This down-to-earth district with af­flu­ent neigh­bours of­fers fam­i­lies plenty of choice to up­size and down­size, says Anthea Masey

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Front Page -

THE north-west Lon­don neigh­bour­hood of Kilburn stretches out on ei­ther side of Watling Street, the an­cient An­glo-Saxon road that once con­nected pil­grims to Can­ter­bury and St Al­bans. It is now known more pro­saically as the A5 and marks the bound­ary of two Lon­don bor­oughs, Brent to the west and Cam­den to the east.

Busy and bustling Kilburn High Road has a down-to- earth- char­ac­ter that con­tin­ues to serve its long-stand­ing Ir­ish and Caribbean com­mu­ni­ties well. Fa­mous res­i­dents have in­cluded su­per­model Kate Moss, ac­tor Hugh Laurie, and co­me­di­ans ga­lore.

Walk the back streets and Kilburn re­veals its in­trigu­ing his­tory and fine his­toric build­ings. In the 12th cen­tury a pri­ory was es­tab­lished close to what is now the junc­tion of Kilburn High Road and Bel­size Road. It was dis­solved by Henry VIII but lives on in local street names Pri­ory Road and Pri­ory Ter­race, where there are fine early Vic­to­rian stucco vil­las.

Much later, in 1714, chaly­beate springs were found near the site of the former pri­ory. Kilburn Wells were es­tab­lished by the pro­pri­etor of the nearby Bell Inn, who set about steal­ing cus­tom from a sim­i­lar health-giv­ing spa in Hamp­stead. The spire of Grade I-listed St Au­gus­tine’s Church can be seen for miles around. The ar­chi­tect John Lough­bor­ough Pear­son based the de­sign on Albi Cathe­dral in south­ern France. When built in 1880, St Au­gus­tine’s was the third largest church in Lon­don af­ter St Paul’s Cathe­dral and West­min­ster Abbey, and be­came known as the cathe­dral of north Lon­don.

Kilburn likes to do things on a grand scale. The Art Deco Gau­mont State cinema, with en­trances in Kilburn High Road and Willes­den Lane, was built in 1937 and with more than 4,000 seats, was one of the largest venues in Europe. Once fa­mous for top live mu­sic acts in­clud­ing Frank Si­na­tra and the Bea­tles, it was run as a bingo hall be­tween 1980 and 2007 when it was sold to a Pen­te­costal church.

In Cam­bridge Av­enue are two more mod­est build­ings: a me­mo­rial to an­i­mals killed in war and, al­most next door, a rare ex­am­ple of a chapel built en­tirely of cor­ru­gated iron.

Long be­fore the an­i­mal war me­mo­rial opened in Park Lane, the RSPCA opened the An­i­mal War Me­mo­rial Dis­pen­sary in a house in Kilburn. A large bronze re­lief over the door was un­veiled in 1932 de­pict­ing ev­ery type of an­i­mal that saw ac­tion in the First World War: horses, mules, oxen, dogs, ele­phants, camels and pi­geons. Mean­while, a fundrais­ing drive is on to re­store the di­lap­i­dated Tin Taber­na­cle, now home to the local sea cadets.

Kilburn is four miles from cen­tral Lon­don with the A5, Edg­ware Road, lead­ing di­rectly to Mar­ble Arch. Es­tate agent Oliver Mor­gan-Town­ley at Camerons Stiff & Co points out it is sur­rounded by more af­flu­ent ar­eas — West Hamp­stead, St John’s Wood, Maida Vale and Queen’s Park.

“Buy­ers come here not just be­cause it is cheaper but be­cause they feel the area still has some­thing raw and real about it,” he says.

Pe­riod prop­erty: Kilburn has plenty of Ed­war­dian and Vic­to­rian stock, with many more flats than there are houses for sale. Cam­bridge Gar­dens, above, in­cludes con­ver­sions and is handy for Maida Vale, St John’s Wood and the Bak­er­loo line

Great for a date: Lit­tle Bay restau­rant, Bel­size Road, known for its ro­man­tic booths and well-priced Euro­pean menu

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