Monday 19 November 2007

Kilburn - the closer you live, the better it gets...

The slogan is "Kilburn High Road (KHR) the closer you look the better it gets". Now I have moved proper I get greater immediate access to Kilburn and it's communities.

It's an amazing place and one that has a depth and a richness few have appreciated. To the communities who live on it and off of it, it has a variety and an atmosphere that is almost enchanting.

Coming out of Kilburn Tube station at the foot of Shoot Up Hill you have the amazing railway bridge mural with the allusions to HG Wells, the irish traditions andGeorge Orwell. Moving down the High Road you see rising up either side the raft of multi-occ houses that have been the basis for the transitional community - first and dominantly the Irish, subsequently younger people ('cos it's low cost) and now a rich variety of european and migrant workers. There are still some vestiges of the old 50's/60's/70's room-to-let culture if you look up and spot the old VACANCY signs - including the "DHSS accepted".

Brondesbury Station on the North London Line is one of the most neglected stations around - roll on the Overground re-vamp - but many will be interested to know that it was once called Edgware Road and only later re-named.

Of course the big issue for Kilburn is it's sheer accessibility - it's the old Watling Street of the Roman Empire - the first british motorway from Londinium (London) to Verulamium (St Albans). First for the Romans - subsequently the boundary for the Danelaw and Wessex and then the pilgrimage route to St Albans - often from Canterbury.

The Tricycle Theatre has become a jewel in Kilburn's crown with it's tradition of Irish and subsequently Black cultures. It was first the home for English photographer William Friese Greene in the 1880's. He was identified as the 'father of the motion picture' by British film-makers before Thomas edison took all the credit. :-)

The Kilburn Gaumont State is one of the most iconic landmarks of the High Road - built in 1937 it was the largest cinema in Europe seating 4,004 people (and had standing room for the next film showing for a further 4,000 people!). The State became a live music venue and had most of the greats of the 60's and 70's inclduing The Stones, Beatles and Frank Sinatra. Since 1980's it has been a cinema but has now sadly closed with an uncertain future. If you have been in you will know what a gem it is and the foyer itself is truly amazing...

Kilburn Grange Park is just great space and sits behind The Black Lion (stunning pub architecture inside and out) and also the Sir Colin Campbell - a long standing 'Irish' pub that still retains its character.

Kilburn Market - constructed on the Wessex side of the road- so taxes didn't have to be paid in Danelaw! - is a rich tapestry of virtually everything and still has the hussle and bussle atmosphere. It need an overhaul and some investment but is crucial part of Kilburn today.

And finally just off the Kilburn High Road Bridge you have the actual physical remains of the old roman walls of what was a fort (prob 1st century) and also of Kilburn Priory - originally run by Nuns and mentioned in 1134 and subsequently sold and demolished following the Henry VIII dissolution. But the physical remains are visible to see, but lie largely unknown and un-noticed.

For me today the real issue is that for too long this great trading route - Kilburn High Road - which has created such a vibrant attitude has been a great divider. Not so much drawing the community together but acting as a barrier to the development and improvement. This is most starkly brought together today when you learn that the east side is in Camden and the west side is in Brent. In fact the south is then in Westminster and the north then in Barnet. few places have been so split by local government boundaries.

The new parliamentary constituency - which melds together part of Sarah Teather's Brent East and Glenda Jackson's Hampstead & Highgate to create a new constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn provides a chance to draw together all of the respective strengths of an amazing community and set of traditions and place them all within the community of Kilburn. it's a development I intend to play a small part in - Kilburn deserves it and local residents will benefit from it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Kilburn, (well, alright, Brondesbury) I am delighted with the coverage you give it in your blog. Keep it up.

One point. This has been annoying me for some time now. You mentioned the Sir Colin Campbell pub. Not many people remember who Sir Colin was. Atthe time he was the most popular general in Queen Victoria's army. he was a working class Glaswegian who made his way up through the ranks to become a general. An almost unheard of feat in those days. Because he was basically a working class lad he was very popular among the ordinary soldiers. He was the General who commanded the Scots greys in the famous "Thin red Line" at Balaclava in the Crimea. An all round hero.
So why is the fantastic portrait of him missing? This pub sign hung outside the Colin Campbell for many years but has been taken down by the present landlady.
I'm of an Irish background but I also have an ancestor who actually sounded the Charge of the Light Brigade. His bugle was in our family for generations.
I suspect that because most of the regulars in the pub are Irish the sign was taken down because the landlady plain just didn't like the idea of a portrait of a British army officer hanging outside her pub. I could be wrong, of course, and apologies if I am.
I want to see that portrait of Sir Colin put back in it's rightful place. Any chance of you making a few enquiries?