There was a small settlement at the junction of Cricklewood Lane and the Edgware Road by 1294, which by 1321 was being called Cricklewood. By the 1750s the Crown public house (rebuilt in 1889), was providing for coach travellers and by the 1800s it had a handful of cottages and Cricklewood House as neighbours, and was known for its ‘pleasure gardens’. By the 1860s there were a number of substantial villas along the Edgware Road starting with Rockhall Lodge and culminating in Rockhall Terrace.
Childs Hill Station, later Cricklewood, opened in 1868, but Cricklewood only fully became industrial and suburban district in the 1930s. In the summer of 1881 the Midland Railway Company moved its locomotive works from Kentish Town to the new ‘Brent Sidings’, and in October of the same year it was announced that new accommodation for its workers would be built, later the Cricklewood Railway Cottages. Mr H Finch laid out a handful of roads directly behind the Crown Inn, (including Yew, Ash, and Elm Groves) in 1880. The station had become the terminus for the Midland Railway suburban services by 1884. The census of 1881 showed that the population had grown enough for a new church, and St. Peter’s replaced a tin chapel in 1891. A daughter church called Little St. Peter’s was opened in 1958 on Claremont Way and closed in 1983. The parish church on Cricklewood Lane was demolished and rebuilt in the 1970s. This church building was closed in 2004 although services for Anglicans are still held in Carey Hal on Claremont Road, now called New St. Peter’s. The London General Omnibus Company commenced services to Regent Street from the Crown in 1883, in 1899 opening a bus garage (garage code W), which is still in use, although completely rebuilt by 2010.
The Crown Hotel in 1920 and today
By the 1890s, houses and shops had been built along part of Cricklewood Lane. Cricklewood Broadway had become a retail area by 1900 replacing the Victorian villas. The Queens Hall Cinema, later the Gaumont, replaced Rock Hall House, and was itself demolished in 1960. Thorveston, Caddington and Dersingham Roads were laid out in 1907, the year of the opening of the Golders Green tube station. With the introduction of the tram system in 1904 and the motorisation of bus services by 1911, numerous important industries were established. The first of these was the Phoenix Telephone Co. In 1911 (later moved to the Hyde). The Handley Page Aircraft Company soon followed, from 1912 until 1917, at 110 Cricklewood Lane and subsequently occupying a large part of Claremont Road. The Cricklewood Aerodrome was adjacent to their factory.
Cricklewood was home to Smith’s Industries. This started in 1915 as S. Smith & Sons, on the Edgware Road established to manufacture fuses, instruments and accessories. By 1939 it was making electrical motors, aircraft accessories and electric clocks. Their large advertisement on the iron railway bridge over the Broadway next to the bus garage became a familiar landmark for decades. As the company grew it acquired other companies and sites overseas but Cricklewood remained the most important site, with 8,000 employees between 1937 and 1978. Coincidentally, Cricklewood also became the home for the first Smith’s Crisps potato crisp factory which replaced the omnibus depot at Crown Yard. Having moved into new premises in Cricklewood Lane, the yard was taken over by Clang Electrical Goods Ltd. From 1929 to 1933 the area was finally built over. Bentley Motors, builders of racing and sports cars, built a factory at Oxgate Lane in 1920, and Cricklewood remained their headquarters until their bankruptcy in 1931.
Cowhouse Farm, latterly Dickers Farm and finally Avenue Farm, was closed in 1932. From 1908 to 1935, Westcroft Farm was owned by the Home of Rest for Horses; at its peak it could house 250 horses. The Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead opened the Westcroft Estate in 1935. From the 1960s, industry in the local area went into decline, and all the above-mentioned businesses have left. Mention should be made of two buildings on Cricklewood Lane. The first was Production Village (Virgin Active gym now stands on the site; apparently this was part of the old HP factory). Production Village was part of the British film-making scene and owned by Samuelsons. Towards its end it was pub with rehearsal rooms attached. It was demolished around 2000 to make way for the gym. Secondly, and a little further up the hill, is a rather off modern building on the south side of the road (about number 138): this was the factory for the revolutionary Xylophone handheld organ of the lat 1960s / early 1970s – as demonstrated by Rolf Harris. Cricklewood is often mentioned by and is considered to be the home of The Goodies.
In June 2001, a lynx was captured in Cricklewood after a 10 year campaign by residents. The animal was originally nicknamed the ‘Beast of Barnet’ by the local press following numerous sightings around south Hertfordshire and the fringes of north London. A senior veterinary officer for the London Zoological Society arrived with the task of sedating the beast using a tranquilliser gun. It is believed that someone was keeping the animal illegally and it had escaped. The lynx was taken to London Zoo, and names Lara.