Wednesday 29 October 2008

Kilburn, Guthrum the Dane and 878

It might seem like the unlikeliest post of the blog to-date but I'm pushing the theory that the Kilburn of today has a claim on the ancient english heritage of the 9th century AD.

In 878 AD (the date is argued over by more eminent historians) the army led by King Alfred of Wessex defeated the Danes led by Guthrum. it was the subsequent treaty between them that led to the Kilburn High Road (Watling Street) being part of the boundary.

In short the area to the west (where Brent now is and beyond) was Wessex and the area to the east (where Camden now is and beyond) was Danelaw. That those living in 'Camden' paid taxes to the Danes (Danegeld) and those in 'Brent' didn't.

This is cited as the reason why the Kilburn market has always been on the Brent (Wessex) side of the road - to be on the Camden (Danelaw) side would have meant paying taxes to the Danes!

I've depicted here one of the most iconic coins of King Alfred which dates from when he subsequently used and crossed the Kilburn High Road and took back London... You can see on the reverse of the coin the letters LONDIN (London)

So, I guess my contention is pretty straight-forward:
  • Kilburn has an amazing historic heritage
  • That the signifcance of the High Road (Watling Street) has been massively underplayed locally and in the wider history books
  • That the divide that today recreates itself as a pain with, for example, street cleaning contracts, dates back to the 9th century
  • That this is all something we should be proud of...

Part of me is thinking that if Kilburn were a small market town and were located in the leafy areas of one of the shire counties we would have a proud and illuminated heritage - shown off by statues, plaques, and allusions to this long historic tradition. Yet we don't - why?


Anonymous said...

Now all we have are £ shops :(

Anonymous said...

Walk along Kilburn High Road today and one wonders what country we are in, never mind our heritage!

I remember well when the pubs on either side of the road had different closing times. When the pubs on one side closed at 10.30pm we would rush over to the other side to get a few more pints in before they closed at 11pm.
Sad to see Biddy Mulligans has been turned into flats making a tidy profit for some developer who no doubt lives outside the country.
What's happening with McGoverns? I've heard it's becoming a gym. Better than yet another kebab shop, I suppose.