The development of Kilburn

A chronological guide to the development of this part of north west London.



The name Kilburn is recorder as Cuneburna, the royal or possibly cow’s stream, was applied to the priory built beside the stream and later to the whole neighbourhood on both sides of Edgware Road. Before c. 1134 there was a hermitage, probably on Edgware Road, where Kilburn priory was built shortly afterwards.

A certain John de Kilburn sold his house and 20 acres to the lord of the manor.

The lord of the manor leased out the tenement which has been bought from John de Kilburn. John of Eton, who had a piece of land in 1312, later held a house and land in Kilburn Street (nowadays called the High Road).

Traditional founding date of the Red Lion.

At the northern end of Edgware Road a substantial dwellinghouse was built on the Hospitallers’ estate, presumably Shoot Up Hill Farm south of the junction with Mill Lane.

By this date, the Kilburn Priory buildings included a mansion and a ‘hostium’, which may have been the priory’s guesthouse, possibly the origin of the Red Lion, traditionally said to date from 1444. The mansion ‘opposite the hostium’ may have stood on the site later occupied by the Bell which was part of a freehold estate probably once belonging to Kilburn priory but detached from the other priory lands by 1704.

There was a house in Kilburn Lane, the southern part of West End Lane, by 1598.

The Bell is said to date from the year 1600.

Records show a cottage at Shoot Up Hill, associated with the western, copyhold, portion of Earlsfield.

There was at least one cottage in ‘Kilburn Street’ (high road) in 1637.

By 1646 there were at least 10 houses and 5 cottages in the area, including the farmhouses of the Shoot Up Hill, Gilberts, and Liddell estates.

The house on the Little estate, assessed for five hearths, was leased to Thomas Green, an alehouse keeper, in 1653 (and also in 1667).

The Black Lion, built on the waste bordering the Little estate north of the farmhouse, displays the date 1666.

The house on the Little estate was occupied by Walter Green, a farmer.

By this date, the Bell was detached from Kilburn Priory lands.

A medicinal well was discovered and exploited near the Bell.

Kilburn Well opened gardens and a great room for the ‘politest companies’ in an imitation of Hampstead wells. The Kilburn wells did not, in contrast to Hampstead town, stimulate building.

There were reported 10 houses, seven cottages, a tollhouse, a smith’s shop, and three public houses on Edgware Road. The cottages on Earlsfield in Mill Lane disappeared between the 1740s and 1762.

Building during the 18th century included the rebuilding of the old farmhouse on the Liddell estate and the construction of five cottages by 1771. Most of the building was of cottages on waste along Edgware Road bordering the Liddell and Little estates.

A new brick house replaced the Liddel farmhouse.

Fulk Greville Howard buys the Kilburn Priory estate. Extensive building began on the estate, which bordered St. John’s Wood in St. Marylebone. In the same year he made an agreement with John Gelsthorp and Henry Jay, carpenters from Marylebone and Kilburn respectively, to build on plots fronting an existing farm lane (Abbey Lane) running south from West End Lane, with the intention of granting 99 year leases once the houses were completed. The builders were small men with little capital and their houses were small, pairs joined by a single storey.

Howard made an agreement in 1819 with George Pocock, a surveyor who lived on the Marylebone side of Edgware Road, to take a field on the parish border and build residences for the gentry. He laid out Greville Place, then in Marylebone, with plots for detached and semi-detached villas, six or seven of which had been built by the time building ceased in 1825.

John Gelsthorp, who also built a range of stables, went bankrupt in 1821.

Samuel Ware, the surveyor and architect of the duke of Portland’s London estate, who already owned property elsewhere in Hampstead, bought the Little Estate in 1822 and began almost immediately to sell off pieces of it.

Henry Jay goes bankrupt and the Kilburn Priory plots were sold by auction to investors.

The northern part of the Little Estate was sold off.

A group of houses called Prospect Place had been built fronting Edgware Road south of the junction with West End Lane, and a field lane linking West End Lane with Edgware Road near the parish boundary had been turned into a private road, later called Kilburn Priory, by 1829.

Samuel Ware leased the remaining 12 acres of the Little Estate bordering Edgware Road to five or more tenants, one a nurseryman but the others including a solicitor, who occupied Oak Lodge. The Grange, possibly in existence by 1841, was occupied by a retired coachbuilder, Thomas Peters, by 1851.

Sidney Terrace on the Little Estate and Royston Hall on the Gilberts Estate reported as built.

Building began again on the Kilburn priory estate in 1843 when Fulk Greville Howard made an agreement with William Cullum, a china manufacturer, who had built four substantial houses by 1846 when Howard died.

Fulk Greville Howard made an agreement with James Carter, a Maida Vale builder, who laid out Springfield Lane (originally Goldsmith’s Place, Osborne Terrace, and Bell Terrace), built Greville (originally Manchester) Mews and two-storeyed tenements (Manchester Place) backing the stables and the Bell and Red Lion, and built some more ‘classy’ houses in Springfield Villas (later Kilburn Priory).

Col. Arthur Upton, inherits the Kilburn Priory Estate upon the death of Fulk Greville Howard.

Some 69 houses were built in Kilburn between 1845 and 1850.

James Cater is superseded by George Duncan, a substantial developer. Col. Arthur Upton makes a building agreement for 15½ acres. In Kilburn Priory, Priory Road, and St. George’s Road, Duncan built mostly pairs of good-class villas, with some terraces of shops in Belsize Road, extended westward from the Eyre estate, a public house in West End Lane.

Kilburn Station is opened on the L.N.W.R. The main access to London was still by horse omnibus along Edgware Road.

At Shoot Up Hill new farm buildings replaced old ones, which were converted to a cottage, and a new lodge was built.

Some larger houses were built on higher ground in Greville and Mortimer roads.

Plans were drawn up in 1855 to develop the Powell-Cotton Shoot Up Hill estate, but they were delayed by uncertainty over the course of the Hampstead Junction railway. The earliest development on the family’s estates began in the south, north of the existing L.N.W.R. line and adjacent to the built-up areas of the Kilburn Priory Estate.

George Duncan builds a church, St. Mary’s, in Abbey Road.

200 houses were built in Kilburn between 1851 and 1857, mostly by George Duncan and, after 1854, by his son John Wallace Duncan, but about a third by a number of small builders on underleases.

The Hampstead Junction railway was built across the Gilbert’s Estate.

The remains of the Little Estate was in the hands of Donald Nicoll.

The Bell was rebuilt.

The Hampstead Junction railway company acquired some 6½ acres from Gilberts, then held by Thomas H. Ripley.

Donald Nicoll built Palmerston Road, which was linked to the United Land Company estate.

Plans were approved for a number of roads on the Powell-Cotton’s Liddell estate, mostly named after places in Kent near the Powell-Cotton family seat of Quex Park: Quex, Birchington, and Mutrix roads. On the western side of West End Lane, on the Powell-Cotton (Liddell) estate north of Quex Road, the Chimes, a large house built in the 1860s by E. W. Pugin for the painter John Rogers Herbert (1810-90), for some time insulated the area from further building.

David Tildesley, a Paddington ironmonger, filled some of the gaps on the Kilburn Priory Estate, in St George’s Road and Alexandra Road, in 1867.

10 acres of the Gilbert’s Estate were sold to the Midland Railway Co.

A Roman Catholic church and Wesleyan and Unitarian chapels were built in Quex Road in 1868-9.

The rest of the Gilbert’s Estate was enfranchised in 1868 and sold by 1869 to land companies. The British Land Co., which bought the portion north of the Hampstead Junction railway, obtained approval in 1869 for the formation of Iverson, Loveridge, and Maygrove roads and Ariel Street.

Royston Hall was replaced by five houses.

Building, of cramped terraces as on the United Land Company estates was almost complete by 1871.

At least 55 houses were built on the Powell-Cotton’s Liddell estate between 1871 and 1885.

Five houses were built behind the Bell in 1871.

Houses, workshops, and shops were built fronting Edgware Road on all the estates from 1872.

Six houses were built in 1874-5 in Station Road, an early name for Iverson Road.

Building spread to the eastern part of the Powell-Cotton estates at Kilburn Woods, which lay between West End Lane and the Maryon Wilson estate.

Building spread northward from Quex Road west of the Chimes. Kingsgate Road, named after another place in Kent, stretched northward to the estate border by 1875 and 77 houses were built there between 1878 and 1888.

By agreement Col. Henry Cotton laid out Canfield (later Priory) Road on the boundary between the Powell-Cotton and KilburnPriory estates and some 45 houses were built there between 1877 and 1882. Acol Road was laid out to link with the development to the east.

On the remnants of the Little Estate a new lodge and house were built at Oak Lodge.

Four roads had been laid out between the railway lines and c. 70 houses and a Baptist chapel built; (fn. 41) another 195 houses had been added by 1882.

Some houses built were on the Shoot Up Hill estate, south of the farmhouse.

At the east end of the former Gilbert’s Estate, John Edward Medley of St. John’s Wood, who had bought the plot in 1872, built 11 houses in Medley Road.

A road, Eresby Road, was planned across the southern part of the Little estate between Edgware Road and Kingsgate Road in 1879 and 26 houses were built there between 1883 and 1885.

The portion of the Gilberts estate south of the railway was sold to the United Land Co. which in 1869 obtained approval for Netherwood, Kelson, and Linstead streets, named after directors of the company. Netherwood Street was originally called Royston Road, after Royston Hall, which had made way for it. Some 80 houses were built on the estate between 1871 and 1880. In 1880-1 a board school and a mission hall were built in Netherwood Street.

The Powell-Cotton family controlled the development of the Shoot Up Hill estate, where Kentish names predominated. Fordwych Road, from Mill Lane to Maygrove Road, defined the eastern boundary of the estate, and was linked to Edgware Road by Garlinge Road, planned in 1880, and Dandelion (later St. Cuthbert’s) Road, planned in 1882. Between 1880 and 1892 some 147 houses, a church, and a school were built in the new roads. The principal builder was Joshua Parnell of Fordwych Road.

Houses and shops were built by R. Rose on the Oak Lodge estate in 1881.

George Verey, lessee of Shoot Up Hill farm, was responsible for building houses there.

Eleven houses were built in Smyrna Road, on the Liddell Estate, opposite Eresby Road, in 1883 and two roads to the north, Gascony and Messina avenues, were constructed across both estates; 130 houses were built there between 1881 and 1887. By this date, of the Little Estate, only the Grange and nursery lands remained untouched.

Between 1874 and 1886 parallel roads were laid out to the north and 56 mostly detached and semi-detached houses built in Acol Road (1877-9), Woodchurch Road (1878-9), Cleve Road (1882-6), and Chislett Road (1884-8, later the western section of Compayne Gardens), and 19 stables in Acol Mews (1879) and West Hampstead Mews (1886-7).

Stables and workshops were built in Kingsgate Mews and Place from 1886.

It was reported that severe weather and unemployment caused great suffering to the poor in Kilburn. Booth noted the social decadence of the whole area, the lack of religious attendance, the arrival of Jewish families, and the prevalence of the ‘artistic and Bohemian element’.

H. G. Wells taught from 1889 to 1890 at a school in Mortimer Road (later Crescent). There were studios at 1 Woodchurch Road and 24-6 Greville Road belonging to Seymour Lucas (1882-1904) and Goscombe John (1860-1952) respectively.

H. B. Oldrey of Albert Works, Kilburn, rebuilt the Red Lion and built some houses and shops in Kilburn High Road.

Twelve houses were built fronting Shoot Up Hill between 1890 and 1894.

It was repoprted that there was a greater proportion of the ‘fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings’ category in Kilburn than in any other district of Hampstead. The most spacious and therefore high-class area was the Powell-Cottons Kilburn Woods estate, designated middle-class and well-to-do, with one street, Cleve Road, upper middle- and middle-class.

There was one other upper middle-class area, Greville Road, an extension of the Marylebone part of the Kilburn priory estate. Most of the Hampstead section of that estate, together with the southern part of the PowellCottons’ Liddell estate, was middle-class but the mews and industrial sections of both estates were of lower status, as was the housing on the land companies’ estates in the centre. Although most houses were terraced and, by Hampstead standards, densely packed, the pressure of population and increasing rents led to some division among families and the taking of lodgers.

Another 30 houses and 6 shops were added in Kingsgate Road 1892-6, 12 houses in Eresby Road 1891-2, and 49 houses in Mazenod Avenue 1891-6.

Fordwych Road was extended north of the lane by 1892 and most of the 57 houses built in the road between 1892 and 1907 were probably in the northern section.

H. B. Oldrey built three houses in Kilburn Priory in 1893.

A block of flats (Douglas Mansions) was built at the corner of West End Lane and Quex Road in 1896 and another three blocks there (King’s Gardens) in 1897.

Priory Court was built.

In the 1890s building on the Powell-Cotton estate spread north of Mill Lane. The new roads, named after Kentish places or places abroad visited by Maj. Percy Powell-Cotton, were Minster Road (30 houses between 1891 and 1900), Gondar Gardens (52 houses between 1892 and 1896 and 5 blocks of flats in 1899), Westbere Road (30 houses and a school between 1893 and 1904), Sarre Road (25 houses between 1896 and 1904), Skardu Road (48 houses in 1897), Manstone Road (15 houses in 1899-1900), and Rondu Road (6 houses in 1900). At the northern end of the estate c. 23 shops and dwellings were built in the Parade, Cricklewood, and in Richborough Road in 1885 and between 1892 and 1899. Most of those in Richborough Road and Ebbsfleet Road, named in 1893, were presumably built 1901-3.

Some 22 houses were built in Somali Road between 1904 and 1908.

Permission was given for Kingscroft Road on the site of Shoot Up Hill Farm and the Elms; 7 houses were built there before 1914.

Kilburn Grange from the Powell-Cotton estate was acquired as a public park.

Six houses were built in Menelik Road.

Building resumed on the northern borders of the borough on the Powell-Cotton estate after 1918, with some 70 houses being built in Westbere, Somali, Menelik, and Asmara roads between 1922 and 1928.

By 1930 the United Land Co.’s estate at Netherwood Street and Palmerston Road was occupied by unskilled labourers and contained some poverty and overcrowding. There was overcrowding to a lesser extent on the adjacent British Land Co.’s estate which, together with the southern part of the Liddell estate and parts of the Kilburn priory estate, was mostly occupied by skilled workers.

Harry St. John Philby (1885-1960), diplomat and traveller, lived with his family, including the future spy Kim, at no. 10 Acol Road from 1930 to 1949.

Almost all the building of the 1930s was of flats on the sites of earlier houses. On the Kilburn Woods estate it included no. 17 Acol Road in 1932, Acol Court at the junction with West End Lane in 1934, Kingswood Court to the south in 1935, Cleve House in Cleve Road in 1935, and Embassy House at the junction of Cleve Road and West End Lane in 1936-7.

On the Kilburn priory estate Hillsborough Court, a neo-Tudor block decorated with heraldic motifs in stone, was built for Greville Estates in Mortimer Crescent in 1933.

The Westcroft estate, 290 houses, was built by Douglas & Wood for Hampstead council just over the border in the Hendon part of Cricklewood.

Between 1934 and 1938 Fordwych, Hillcrest, and Kendal courts and Warwick Lodge were built on the sites of nos. 50-64 Shoot Up Hill, on either side of Mill Lane.

Ascot Lodge was built at the corner of Greville Road and Place in 1939.

In 1947 the London County Council announced a scheme for 104 flats in Kilburn Vale. The estate, south of West End Lane, which involved the demolition of some of the earliest building in the area in Kilburn Vale and Abbey Lane, was opened c. 1951.

Bomb-damage was widespread during the Second World War, possibly because the railways were an obvious target. It combined with overcrowding in densely packed back-to-back houses to necessitate extensive rebuilding. The first post-war borough council estate was Kilburn Priory or Gate, which started in 1948 with plans for 94 flats on 2½ acres off Kilburn Priory near the southern border. The first 60 flats were opened in 1951, the rest, designed by J. B. K. Cowper, in 1957.

In 1948 the L.C.C. began clearing the area between Greville Road and Mortimer Place and Crescent, which it replaced with the Mortimer Crescent estate, eight small scale, brick blocks of flats, which were opened c. 1955.

Sidney Boyd Court, three blocks containing 80 flats, was opened on the east side of West End Lane, between Woodchurch and Acol roads.

Forty-three dwellings were under construction in Springfield Lane, Kilburn.

At the other end of the district the Templar House estate, 112 flats by Frank Scarlett at Shoot Up Hill, between Garlinge and St. Cuthbert’s roads, which had been cleared for flats before the war, was opened in 1954.

Flats in Garlinge Road, designed in 1967-9 by David Hyde-Harrison and old people’s homes, designed on a hexagonal system at the corner of Priory and Woodchurch roads in 1967.

The whole of the area bounded by Edgware Road, West End Lane, and the railway lines was made a general improvement area. The first phase, a council estate called Florence Cayford, later Webheath, designed by the borough architect Sidney Cook, was opened in two stages, in 1970 and 1972, to house 400 people on a site cleared of the notorious slums in the Netherwood Street and Palmerston Road area.

There was said to be a 40 per cent increase in the number of homes in West Hampstead and Kilburn between 1966 and 1971, and overcrowding fell: it had been 0.96 per room in Kilburn ward and 1.45 in Priory ward in 1921, was 0.92 and 0.88 respectively in 1951, and was 0.78 and 0.70 respectively in 1971. The improvement was, however, aided by a decline in population from 26,286 in the two wards in 1921 to 24,085 in 1971.

On the Kingsgate estate to the south 146 new houses were built in the area south of Gascony Avenue and west of Kingsgate Road, and there was building in Smyrna Road.

A second phase of the Kilburn Vale estate, north of West End Lane, bound by Mutrix and Quex roads and involving the demolition of the eastern part of Birchington Road, was completed by 1984. In 1984 two estates in the area belonged to the Cicely Davies housing association, 16 flats in converted houses at nos. 6 and 8 Woodchurch Road, and 70 flats on the Priory Road estate.

In spite of the large-scale redevelopment, traces remained in 1987 of most of the phases of the area’s history. The Bell and Red Lion, though rebuilt in 1863 and 1890 respectively, still stood on their original sites, as did the Black Lion, rebuilt in 1898 and a listed building. Also listed were the early 19thcentury, 1-5 Greville Place and 24 and 26 Greville Road, remnants of the earliest building on the Kilburn priory estate, and 13-19 (odd) Greville Place and 37 Greville Road, from the mid 19th century.

Edgware Road contained examples, mostly of terraces fronted by shops, from every decade from the 1860s.


Derived from the open source text: T F T Baker, Diane K Bolton and Patricia E C Croot, ‘Hampstead: Kilburn, Edgware Road, and Cricklewood’, in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington, ed. C R Elrington (London, 1989), pp. 47-51 

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