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Thursday, 18 July 2013

A Glimpse Into Kensal's Past

Image: freedigitalphotos
In 939AD King Athelstan, who reigned from 925AD to 944AD, gifted the Manors of Neasden and Willesden to the Canons of St Paul's Cathedral, making them the earliest known landowners in Willesden. It is recorded that even prior to 1066 Willesten Manor provided household goods to the Canons.

In 1150 the Manors were split up, each one serving a separate Canon. Twyford Manor was later given over to Greenford. The Manor Houses themselves were little more than farmhouses, the Canons being absentee landlords.

Kensal Green is first mentioned in 1253. The name refers to Kings Holt, or Wood, although we do not know to which king it refers. Kensal Green was one of ten Manors set on the boundary of Chelsea and Paddington, boundaries that are little changed today, separating Brent, Kensington & Chelsea, and Paddington.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Chichele, gained lands in Willesden and Kingsbury in the early 15th Century, and in 1443, the year of his demise, granted these lands to All Souls College in Oxford. He founded this College.

Kensal Green Cemetery was opened in 1832, and employed mostly local workers. In 1835 the Crown appointed an Ecclesiastical Commission, which was responsible for all the lands owned by the Church of England.

St John's Church, situated in Kilburn Lane, was opened in 1844, marking the formation of a new parish, as the population was now large enough to warrant one. This would have meant that parishioners no longer had to walk great distances to St Mary's at Willesden, or St Mary's in Paddington.

Until 1850 this would have been a largely rural area. The census of 1851 tells us that there were some 800 people living here. Around 1860 building began to the West of Kilburn High Road. In the 1870s, following the sale of Banister's Farm, more development took place. This led to the building of many present day streets, including Bannister Road and Mortimer Road. In 1880 All Souls' College began developing North West of Kilburn Lane, creating All Souls Avenue and College Road. Many of the streets still bear the names of leading Fellows of the College.

By 1880 the rapid development was causing concern, as much of the sewerage was of poor quality, and the facilities often drained into broken pipes.

Work on the Kensal Rise Reading Room began in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It was not actually completed until 1901, some months after her death, and Mark Twain, who was staying nearby, then opened it. In 1905 it became the Kensal Rise Library.

Two buildings still in existence are The Grange in Neasden, (previously a local history museum), and Dollis Hill House and stables. The stables currently house an Art gallery, whilst the house, which was badly damaged by fire, is currently undergoing attempts by the Dollis Hill House trust to save it from demolition, and renovate it. The only building to still in use as a private residence is Oxgate Farm, the oldest secular building in Willesden. In part it dates back to the 1500s

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