Kilburn, London

Kilburn, London

infobox UK place
country = England
map_type = Greater London
region= London
official_name= Kilburn
london_borough= Brent
london_borough1= Camden
constituency_westminster= Brent East
constituency_westminster1=Hampstead and Highgate
post_town= LONDON
postcode_area= NW
postcode_district= NW6
dial_code= 020
os_grid_reference= TQ245835
latitude= 51.5366
longitude= -0.2039

Kilburn is an area of north London, England, which is divided between three London Boroughs, London Borough of Brent, the London Borough of Camden, and small part in Westminster. The main thoroughfare running northwest-southeast is Kilburn High Road, part of the modern A5 road which forms the boundary between the boroughs of Brent and Camden. The road dates back to pre-Roman times and is part of the Roman road known as Watling Street. The town of Kilburn has its origins in a 12th-century priory on the banks of the Kilburn Brook. Kilburn today is a busy London district which used to be strongly associated with its Irish population. However, it has become very multicultural as of late.


Kilburn High Road was an ancient trackway which originated as a Celtic route between the modern cities of Canterbury and St Albans. Under Roman rule, the route was paved; part of this Roman road is identified on the Antonine Itinerary as "Iter III: "Item a Londinio ad portum Dubris" - from London to the port of Dover. In Anglo-Saxon times the road became known as Watling Street. [cite web
url =
title = The Virtual Tour of Kilburn
accessdate = 2007-11-10

Kilburn grew up on the banks of a river which has been known variously as "Cuneburna, Kelebourne" and "Cyebourne", which flows from Hampstead down through Hyde Park and into the River Thames. It is suggested the name means either Royal River or Cattle River ('Bourne' being an Anglo-Saxon word for 'river'). The river is known today as the Westbourne River. From the 1850s it was piped underground and is now one of London's many underground rivers.

The name Kilburn was first recorded in 1134 as "Cuneburna", referring to a priory which had been built on the site of the cell of a hermit known as Godwyn. [cite web
url =,M1
title = The Graphic and Historical Illustrator: An Original Miscellany of Literary, Antiquarian and Topographical Information
accessdate = 2007-11-10
author = E W Brayley
date = 1834
publisher = J. Chidley
format = JPG, PDF
] Godwyn had built his hermitage by the Kilburn river during the reign of Henry I, and both his hermitage and the priory took their name from the river.cite web
url =
title = Kilburn, Edgware Road and Cricklewood
accessdate = 2007-11-10
author = C R Elrington (Editor), T F T Baker, Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot
date = 1989
work = A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9 (sourced from British History Online)
] Kilburn Priory was a community of Augustinian canonesses. It was founded in 1134 at the Kilburn river crossing on Watling Street (the modern-day junction of Kilburn High Road and Belsize Road. Kilburn Priory's position on Watling Street meant that it became a popular resting point for pilgrims heading for the shrines at St Albans or Willesden. The Priory was dissolved in 1536 by Henry VIII, and nothing remains of it today.cite web
url =
title = Kilburn
accessdate =2007-11-11
author =
date = 2002
work = Brent Heritage

The priory lands included a mansion and a "hostium" (a guesthouse), which may have been the origin of the Red Lion pub, thought to have been founded in 1444. Opposite, the Bell Inn was opened around 1600, on the site of the old mansion.

The fashion for taking 'medicinal waters' in the 18th century came to Kilburn when a well of chalybeate waters (water impregnated with iron) was discovered near the Bell Inn in 1714. In an attempt to compete with the nearby Hampstead Well, gardens and a 'great room' were opened to promote the well, and its waters were promoted in journals of the day as cure for 'stomach ailments':

cquote|"Kilburn Wells, near Paddington.—The waters are now in the utmost perfection; the gardens enlarged and greatly improved; the house and offices re-painted and beautified in the most elegant manner. The whole is now open for the reception of the public, the great room being particularly adapted to the use and amusement of the politest companies. Fit either for music, dancing, or entertainments. This happy spot is equally celebrated for its rural situation, extensive prospects, and the acknowledged efficacy of its waters; is most delightfully situated on the site of the once famous Abbey of Kilburn, on the Edgware Road, at an easy distance, being but a morning's walk, from the metropolis, two miles from Oxford Street; the footway from the Mary-bone across the fields still nearer. A plentiful larder is always provided, together with the best of wines and other liquors. Breakfasting and hot loaves. A printed account of the waters, as drawn up by an eminent physician, is given gratis at the Wells."|30px|30px|"The Public Advertiser", July 17 1773 [cite web
title=Kilburn and StJohn's Wood
work=British History Online

In the 19th century the wells declined, but the Kilburn Wells remained popular as a tea garden. The Bell was demolished and rebuilt in 1863, the building which stands there today.

The ancient route known as Watling Street which runs through the area as Edgware Road/Kilburn High Road, was gradually built up with inns and farm houses. However, despite the discovery of a medicinal well in 1714, and the creation of gardens and a fine room to exploit the water, Kilburn did not attract any significant building until around 1819 in the area near St John's Wood.


Kilburn has a number of different ethnic groups, including people of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Somali or Polish backgrounds. Because the area is split between more than one London borough, statistics are gathered from different parts of Kilburn. cite web
url =!OpenDocument
title = Kilburn Ward 2001 census
accessdate =2007-11-18
author = Brent Council
date = 2001
] cite web
url =
title = Kilburn Ward 2001 census
accessdate =2007-11-18
author = Camden Council
date = 2001
] The Kilburn area is most strongly associated with its Irish and Black population and culture; 13% of the population were born in Ireland with an even higher percentage of Irish descent, making it the highest Irish population of any London area. [cite web
url =
title = In the Green Fields of Kilburn: Reflections on a Quantitative Study of Irish Migrants in North London
accessdate = 2007-11-10
author = Louise Ryan
date = February 2002
work = Anthropology Matters Journal
] The Irish presence is evident in Irish community activities, Irish pubs (many of which attract custom by screening Gaelic games), local GAA sports clubscite web
title = Kilburn Gaels Hurling Club
] , newsagents selling a wide range of Irish newspapers, and the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations in the area. Kilburn's Irish connections have earned it the nicknames "Little Éire", [cite web
url =
title = Kilburn
accessdate = 2007-11-10
work = Trusted Places
] or "County Kilburn", a pun on the name of County Kildare in Ireland. [cite web
url =
title = County Kilburn
accessdate = 2007-11-10
work = h2g2 - the Guide
publisher = BBC

The 2007 Irish-language film "Kings" has also been associated with Kilburn and is based on Jimmy Murphy's play "The Kings of the Kilburn High Road". [ [ Irish Examiner - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - The film that captures lonely lives of men who built Britain] ]



Kilburn High Road

Kilburn High Road is the main road in Kilburn. It follows a part of the line of the Roman Iter II route which later took the Anglo-Saxon name Watling Street. This was based on an earlier Celtic route from Verlamion to Durovernum Cantiacorum, modern day St Albans and Canterbury.

Running roughly North to South, it forms the boundary between the London boroughs of Camden (to the east) and Brent (to the west). It is a section of the Edgware Road (which is in turn part of Watling Street), between Shoot Up Hill and Maida Vale.

There are four railway stations in Kilburn High Road: Kilburn tube station (Jubilee Line) at its northern end, then Brondesbury station (London Overground, on the North London Line), shortly south of this. Approximately 1.25km further south is Kilburn High Road station (also London Overground, on the Watford DC Line). There is also Kilburn Park tube station, on the Bakerloo Line, which is just off the High Road and very close to the High Road station.

The green space of Kilburn Grange Park is located to the east side of Kilburn High Road.

Gaumont State Cinema

A notable landmark in Kilburn High Road is the grade II* listed Gaumont State Cinema, which was designed by George Coles and opened in 1937. It was then the biggest auditorium in Europe, with seating for 4,004 people. Entertainers such as Gracie Fields, Larry Adler and George Formby performed at the official opening. And since then, The State has seen performances by bands including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Faces, Jethro Tull and Deep Purple. The cinema is designed in an Art Deco Italian Renaissance style, covered in cream ceramic tiles. The 130-foot tower, designed in the style of a 1930s New York skyscraper, can be seen for miles around, and bears the name "STATE" in large red neon letters. The interior was designed in the opulent style of cinemas of the day, and includes a Wurlitzer organ which is today the largest fully functioning Wurlitzer in Britain.cite web
url =
title = The Gaumont State Cinema
accessdate = 2007-11-10
author = Juliette Soester, Willesden Local History Society
date = September 2000
work = Brent Heritage
] . For the past 20 years, the building has been run as a bingo hall by Mecca Bingo. However, the bingo hall has now closed, and the building and surrounding site have been put up for sale. A campaign to "Save the Kilburn State!" from unsympathetic property developers, and restore it as a cultural centre, has been started by local residents.cite web
url =
title = Save the Kilburn State!
] The building is now owned by Ruach Ministries, a fast-growing Evangelical church led by Bishop John Anthony Francis and Co-Pastor Penny Francis. The building was bought 70 years to the exact day that The Gaumant State was first opened on 20th December 1937.

The Tricycle Theatre

The Tricycle Theatre is a renowned arts centre, including a gallery, cinema and theatre, located in the High Road. In the mid-2000s the centre achieved some fame for its theatrical staging of politically significant court cases, and for a production about the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which subsequently transferred to the West End, and in due course to New York City.

Other buildings

To the south, the Kilburn skyline is dominated by the gothic spire of St. Augustine's, Kilburn. Completed in 1880 by the architect John Loughborough Pearson, the church has an ornate Victorian interior, a carved stone reredos and screen and stained glass. The church is sometimes nicknamed "the Cathedral of North London" due to its sizecite web
url =
title = Saint Augustine’s Kilburn
accessdate = 2007-11-11
] - at the time of construction, it was the third largest place of worship in London, after St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

Location in context



Nearest tube stations

* Kilburn tube station (Jubilee line)
* Kilburn Park tube station (Bakerloo line)
* Queen's Park station (Bakerloo line)

Nearest railway stations

* Brondesbury railway station (London Overground)
* Kilburn High Road railway station (London Overground)

Bus services

Kilburn is served by many bus routes that go along the High Road. Most routes come south from Cricklewood, and serve various points in central and west London.cite web
url =
title = Buses from Kilburn High Road
accessdate = 2007-11-11
author = Transport for London
date = 2002-10-07
work = Bus route map


*Kilburn is the home of Kilburn Gaels Hurling Club.
*Kilburn is also home to Kilburn Cosmos RFC, one of the few rugby clubs in inner London.
*N.N (No Name) F.C. originated from Kilburn in 1863. They are now defunct but were one of the 12 founder members of the Football Association. [citation required]

Famous Residents

* Zadie Smith
* David Mitchell
* Robert Webb
* Gavin Rossdale
* Kate Moss
* Lilly Allen


External links

* [ Tourist information]
* [ The Tricycle]
* [ Kilburn Cosmos RFC]
* [ History of Kilburn's Theatres] With Original Programmes.
* [ The Gaumont State Cinema organ] (Cinema Organ Society)

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