Blackbird Hill Farm
The lower yard at cottages of Blackbird Hill Farm on Old Church Lane, c.1880.
Credit: Brent Archives
Blackbird Hill Farm was situated on the corner of Birdbird Hill and Old Church Lane.

It is unknown when Blackbird Hill Farm was first established. There were at least five “villagers” cultivating small areas of land in this part of Kingsbury at the time of the Domesday Book in 1085, but old records suggest that many local inhabitants died during the Black Death plagues of the mid-14th century. About 100 years later, in 1442, there is a mention of what may have been a farm on this site, and when a detailed map of the parish was drawn in 1597 it clearly showed a property called Findens here, a group of buildings around a yard with a strip of land, just over an acre, attached.

The large field behind it is shown as being leased to John Page, gentleman, by St Paul’s Cathedral (‘The Deane of Powles’), while the land on the opposite side of the main track was held by Eyan Chalkhill, who also had a watermill on the River Brent. In 1640, Findens was a 12-acre smallholding.

By the time of John Rocque’s map of 1745, there were farm buildings and orchards on both sides of Old Church Lane. These would come to be known as the upper and lower yards of Blackbird (or Blackbird Hill) Farm. Whereas the original farm, or smallholding, was probably growing a mixture of crops, mainly to support the farmer’s own family, by the mid-18th century the map shows most of the fields as pasture land.

By the early 19th century, many of Kingsbury’s fields were producing hay for the capital’s horses.

The farm was probably used for most of the nineteenth century for raising livestock, some of which would be driven to London to help provide meat for the capital’s fast-growing population.

In the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, the farmer at Blackbird Farm was William Avis Warner. One of his sons, William Perkins Warner, who grew up here and trained as a butcher before serving in the army’s Commissariat Department during the Crimean War, became famous as the landlord of the Welsh Harp Inn from 1858 until his death in 1889.

A cowkeeper was mentioned in 1823 but most local farms did not transfer to dairy farming until the end of the century.

The earliest photographs of the farm date from 1880, by around which time the farm was mainly being used for dairy cattle. The upper yard contained the farmhouse and various outbuildings, while the lower yard had housing for farm workers and the main cow sheds.

Years later, one elderly local resident recalled the story that Blackbird Farm had delivered milk to Buckingham Palace on a daily basis, ‘until the day that Queen Victoria saw her churn on the same cart as a load of manure’.

By the start of the First World War in 1914, Thomas Noad was the farmer here. The area around Blackbird Farm was still rural, as was much of Kingsbury, even though it was classed as an Urban District for local government purposes, with Mr Noad serving as one of the Councillors.

When foot and mouth disease broke out at Blackbird Farm in 1923, and all of the cows had to be shot, that was the end of it as a working farm. Although the Noad family continued to live in the farmhouse, the rest of the land was sold off for housing.

Houses were soon being built on the farm’s former fields, in new roads like Queens Walk and Birchen Grove, as well as along the improved existing roads.

By 1936, the buildings on the lower yard had been demolished, and replaced by a parade of shops in the half-timbered mock-Tudor style so popular at the time. The old farmhouse itself had been “dressed-up” with applied timber beams, and remained as a picturesque relic of Kingsbury’s rural past, housing tea rooms run by Mrs Elizabeth Noad, while a timber outbuilding at the corner of the farmyard was used as a boot repair shop by Thomas Laney.

In the late 1930’s the brewers, Truman Hanbury Buxton, submitted plans to build a public house on the site of Blackbird Farm. The outbreak of war in 1939 meant that the idea was not pursued then, but fresh proposals were put forward in the early 1950’s. The recently formed Wembley History Society was among the objectors wishing to see the farmhouse retained
and reused. It also hoped to carry out some archaeological work at the site, but there is no record of what was found if any such work went ahead. The farmhouse was demolished in 1955, with “The Blackbirds” public house built around 1957.

After the pub closed in 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.

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