Blackbird Hill, NW9


The route of Blackbird Hill has been in existence since the Domesday Book.

In 1597 many roads converged on Kingsbury Green. One, originally called Ox Street or London Lane and later Kingsbury Road, ran eastward to the Hyde; Buck Lane, earlier known as Stonepits or Postle Lane, ran northward from Kingsbury Green to join Hay Lane, a road mentioned in the 13th century. Another early road in northern Kingsbury was Tunworth or Stag Lane, which ran from Redhill to Roe Green. Church Lane, in 1563 called Northland Lane, ran southward from Kingsbury Green to the church and Green Lane joined the green to Townsend Lane, known as North Dean Lane in 1394 and 1503. On the west Gibbs or Piggs Lane joined Kingsbury Green to Slough Lane or Sloe Street, as it was called in 1428. The southward extension of Slough Lane, Salmon Street, was called Dorman Stone Lane in the 15th and 16th centuries. There was an east-west road joining Hill and Freren farms to Hendon. The portion between Church Lane and Salmon Street, called Freren Lane in 1379, had disappeared by the early 18th century. That between Townsend Lane and Hendon, known as Wadlifs Lane in 1574, survives as Wood Lane.

The portion of road between the Brent and the junction of Salmon Street and Forty Lane, now called Blackbird Hill, was usually known as Kingsbury Lane.

From ancient times the river Brent had probably been crossed at Blackbird Hill, the point where Salmon Street crosses the river. The road and bridge were mentioned in 1531 and in 1596 there was said to have been a footbridge there from time immemorial. Responsibility for its repair was divided between the lords of Kingsbury and Neasden manors. There was a ford next to the bridge for horses and carts, except when the river was in flood when the footbridge might be used by horses. Jon Chalkhill’s water-mill of 1596 caused the formation of a large pool which submerged the ford. All Souls College built a bridge strong enough to take horses and carts and agreed with Chalkhill that he would repair it as long as he retained his mill.

Responsibility probably reverted to the college during the 17th century, and in 1824 Kingsbury vestry asked it to repair or rebuild the bridge. It is not known whether the bridge was repaired then but in 1826 it was described as wooden and 11 ft. wide, spanning a river 33 ft. wide and 6 ft. deep.

In 1921, the disused pleasure grounds at Wembley Park were chosen as the site for the British Empire Exhibition.

This opened at Wembley Park in 1924. A new bridge was built in 1922 as part of the changes connected with the Exhibition.

Kingsbury Lane was soon widened, and its steep gradient up from the river evened out, to become a modern highway with a tarmac surface. Church Lane was also widened, with a new section built (Tudor Gardens) to provide a better connection to Forty Lane, and cut out the winding narrow stretch which ended at Blackbird Farm. Forty Lane and Kenton Lane were widened and straightened. These improved road connections, as well as the publicity about the area resulting from the Exhibition, attracted the attention of property developers.

The widening of Forty Lane and Blackbird Hill opened up the whole of southern Kingsbury to the builders and roads and houses to the east of Salmon Street, between Queens Walk and Old Church Lane, were constructed during the early 1920s. During that period industry was established in Edgware Road and at Kingsbury Works in Kingsbury Road, and 37 council houses were built at High Meadow Crescent near Kingsbury Green.

In 1926 work began on a new north-south road to follow the route of the ancient Honeypot Lane. By 1935 Kingsbury had been covered by a network of suburban roads, although most of the old roads survived.

In the late 1930’s the brewers, Truman Hanbury Buxton, submitted plans to build a public house on the site of Blackbird Farm. The recently formed Wembley History Society was among the objectors wishing to see the farmhouse retained and reused. The farmhouse was demolished in 1955, with “The Blackbirds” public house built around 1957.

“The Blackbirds” proved to be a popular pub with both local people and with visitors coming to Wembley for football matches. However, by the time the old Wembley Stadium closed in 2000, other leisure activities meant that the traditional English public house was going out of fashion. A “re-branding” in the mid-2000’s as an Irish-themed pub, the “Blarney Stone”, kept the hostelry on Blackbird Hill in business for a few more years, but by 2010 a planning application was submitted to redevelop the site for a block of flats.

Planning permission for the proposed development was given by Brent Council in March 2011, but one of the conditions for this was that there should be a proper archaeological excavation of the part of the Blackbird Farm site which had not been disturbed when the pub was built. The “Blarney Stone” has since been demolished.

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