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