albans and Canterbury.

Running roughly north-west to south-east, it forms the boundary between the London boroughs of Camden to the east and Brent to the west. It is the section of the Edgware Road (itself part of the A5) between Shoot Up Hill and Maida Vale.

There are three railway stations on Kilburn High Road: Kilburn tube station (Jubilee line) at its northern end and a little to the south Brondesbury station (London Overground on the North London Line). Approximately 1.25 km (nearly a mile) further south is Kilburn High Road station (also London Overground, on the Watford DC Line). Kilburn Park tube station, on the Bakerloo line, lies a little west of the southern end of the High Road.

The green space of Kilburn Grange Park is located to the east side of Kilburn High Road.

The name of Ian Dury's first band, Kilburn and the High Roads, refers to this road, as does the Flogging Molly song, "Kilburn High Road" and the Shack song, "Kilburn High Road".

Gaumont State Cinema

A landmark in Kilburn High Road is the Mecca Bingo. It is now owned by a religious organisation.

The Tricycle Theatre

In 1980 the Tricycle Theatre was opened in a converted Forester's Hall on Kilburn High Road north of Buckley Road. The Tricycle is a renowned arts centre, now including a gallery, cinema and theatre. It has a particular reputation for political dramas including dramatisations of significant court cases and a play about the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which subsequently transferred to the West End and to New York City. Reflecting the culturally diverse local community of Kilburn - and in order to qualify for an Arts Council subsidy - the Tricycle theatre presents many international pieces and films, often in original language with English subtitles, and hosts or runs social and educational programmes.

Other buildings

The Carlton Tavern, before demolition

To the south, the Kilburn skyline is dominated by the Gothic spire of St. Augustine's, Kilburn. Completed in 1880 by the architect John Loughborough Pearson, the church has an ornate Victorian interior, a carved stone reredos and screen and stained glass, adjacent to its partners, St Augustine's Primary and Secondary Schools. The church is sometimes nicknamed "the Cathedral of North London" due to its size[12] - at the time of construction, it was the third-largest place of worship in London, after St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

Located at 10 Cambridge Avenue, just off Kilburn High Road, is "The Animals WW1 memorial dispensary". The building itself dates back to the early 1930s. Formally opened in March 1931, it treated over 6,000 animals in its first year. The front of the building has a large bronze plaque above the door as a memorial to animals killed in the first world war. It's an impressive piece of bronze sculpture by F Brook Hitch of Hertford. Next door at 12-14 Cambridge Avenue, is one of the only surviving London examples of a "Tin Tabernacle" from 1863, which is currently used by a local Arts charity. This very unusual building is grade 2 listed and is open to the public on Saturdays.

Just to the south of St. Augustine's on Carlton Vale stood the Carlton Tavern, a pub built in 1920-21 for Charrington Brewery and thought to be the work of the architect Frank J Potter. The building, noted for its unaltered 1920s interiors and faience tile exterior, was being considered by Historic England for Grade II listing when it was unexpectedly demolished in March 2015 by the property developer CLTX Ltd to make way for a new block of flats.[13]

Location in context


Area around Kilburn station


Kilburn High Road is served by several railway lines which traverse the road in an east-west direction, connecting the area with central London and outer north-west London suburbs. The railways were first introduced to Kilburn in 1852 when the LNWR opened Kilburn & Maida Vale station (today's Kilburn High Road railway station), followed by two stations opened in the Brondesbury area of Kilburn by the Hampstead Junction Railway (1860) and the Metropolitan Railway (1879). Numerous plans were drawn up at the turn of the 20th century to construct an underground railway tunnel under the length of the Edgware Road and Kilburn High Road, including an unusual scheme to build a type of subterranean monorail roller coaster, but these proposals were abandoned.[14] Today, Kilburn is served by London Underground and London Overground from the following stations:[15][16]


Kilburn is served by many bus routes that go along the High Road. Most routes come south from Cricklewood, and serve various points in central and west London.[17]


  • Kilburn is home to Kilburn Cosmos RFC, one of the few rugby clubs in inner London.
  • South Kilburn F.C. play in the Combined Counties League
  • Kilburn is home to Kilburn Gaels Hurling Club.
  • Kilburn Football Club play in the Middlesex County League, and hold regular training sessions in Grange Park.
  • One of the 12 founder members of the Football Association was formed in Kilburn in 1863. It was referred to as the N.N. Club or N.N. Kilburn, "N.N." being thought to stand for "Non Name". It supplied the first president of the Football Association.

Notable residents

Notable people who live or have lived in Kilburn include:


  1. ^  
  2. ^ "The Virtual Tour of Kilburn". Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b c d C.R. Elrington (editor), T.F.T. Baker, Diane K. Bolton, Patricia E.C. Croot (1989). "Kilburn, Edgware Road and Cricklewood". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9 (sourced from British History Online). Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Kilburn". Brent Heritage. 2002. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Kilburn and St John's Wood". British History Online. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Brent Council (2001). "Kilburn Ward 2001 census". Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  8. ^ Camden Council (2001). "Kilburn Ward 2001 census". Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "In the Green Fields of Kilburn: Reflections on a Quantitative Study of Irish Migrants in North London" (PDF). Anthropology Matters Journal. February 2002. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Kilburn Gaels Hurling Club". Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Ferriter, Diarmuid. "Paddies' pain". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Saint Augustine's Kilburn". Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Bulldozers level historic pub after being denied planning permission". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Badsey-Ellis, Antony (2005). London's lost tube schemes. Harrow: Capital Transport. pp. 62–63; 79–83; 264–267.  
  15. ^ "Kilburn station". TfL. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "Kilburn High Road". National Rail. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  17. ^ Transport for London (2012). "Buses from Kilburn High Road" (PDF). Bus route map. Retrieved 2014-01-14. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^

External links

  • Tourist information
  • History of Kilburn's Theatres
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