A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.
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A whipping post and stocks were erected in 1680. In 1749 there were complaints of 'idle and disordered' people destroying and stealing farmers' property. A parish cage was built following vestry resolutions of 1757 and 1791. The cage, called the Round House and repaired in 1798 and 1830, was in High Road near the church and was demolished in 1841, when its materials were used for the new National school building. (fn. 1) By 1828 the two parish constables were aided by a Bow Street horse patrol along 5½ miles of public road. (fn. 2) There were policemen at Stonebridge in 1839, (fn. 3) and in 1840 Willesden joined the Metropolitan police district. (fn. 4) By 1851 there were police stations at Stonebridge and in Kilburn Lane. (fn. 5) The Stonebridge station had by 1871 been replaced by a station at Fortune Gate in the junction between St. Mary's Road and Harrow Road. (fn. 6) In 1913 the Harlesden station moved to its present site at the junction of Craven Park and West Ella Road. (fn. 7) Kilburn was served by successive stations at Kempshall Terrace, Edgware Road (c. 1873-1885), nos. 11-13 High Road (1885-c. 1892), and Salusbury Road from c. 1892 until it closed in 1938. (fn. 8) The building was bombed during the Second World War and from 1965 a temporary station on the site (fn. 9) was used until a permanent station was opened in 1980. (fn. 10) Willesden Green station was opened at the junction of High Road and Huddlestone Road in 1896. (fn. 11)
Willesden petty sessional court opened in St. Mary's Road, Harlesden, in 1887 and was rebuilt in 1889. Its jurisdiction includes Acton and Chiswick. (fn. 12) Willesden was subject to the jurisdiction of Marylebone county court until 1931 when a county court was opened at Craven Park, in the former high school. It was replaced in 1970 by a new county court in Acton Lane. (fn. 13)
A salaried fire-engine keeper was appointed in 1840 (fn. 14) and the office, usually combined with those of constable and beadle, continued until 1884. (fn. 15) Following a disastrous fire at the windmill on Shoot-up Hill, which exposed the inadequacy of the fire service, the Kilburn, Willesden, and St. John's Wood volunteer fire brigade was established in 1863. (fn. 16) Equipped with a steam engine by 1872, it covered the eastern part of the parish from headquarters in Bridge Street, Kilburn, until control passed to the local board c. 1892. A new fire station in Salusbury Road, opened in 1894, served the Kilburn area until the Second World War. (fn. 17) Willesden volunteer fire brigade was founded in Church End in 1872 and was not officially disbanded until 1932, although it had ceased to function by 1910. Its main station was at the White Horse, Church End, until c. 1888 and then at the vestry hall in Neasden Lane. A small sub-station opened in Harlesden in 1883. The brigade bought a steam engine in 1888. The local authority had taken control by 1895. A temporary building in Harlesden Road in 1910 replaced the former Harlesden station and was replaced in turn by the central station in Pound Lane in 1934. A station opened at Stonebridge in 1932 and closed in 1960. (fn. 18)
In 1827, following a complaint that the sick poor in Willesden were left at the cage, a magistrate ordered the churchwardens to provide a more suitable place. (fn. 19) The local board's first sanitary report in 1875 revealed a death rate of over 24 per 1,000 (compared with the average 22) and the very high rate of 45 (compared with the average 32) for children under 5 years. Kilburn was the most unhealthy district, with diarrhoea, tuberculosis, and respiratory disease especially prevalent; in more rural districts there was much typhoid because of open drains. (fn. 20) In 1876 the board appointed a medical officer of health, arranged for smallpox patients to be sent to Highgate and fever patients, though not paupers, to be sent to the London Fever Hospital, and pleaded for a hospital in Willesden. (fn. 21) The Kilburn, Maida Vale, and St. John's Wood general dispensary at no. 13 Kilburn Park Road (outside the boundary) was the only medical institution in the area in 1890. (fn. 22) The philanthropist Passmore Edwards paid for the cottage hospital named after him which opened in 1893 in Harlesden Road, with three wards accommodating 24 patients. It was extended in 1899, again after the First World War when it was renamed Willesden General hospital, and in 1926, by which time it had beds for 104 patients. (fn. 23) There were 127 beds for acute cases by 1950. (fn. 24)
In 1894 the local authority built an isolation hospital on a 10-a. site in Dog Lane, Neasden. After extension in 1904 the hospital provided beds for 150, (fn. 25) and changed its name to Willesden Municipal hospital during the First World War. In 1921 it was argued that it should be extended as a general hospital, (fn. 26) but it again became a fever hospital, with 138 beds, in 1922 (fn. 27) and was extended in the 1930s, until by 1936 it had 200 beds. An eye block was added in 1958, (fn. 28) but the number of beds had been reduced by 1975 to 175 and in 1978 it was a geriatric hospital. (fn. 29) By 1901 St. Monica's Home for sick and incurable children, which had opened in the Hampstead part of Kilburn before 1890, had moved to Brondesbury Park. (fn. 30) It was closed as a children's home c. 1950 and reopened with 35 beds for chronic cases, becoming a geriatric hospital by 1975. (fn. 31) In 1901 the district council built a temporary smallpox hospital in Honeypot Lane, Kingsbury. (fn. 32) In 1929 Willesden joined the county council smallpox scheme and in 1931 opened the Kingsbury building as a maternity hospital, which it remained until it became a mental hospital in the 1970s. (fn. 33)
For a few years after it separated from Hendon union in 1896 the Willesden board of guardians used a former private house as an infirmary. In 1897 it acquired a 60-a. site in Acton Lane where a 'splendid new building' designed by Alfred Saxon Snell opened in 1903. It accommodated 400 people of whom 150 were sick; from 1907 it was used exclusively for the sick and was called Willesden Workhouse infirmary. When the boards of guardians were abolished in 1929 it became the Central Middlesex County hospital, also known as the Willesden Institution and the Park Royal hospital. Extensions were made in 1908, 1911, and 1914 and by 1930 it had 689 beds. There were further extensions and by 1939 there were 890 beds, but the buildings were badly damaged during the Second World War. (fn. 34) An extension housing 28 maternity beds was added in 1966 (fn. 35) but the total number of beds was reduced to c. 736, mainly for acute cases. (fn. 36)
St. Andrew's Roman Catholic hospital in Dollis Hill Lane, financed by Marguerite Amice Piou and administered by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, opened in 1913 with 100 beds; enlargements in 1929, 1952, and 1963 raised the number of beds to 141, mostly for acute and chronic cases. Plastic surgery techniques were pioneered there in the 1930s but the hospital did not become part of the National Health Service and in 1972 was sold to Brent council which closed it a year later. (fn. 37) No. 14 Stonebridge Park, used as a military hospital during the First World War along with the Grove, Neasden, and Dollis Hill House, (fn. 38) became the Edgar Lee Home for boys with rheumatic hearts. (fn. 39)
The local authority appointed a health visitor in 1903 and began a policy of providing clinics and disease prevention (fn. 40) which developed with the appointment of G. F. Buchan as medical officer in 1912. (fn. 41) In that year the council published schemes for an ambulance service and for a sanatorium and dispensaries to treat tuberculosis. (fn. 42) In the event the county council took control of tuberculosis treatment, establishing clinics at Pound Lane and in Priory Park Road, Kilburn. (fn. 43) The death rate steadily declined from over 24 per 1,000 in 1875 to under 10 in 1910 and the infant mortality rate, 162 per 1,000 births in 1885, to 80. (fn. 44) An advice centre was opened for mothers at Lower Place and in 1913 a ringworm clinic was opened which later included eye treatment. (fn. 45) Maternity and child welfare centres were opened at Willesden Lane, Kilburn, in 1916 and at High Road, Willesden Green, in 1918. Midwives and home helps were provided for mothers in what was described as 'the most complete and comprehensive scheme of maternity and child welfare evolved by a municipal council'. (fn. 46) Dental clinics for mothers and children were also established and more health visitors appointed. (fn. 47) The cost was criticized by the ratepayers association, the medical profession, which attacked Willesden's 'municipal socialism', and the Minister of Health; health was the main issue in the local elections of 1922, and with Labour's defeat the scheme was curtailed, maternity cases being in future referred to Park Royal hospital. (fn. 48) The Conservative administration, in control until 1933, limited the expansion of the municipal hospital and restricted, but did not close, the clinics; in 1930 it opened a third clinic at Stonebridge. (fn. 49) Immunization against diphtheria was introduced in 1927 and two cancer clinics were opened in 1929. A midwives scheme was introduced in 1937. (fn. 50) Many overseas visitors came to see Willesden's advanced medical administration under Buchan, who became one of the founders of the National Health Service. (fn. 51)
Under the National Health Act, 1946, the two municipal hospitals in Neasden and Kingsbury, the county hospital at Park Royal, and Willesden General hospital in Harlesden Road were grouped together under the North-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. The health centres serving Willesden Green, Kilburn, and Stonebridge passed under the control of the county council. (fn. 52) A new maternity and school clinic opened in Pound Lane in 1957, another clinic in Neasden by 1960 and by 1969 there were eight clinics in the Willesden part of Brent. (fn. 53) In the 1950s overcrowding, atmospheric pollution, and Irish immigration made tuberculosis a special problem: in 1955 one third of the beds in the tubercular unit at Park Royal were occupied by Irish although they formed less than one twentieth of Willesden's population. (fn. 54) A health centre opened in Craven Park in 1972. The health authority was reorganized in 1974 as Brent health district. (fn. 55)
A burial board formed in 1866 opened Willesden cemetery and two mortuaries in 1868 on 5 a. next to St. Mary's churchyard. (fn. 56) The board bought 26 a. in 1888 to form Willesden New Cemetery, opened in 1893, with Anglican and nonconformist chapels and a central tower in an elaborate Gothic style. (fn. 57) In 1895 the powers of the burial board passed to Willesden U.D.C. which c. 1928 purchased 33½a. in southeast Kingsbury as an additional cemetery. (fn. 58) A mortuary formed part of the public buildings erected in Salusbury Road in 1894. (fn. 59) Willesden is divided into two natural drainage areas, the south-east corner (Kilburn, Kensal Green, and part of Harlesden) draining into the Kilburn brook and the rest of the parish into the Brent. (fn. 60) From 1807 the south-eastern area was under the control of the metropolitan commissioners. Landowners paid rates and made their own drains which connected to the metropolitan system by means of the Ranelagh sewer (the culverted Kilburn brook). An Act of 1855 replaced the commissioners by the Metropolitan Board of Works and redefined its area of jurisdiction, excluding suburban areas like Kilburn. Building in Kilburn accelerated from that time and the new houses continued to drain into the metropolitan system, overburdening the sewers, particularly at their junction at Kilburn bridge. In 1878 the board sued for an injunction prohibiting the drainage of any new building in Willesden parish into the Ranelagh sewer; in 1883 the injunction was refused in respect of Kilburn but granted in respect of Harlesden. (fn. 61)
The rest of the parish used open ditches, about which there were complaints in 1846. (fn. 62) In 1855 the vestry appointed a sewer committee which reported defective drainage but failed to take action and died in 1866. In 1871 the vestry, under pressure from Harlesden ratepayers, levied a sewer rate to build a sewer at Harlesden; (fn. 63) in 1875 the local board became the sanitary authority, and some drainage works had been constructed at Stonebridge Park and Nicoll Road, Harlesden, by 1877. (fn. 64) In 1880 the board acquired land for a sewage outfall near the Brent at Stonebridge, and in 1882 the watershed was accepted as the boundary between the two areas, named Metropolitan and Brent, each separately rated. The sewage farm at Stonebridge, completed in 1886, (fn. 65) had expanded by 1898, (fn. 66) and a new sewage farm was built in 1904. (fn. 67) It continued in use, draining into the Brent, until 1911 when, under an Act of 1908, a sewer connecting with the L.C.C. system was completed. (fn. 68)
There were only two or three wells from borings in the parish in the mid 19th century, one of them sunk at Willesden Green c. 1830. Most people relied on rainwater cisterns and ponds until companies began supplying water in the late 19th century. (fn. 69) The West Middlesex Water Co. supplied water until 1903 when it was superseded in Willesden by the Metropolitan Water Board, which had reservoirs at Harlesden Road and at St. Michael's Road, Cricklewood, where it also had a pumping station. (fn. 70) The latter survived in 1978 as the Cricklewood works of the Thames Water Authority.
Public meetings in 1883 resulted in a petition to the Corporation of the City of London to purchase the former agricultural show site as a park (fn. 71) for the densely populated Kilburn district. (fn. 72) The Church Commissioners, who owned the 30-a. site, presented it to the corporation, which opened Queen's Park there in 1887, naming it in honour of the queen's jubilee. Willesden local board acquired 26 a. at Harlesden, part of the Roundwood House estate, which it opened as a park in 1895. (fn. 73) With aid from the county council, the urban district bought most of the Dollis Hill House estate in 1900: most of the 96-a. Gladstone Park was left as it was, the parkland and gardens of a country house, while 29 a. south of the railway became sports grounds. The council bought the house in 1908, opening it a year later as refreshment rooms. (fn. 74) Willesden U.D.C. in 1909 bought 31 a. at Harlesden, opened as the King Edward VII recreation ground and later called Willesden sports centre. (fn. 75) The council bought 14 a. near Gibbons Road in 1925 for playing fields, (fn. 76) and Neasden (20 a.) and Stonebridge (11 a.) recreation grounds had also been acquired by 1931, by which time there were 228 a. of public open space in Willesden. No new parks were acquired, and in 1949 public and private open space together totalled 564 a., compared with the 1,324 a. thought necessary for Willesden's population. (fn. 77) By 1966 the reduction in the population had relieved some of the pressure on the open spaces, but there had been no increase in the parks and playing fields accessible to the public. (fn. 78)
In 1849 the lighting provisions of the Lighting and Watching Act, 1833, were adopted for a small portion of Kilburn near Kilburn Bridge; five inspectors were appointed and rates levied. The lighted portion was extended along Edgware Road in 1861 and by 1867 it reached northward to Walm Lane and westward to Willesden Green. (fn. 79) The Gas Light & Coke Co., which supplied the gas, was still laying mains in 1895. (fn. 80) In 1898 the U.D.C. appointed an electrical engineer and was authorized to supply electricity. In 1903 it built a generating station in Taylors Lane, which it sold to the North Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Co. in 1904. (fn. 81) By 1908 the lighting of c. 4½ miles of principal roads had been converted from gas to electricity. (fn. 82) All the streets were electrically lit by the early 1920s, when electric dust-carts were also introduced. (fn. 83) Taylors Lane power station, with a staff of 200, closed in 1972. (fn. 84)
In 1891 the local board adopted the Free Libraries Act and opened three libraries in 1894: Kilburn, the largest, as part of the complex of public buildings in Salusbury Road, (fn. 85) Harlesden in Craven Park Road (then called High Road), and Willesden Green on the south side of High Road. (fn. 86) Willesden Green was extended in 1907. Mark Twain performed the opening of a fourth library, at Bathurst Gardens in Kensal Rise, in 1900. It was extended in 1904 and 1926. Other libraries were opened at Olive Road, Cricklewood, in 1929 and on the North Circular Road at Neasden in 1931. (fn. 87)
A public open-air swimming pool, the first in the country, was opened in Gladstone Park in 1903. Others were opened in the King Edward VII recreation ground in 1911 and at Craven Park in 1936. (fn. 88) In 1937 an indoor swimming bath, slipper baths, and a public laundry were built in Granville Road. (fn. 89) Slipper baths opened at Park Royal about the same time. (fn. 90) The Willesden sports centre, opened in 1965, included a swimming pool and baths. (fn. 91)
From 1933 to 1957 Willesden's rubbish was dumped on open ground at Twyford tip by the North Circular Road; thereafter it was sent to Yiewsley. (fn. 92)
Nurseries were introduced for the children of women working in munitions factories in the First World War. (fn. 93) At the end of the Second World War there were 12 nurseries. They had been reduced to nine by 1964 when two were opened in South Kilburn, and others were added shortly afterwards at Harlesden and Cricklewood. (fn. 94) By 1976 there were five day nurseries, two nursery schools and in addition schools with nursery departments. (fn. 95)
Willesden old people's welfare committee was established in 1958, provided with money and staff by the council. (fn. 96) In 1969 the council maintained 10 homes for the elderly. (fn. 97) The local council of social service was reorganized in 1960 with a grant from the borough council. (fn. 98)
The Willesden International Friendship committee was formed in 1958 to deal with the problems of immigration. The council appointed a liaison officer in 1960 and opened a community relations centre at Dollis Hill in 1972. (fn. 99)