Kilburn is divided between three London Boroughs: most of Kilburn is in Brent or Camden, but a small part is 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 and multicultural district.
Kilburn High Road originated as an ancient trackway, part of a Celtic route between the settlements now known as Canterbury and St Albans. Under Roman rule, the route was paved. In Anglo-Saxon times the road became known as Watling Street.
A paving stone on Kilburn High Road commemorates the route of Watling Street
The name Kilburn was first recorded in 1134 as Cuneburna, referring to the priory which had been built on the site of the cell of a hermit known as Godwyn. Godwyn had built his hermitage by the Kilburn river during the reign on Henry I, and both his hermitage and the priory took their name from the river. Kilburn Priory was a small community of nuns, probably Augustinian canonesses. It was found 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 and Willesden. The Priory was dissolved in 1536-7 by Henry VIII, and nothing remains of it today.
The priory lands included a mansion and a hostium (a guesthouse), which may have been the origin of the Red Lion pub, now called The Westbury thought to have been founded in 1444. Opposite, the Bell Inn was opened around 1600, on the site of the old mansion.
The Kilburn stretch of Watling Street, now called Edgware Road and 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.
Between 1839 and 1856 the newsagent and future First Lord of the Admiralty William Henry Smith lived in a house to the west of Kilburn High Road. Much of the area was developed in the last decades of the nineteenth century by Solomon Barnett, who named many of the streets after places in the West Country (e.g. Torbay) or after popular poets of the day (e.g. Tennyson) in honour of his wife.
Kilburn High Road:
Kilburn High Road is the main road in Kilburn. It follows a part of the line of the Roman route, Iter III in the Antonine Itinerary, 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-west to south-east, it forms the boundary between the London boroughs of Camden to the east and Brent to the west. It is the section of the Edgware Road (itself part of the A5) between Shoot Up Hill and Maida Vale.
There are three railway stations on Kilburn High Road: Kilburn tube station (Jubilee Line) at its northern end and a little to the south Brondesbury station (London Overground on the North London Line). Approximately 1.25km (nearly a mile) further south is Kilburn High Road station (also London Overground, on the Watford DC Line). Kilburn Park tube station, on the Bakerloo Line, lies a little west of the southern end of the High Road.