ABOUT HARLESDEN

Harlesden – it’s mentioned in the 11th century Domesday Book and originally meant Herewulf’s Tun or farmstead – is in the borough of Brent, North West London. Before the political boundary changes in 1965, Harlesden was in the borough of Willesden. Hence, confusingly if you’re not in the know, the station, Willesden Junction is actually in Harlesden.  There were political boundary changes n in Brent during the general election in 2010. Liberal Democrat, Sarah Teather deposed Labour’s Dawn Butler however in 2015, Dawn was voted back in again.

Associated with gun crime – it has been called London’s version of the Bronx – and poverty – it is one of the top ten most deprived areas in the UK – Harlesden is incredibly lively. The High Street is awash with fresh fish shops, hair shops, hairdressers, barbers, and an array of grocers that sell a stunning range of vegetables from okra to ackee.  And there isn’t a Starbucks in sight. There is no danger of high street conformity here. No wonder Prince Charles was so keen when he visited in 2007.  ”I don’t think I have enjoyed myself so much for a long time going down the high street and popping into one or two shops. I’m sorry I couldn’t go into more of them,” he said enthusiastically.

Harlesden is also one of the most ethnically diverse places in Britain. In the 1960s, the Irish and Afro-Caribbeans (mainly Jamaicans) arrived to work everywhere from the McVities biscuit factory to the railway and the hospital, but now if you walk around – there are Somalis, Afghans, Tamils, Pakistanis, Polish, Brazilians, Portuguese and more. Harlesden’s richness and aliveness comes from this ever-changing mixture of cultures that live and trade side-by-side.

It is also known for its successful boxing culture – two Olympic gold medallists come from Harlesden: Audley Harrison won the gold in Super-Heavyweight at Sydney, 2000, while James Degale won the gold in the Middleweight section at Bejing 2008.

One of the most significant and recent changes in the area, has been the demolishing of the 1960s tower blocks – the two final ghost shells came down in 2011 – in Stonebridge (where gangs and crime were rife, and the police seemingly helpless) to be replaced with low-rise housing. New housing has also been built in another problem area – Church End estate. It will be interesting to see what long-term changes this makes to the community.

There is a feeling of optimism in the air. In March 2010, Labour transport minister, announced the plans for a new high-speed railway line (£17 billion, to start being built in 2017) from Euston to Birmingham and the north. An interchange station connecting Heathrow and Euston would be built at Old Oak Common just down the road from Willesden Junction. This may have a major economic effect on Harlesden.

BRIEF HISTORY

*Originally a Saxon settlement on a well-watered woodland clearing on a hill.

*In the 15th century, a brick and tile works thrived here.

*For the next few centuries, Harlesden was a small village at the edge of a green, which bordered on Harrow Road.

*Much of the land was owned by All Souls College, Oxford.

*In 1839, the London to Harrow coach passed through Harlesden every day.

*In 1855, the omnibus service to London ran from the Royal Oak Inn.

*In 1866, Willesden Junction Station opened.

*The developing public transport systems encouraged industries to start developing here.

*The finely crafted, landmark Jubilee Clock was built in 1888 to honour Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

*At the turn of the 19th century, Harlesden was mainly middle-class, there were nine churches, a court, a library, a sub fire station, Roundwood Park, several cinemas and a telephone exchange! There were still farms, granges and dairies.

*In 1907, the Willesden Hippodrome Theatre opened.

*In the early 20th century, cheap housing was built and gradually the middle-classes moved out. Poverty started to be mentioned and in 1936, the Curzon Street estate is built.

*Now the middle classes are moving in again. They can find cheaper houses here than other areas in West London. There has been a considerable media migration from Portobello Rd.

13 responses to “ABOUT HARLESDEN

  1. Scarly B

    I’m very excited to move to Harlesden after reading your blog.

  2. Love this blog- I am a happy resident

  3. Lesley

    Just found your blog, will love reading it. My Nan and Grandad used to lived at the Coach House on Longstone Ave in the 50’s and early 60’s. He was a grave digger at the cemetery. My Mum grew up in the courts at Curzon Cres, she thought my Dad was dead posh, living in the Coach House.
    We moved to Australia in 1967. I’m visiting in May this year and can’t wait to show my Australian husband all my favourite haunts as a child.

  4. Maisie

    I was born and bred in Harlesden. I am Irish descent from a large family and our neighbours were Jamaican and Indian. It was truly a diverse and fun neighbourhood. I came back later to teach at Neasden High School before it closed down. Now live in the US,- far more gun action here than in all the time I was in Harlesden!!! I miss the atmosphere. Yes, there is terrible poverty, (we were poor), and there is crime, but our neigbours helped each other out.

  5. Bernard Woods

    Worked in The Green Man Pub in Harlesden when I moved over from Ireland in 1976.I lived in All Souls Avenue Willesden . The Boyles owned the Green Man and I think he previously managed The Royal Oak.Went on to work in St Johns Woods with National Westminster Bank before returning to Ireland in 1979.

    Bernard Woods.

  6. Michael

    I ived in Harlesden between 1986-1996.I was renting a room in springwell avenue.I loved the place.great buzz in Harlesden that time.Very vibrant place to live.I moved back to Ireland in sept 1996.Still have friend living there.i havnt been to London for a few years now but will definitely be calling to Harlesden on my next trip.

  7. jude young

    Hi im looking for a Michael wright born around 1947/48 worked in an hairdressers in willesden around 1967…. all i know is that he has green eyes…. any help appreciated

  8. Maria

    I was born in Harlesden Gardens in 1955. Apparently we were poor, but I didnt realise until 1969 when we moved away to Surrey. Lots of friends lived locally, we were involved with the Girl Guide movement (8th Harlesden) and went camping to far off Radnage in Bucks. I remember the Rag and Bone men who visited our street on Thursdays, the Trolley buses that went to Wembley and the annual shows and fairs at Roundwood Park. We played in the street as hardly a car went by. Great times.

  9. Margaret Burn (was Keelan)

    Like Maria I was in the guides 8th Harlesden. I lived in Crownhill Road. I was born in Park Royal Hospital in 1949 and attended John Keble Memorial School and the Convent of Jesus and Mary both in Crownhill Road. I note the boxing association with Harlesden. Not mentioned is the boxer Terry Downes who also lived in Crownhill Road and opened a club behind the High Street . There were also a few famous pupils attended the convent. Olympic swimmer Judy Grinham , was one. My brother Peter was head boy at Keble Memorial School.

  10. Paddy

    Born in Rucklidge Avenue in 1945′ remember well playing on the many bomb sites, growing up in a great neighbourhood, working ng in Heinz, Macvities, had 2 paper rounds and a weekend job in a green grocers at the age of 11′ , drinking in the Green Man and the Labour Clubs, the weekends up the West End in the very early 60s, marrying my sweetheart who lived in Neasden, and visiting Harlesden up until 1997′ when my folks died and an era passed away. 72 myself now, but worried about going back for a visit, what with all the crime. What have they done to my roots?

    • Vonnie Von Von

      Paddy you have nothing to fear. I have lived in Harlesden for 20 years and never had a problem. Most people living in the area don’t. Unfortunately you only hear about the bad things that happen, there is plenty good. I know Rucklidge Avenue very well, like most places its shady and night so just be smart about when your outdoors, commonsense will see you through.

      Best wishes
      Yvonne

  11. Margaret Burn (was Keelan)

    Hi Paddy nice to hear your comments. I had friends in Rucklidge ave, and my dad was president of the Harlesden Labour Club for many a year. I’ve not been back in a long while. But I looked up Roundwood Park on lie recently and thrilled to see the Victorian theatre still there although not used much these days.

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