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Once nicknamed ‘the loneliest village in London’, Neasden is now a characterless suburb sliced in two by the North Circular Road (A406) and separated from Wembley by the River Brent. Its name may have meant ‘nose hill’, a reference to its location on a small promontory at the end of the Dollis Hill ridge. Before the Norman conquest Neasden may have been more important than Willesden but it was no more than a ‘retired hamlet’ when enclosure was completed in 1823. At this time there were six cottages, four larger houses or farms, a public house and a smithy, grouped around the green. The dwellings include The Grove, which had been bought by a London solicitor named James Hall, and its former outbuilding, which Hall had converted into a house that became known as The Grange. In the 1870s, Neasden remained the most rural part of Willesden, although its housing stock had risen to around 50 and the Spotted Dog inn was attracting London day-trippers. Transport developments of various kinds shaped Neasden’s subsequent evolution. Neasden station opened in 1880 (as Kingsbury and Neasden) and a railway engineering works was established two years later, with workers’ housing at Neasden Village, enlarged in the 1920s. Until the arrival of the motor car, Neasden’s farms were largely given over to the rearing and stabling of horses. The North Circular Road was built in 1923, and over the next decade massive private housing estates swallowed up almost all the remaining farmland. A shopping centre was completed shortly afterwards and the Ritz cinema opened in 1935. All of Neasden’s older houses were demolished during this period, except for The Grange, and the Spotted Dog was rebuilt in mock-Tudor style. A number of houses were sacrificed to the enlargement of the North Circular in 1973, which blighted the shopping centre. Superstores and retail warehouses have since clustered around the road in the southern part of the district.

God(s) and Mammon side-by-side in Neasden

click for area map (opens in a new window)
The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

In 1995 Neasden became the unlikely home of the biggest Hindu temple outside India: the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Until 2004 The Grange housed the borough’s museum and archive, which has since moved to a purpose-built home in Willesden Green. The Grange is to become a business incubation unit.

In the 1970s the satirical magazine Private Eye seized on Neasden as a stereotypically bland address for ‘nobodies’ like Sid and Doris Bonkers. The model-turned-actress Twiggy came from Neasden. David Sutherland’s children’s novel A Black Hole in Neasden reveals a gateway to an alternate universe in a Neasden back garden.

Postal districts: NW2 and NW10
Station: Jubilee Line (Zone 3)
Further reading: Kenneth J Valentine, Neasden: A Historical Study, Skilton, 1990


Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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