Kensal Green

Kensal Green

infobox UK place
country = England
map_type = Greater London
region= London
official_name= Kensal Green
london_borough= Brent
constituency_westminster= Brent South
post_town= LONDON
postcode_district = NW10 (also NW6 in some parts)
postcode_area= NW |dial_code= 020
os_grid_reference= TQ235825
latitude= 51.5308
longitude= -0.2248

Kensal Green is a neighbourhood in the London Borough of Brent. The area is also referred to as Kensal Rise.


A small area on the eastern edge of the London Borough of Brent, Kensal Green borders the boroughs of Westminster to the East, and Kensington and Chelsea to the South. Surrounding neighbourhoods include Willesden Green to the north, Harlesden to the West, Brondesbury and Queens Park to the East and Ladbroke Grove to the south.

The names Kensal Green and Kensal Rise are used interchangeably to denote the same neighbourhood, although some do attempt to differentiate between the areas based on proximity to the local tube and train stations. Roughly speaking, the area west of Chamberlayne Road and south of Kensal Rise railway station is considered Kensal Green while east of Chamberlayne Road and north of the station is considered Kensal Rise. These boundaries are by no means fixed however and residents are known to use both terms with little regard for geographical accuracy.

A third area south of Harrow Road, around the area of Kensal Road is infrequently referred to as Kensal Town. Since Harrow Road is generally considered to be the southern boundary of Kensal Green, most residents class Kensal Road and its environs as part of Westbourne Park. Once again, this is in no way an official classification.


Recorded as 'Kingisholt' ('The King's Wood') in 1253, the name Kensal Green is first mentioned in 1550. A map of 1849 shows that The Green lay immediately to the west of Flowerhills Lane (now Kilburn Lane), between what is now Regent Street and Harrow Road, with The Plough (see below) at its north-east corner.

In the Middle Ages the land in the surrounding areas was owned by the Countess of Richmond (the mother of King Henry VII) and All Souls' College, Oxford. There was also a small manor of Chamberlayne Wood, named after Richard de Camera, an early-13th century priest who received income from the land. There were sheep farms between Kensal Green and Harlesden.

In the 18th century, along with farms and two larger houses, there was an inn called the Plough (frequented by artist George Morland). After 1814 the Green was used as a shooting range by the Cumberland Sharpshooters, a local rifle club. Another sporting activity was Willesden Steeplechases on the site of the future King Edward VII recreation ground (now Willesden Sports Centre) until the middle of the 19th century.

In the beginning of the 19th century the small hamlet of Kensal Green lived around the activities on the Grand Junction Canal. Barges with such cargoes as iron, coal, waste paper and gravel were towed through Kensal Green. A brick works was set up and the growth of the village began. In 1823, the Green was divided into plots for cottages owned by local tradesmen and inhabited by the poor.

The real growth of Kensal Green began in connection with the All Souls' Cemetery. It was opened on 24 January 1833 to solve the problem with burial grounds in London and soon became the place to be laid to rest amongst many prominent Victorians. The construction of two railways, the London & Birmingham line to the north and the Great Western line to the south, in 1837-8 facilitated the growth of Kensal Rise which became a London suburb.

In the 1840s, the area south of the Harrow Road became Kensal New Town, and north of the cemetery was Kensal Green. St. John's Church was built in 1844 followed by a school and more inns.

Around this time Kensal Lodge and Kensal Manor House were associated with writer William Harrison Ainsworth and his guests, including Charles Dickens.

In 1858, St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery was opened west of All Soul's Cemetery. Many Irish immigrants were buried there, as well as Sir Anthony Panizzi (d. 1879), the principal librarian of the British Museum who was partly responsible for the creation of the famous Round Reading Room. After the two World Wars a Belgian War Memorial was created there.

In 1860, the Hampstead Junction Railway was opened. Next year a new station appeared called Kensal Green & Harlesden. In 1873, it was moved half a mile to the east and renamed Kensal Green. There was Willesden Junction station nearby. Buses and later trams also connected Kensal Green to London.

During the 1880s, Herbert Spencer visited the Green in the mornings and played quoits, dictating between games.

Large scale housing construction followed, mainly two-storey cottages. Sanitation was poor, and many residents kept pigs. Indeed, the slaughtering and selling off of a pig at the Plough was one of the highlights of the week. Towards the end of the 19th century local landlords All Souls College, Oxford stepped up the urban development. Chamberlayne Road was built to connected Kensal Green with Willesden Green. The new area was called Kensal Rise. Kensal Green Station was renamed Kensal Rise in 1890.

Schools and churches opened between 1877 and 1913. Housing now stretched all the way to Harlesden. Of interest are the houses built by Charles Langler and Charles Pinkham, like those in Clifford Gardens (about 1897) with decorated facades.

Despite the proximity of respectable Queens Park to the east, and gifts of land, libraries and clubs by Victorian philanthropists, Kensal Green had a reputation of being a near slum, although some better off people, like clerks, accounts and salesmen employed in the City lived here, too.

Amongst the leisure facilities in the area were the National Athletic Grounds (the site of Whitmore Gardens today) laid out in 1890; Kensal Rise Library, opened by Mark Twain in 1900, as well as Kensal Green Lawn Tennis Club (1906) and the Constitutional Club (1909). A new Kensal Green station, on the Euston to Watford line was opened in 1904.

At the turn of the century many houses were overcrowded and lacked full amenities. As late as 1971 25% of Kensal Green housing lacked full amenities. Not enough attempts to redevelop the area in the 1950s–1970s were made, and even those met with strong local opposition. This saved Kensal Green's many Victorian houses all of which by now have been renovated.


Nestled between areas of prosperity and urban degradation, Kensal Green is a contradiction in terms typical of many inner city neighbourhoods that has led to an eclectic mix of residents.

Up until the early-1980s the largest ethnic group in Kensal Green, and its environs (such as Harlesden, Willesden, Cricklewood and Kilburn) was Irish immigrants but the area also boasted a sizeable Afro-Caribbean contingent. Over the course of the two decades the Irish-born community has reduced in size, although the legacy of their presence remains, not least in the number of Irish pubs and the thousands of Irish ancestry that continue to populate the area.

In the late-1980s the area gained an unenviable reputation as a run down and crime-ridden district, a name that the area has found hard to shake due to a number of high-profile crimes that have garnered widespread media attention. It was a reputation that led author John Preston to note:

'When he first moved to Kensal Green, Hugh had assumed that it would only be a matter of time before the area came up in the world. After all, it was close to fashionable areas such as Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove. But, as he'd discovered, there were certain parts of London that remained immune from any form of gentrification. Kensal Green was one of them; it seemed to have fallen off the property map altogether.'

Recent years have seen a renaissance in the neighbourhood's fortunes. Due to the explosion in the London property market and Kensal Green's central location and excellent transport links, large numbers of young professional couples and families with young children, as well as many artists and media sector employees have flocked to the area. This shift has been mirrored by the number of furniture stores, luxury delicatessens and 'trendy' gastropubs that have recently opened on Chamberlayne Road.


One of the key reasons that Kensal Green has proved so popular with young professionals in recent years is its excellent transport links.

Kensal Green tube (Zone 2) on the Bakerloo Line is only 20 minutes from Oxford Circus and the West End. London Overground services also operate to London Euston, a journey that takes around 15 minutes.

London Overground (previously known as Silverlink Metro also known as the North London Line) operates out of Kensal Rise railway station and provides regular services to Richmond in the West and Stratford in the East.

Extensive bus services also run from the area, including the No. 18 (Harlesden - Euston), No. 6 (Willesden Bus Garage - Aldwych), No. 52 (Willesden Bus Garage - Victoria Station) and No. 452 (Kensal Rise - Wandsworth Road).

From February 2007 the London Congestion Charge extends into Kensington and Chelsea and reaches as far north as Harrow Road, the southern boundary of Kensal Green. Any vehicles travelling south down Ladbroke Grove or east along Harrow Road and into Central London are liable to pay the £8 daily charge between 7.00AM and 6.30PM Monday to Friday.

Local residents have expressed concern that drivers seeking to avoid paying the congestion charge will move their route north through the streets of Kensal Green. While this problem will in all probability affect all areas north of the charge zone, it may be a particular problem in Kensal Rise due to the fact that the main north-south artery through the neighbourhood, Chamberlayne Road, already suffers from congestion during peak times, as do Harvist Road and Harrow Road, two important east-west arteries.


For such a small area of London, Kensal Green has attracted a disproportionate amount of media coverage for a number of highly newsworthy crimes leading to distasteful jokes about the 'appropriately situated cemetery'.

In November 2001, three men and two women were wounded when three masked men opened fire at the now defunct Cactus Club on Station Terrace.

In September 2003, a 7-year-old Toni-Ann Byfield was shot dead along with her father in a bedsit on Harrow Road. The killer was apprehended and convicted in the summer of 2006.

Gangland violence claimed another life, in August 2004, when Lee Subaran, 27, was shot dead at a party to celebrate the Notting Hill Carnival on Hazel Road. In July 2005, three men were jailed for life for his murder. The Old Bailey heard that Mr. Subaran may have been killed because he stood up to one of his killers years ago over bullying.

In January 2006, City lawyer Thomas Ap Rhys Pryce was robbed and murdered on Bathurst Gardens as he walked home from Kensal Green tube station. Two men were convicted over the killing, one of whom lived just two streets away from the scene of murder. They had mugged an Asian man at Kensal Green station just 30 minutes before Mr. Ap Rhys Pryce was murdered. The killers were members of the notorious Kensal Green Tribe gang (KG Tribe) who reportedly have committed over 150 robberies and assaults. [ [ Gang face jail over 150 robberies] ] In the wake of the incident, Dawn Butler, the local Labour MP, launched a campaign to ensure that all tube stations are staffed until they are closed at night, gaining the support of Ken Livingstone, the then Mayor of London.Fact|date=June 2007 TfL now play classical music (set off by a motion sensor) in the entrance to the station after dark, intended to deter criminals from loitering.

In March 2007, there were three drive by shootings in 7 days. The first on Ravensworth Road resulted in an injury, meanwhile the second on Scrubs Lane resulted in death, the third occurring mid-afternoon on Holland Road resulted in no injuries. Elmwood House, a council house on the corner of Holland road and All souls avenue was fired on.

In spite of these high profile cases Kensal Green remains a comparatively safe part of north-west London, at least in comparison to its neighbouring areas, and the levels of serious crime there are very low compared to the sink council estates in Harlesden or Gospel Oak Nonetheless, figures from the Metropolitan Police show that crime against the person rose by 37% in 2005, the highest increase of any ward in the borough of Brent.Fact|date=June 2007 Kensal Green is not the most dangerous place in the local area but on a statistical basis, it is the neighbourhood where public safety deteriorated the most in 2005.

Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green is the site of Kensal Green Cemetery which is one of the finest Cemeteries in London. It was consecrated in January 1833 by the Bishop of London. The Cemetery was the brain-child of Barrister George Frederick Carden who was inspired by La Cimitière du Père-Lachaise in Paris. It is the oldest English cemetery still in operation.

Kensal Green Cemetery comprises 77 acres of beautiful grounds including two conservation areas and an adjoining canal. The cemetery is home to 33 species of birds and other wildlife.

This distinctive cemetery has a host of different memorials ranging from large mausoleums housing the rich and famous to many distinctive smaller graves and even special areas dedicated to the very young.

With three chapels catering for people of all faiths and social standing the General Cemetery Company has provided a haven in the heart of London for over 175 years for its inhabitants to remember their loved ones in a tranquil and dignified environment.

Within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea survive two cemeteries dating from second quarter of the 19th Century: Brompton & Kensal Green. Of the two, Kensal Green is the earlier in date being more important historically, and pre-eminent nationally in terms of its influence, importance of people buried there, overall richness and the number of outstanding memorials.

Notable occupants of the Victorian mausoleums include William Makepeace Thackeray and Anthony Trollope. Architects who are buried at Kensal Green include the famous 19th century architectural families of Hardwick and Shaw. Philip Charles Hardwick, Philip Hardwick and John Shaw Junior are buried there.

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, a pub on Kilburn Lane, takes its name from the final line of the poem "", by G. K. Chesterton:

:"For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, before we go to paradise by way of Kensal Green."

Every Sunday the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery run a tour starting at 14:00 at the Anglican Chapel and lasting 2 hours. On the first and third Sunday of the month, the tour descends into the catacombs beneath the Anglican Chapel.

The Nearest Tube/Underground Station is Kensal Green which is on the Bakerloo (Brown) Line. The Cemetery is 0.4 Miles (0.6 km) from the Tube/Underground Station.

Tornado on December 7th 2006

On December 7, 2006 at 11am, a tornado struck Kensal Green. [cite news | url = | title = Six hurt as tornado hits London | publisher = BBC News | date = 2006-12-07 | accessdate = 2006-12-07 ] Up to 150 houses were damaged, and six people were injured, one requiring hospital attention. Residential roads were closed off and residents have had to seek temporary accommodation. Traffic was also diverted causing disruption. The cost of the damage is estimated to be at least £20,000,000.

See also

Nearest places:
*Wormwood Scrubs

Nearest stations:
*Kensal Green station
*Kensal Rise railway station


External links

* [ Kensal Green] at the "Survey of London" online
* [ The Kensal Green Directory] Local Community Website
* [ Kensal Green Cemetery guided walk] podcast
* [ Kensal Rising] Blog dedicated to Kensal Rise

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