Don’t miss your chance to join us: This Saturday, 25 August, is the last of our free August walking tours.
Led by the talented Saira Niazi of Living London, the tours weave the stories of people who migrated to Cricklewood in the 1960s with significant places around the neighbourhood.
There will be a chance to discuss issues of migration, the changes around Cricklewood, and to share your own stories.
We’re not quite sure what the weather will be doing, but we’ll be going ahead!
Tours start at 11am at Willesden Green tube station and end in Gladstone Park at 2pm. This tour is not suitable for small children, due to the distance (about 2.5 miles). Please wear comfortable shoes, bring sunscreen and carry an umbrella, and bring water & a picnic lunch if you’d like to stick around after the tour.
Booking is not essential but places are limited to 20 people. To reserve a place, please use the form below:
As we continue with work to record the oral histories of the Elder generation of migrants, we are also working with the younger generation to celebrate immigration.
One project is bringing together a local artist, Alistair Lambert, with primary school pupils to create a new artwork on the theme of migration stories. The piece will feature in our travelling exhibition over the Summer.
Our Lady of Grace junior school in Dollis Hill welcomes children from many different backgrounds, to create a friendly and encouraging learning environment. This children are part of the continuing story of migration to the British isles.
The story stretches back some 2,000 years, to the times of the Romans. Then, people from across the empire – from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East – settled and built lives in Britannia, alongside the ancient Britons.
Some 1.500 years ago, waves of Germanic peoples, the Saxons, came to England, integrating with the British. And 500 years later, Normans from France established themselves in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The 1600s brought French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution and then Dutch merchants, accompanying the new king, William of Orange. Many modern English families also have Dutch and French heritage as a result of these migrations.
The 19th century welcomed significant new communities of Irish people, Jews from Eastern Europe, and Italians. Smaller communities from India (which then included the area that would become Pakistan), Africa, and Yemen grew around the ports, especially Hull and Cardiff, as the growth of the British Empire increased global sea trade. The cultural diversity of the port cities of Glasgow and London reflect the diversity of the empire.
In the 20th century Irish migration continued to grow, even after independence in 1922. And in the years after the end of the Second World War in 1945, thousands were invited to come and help Britain rebuild, especially from countries in the West Indies, India, Pakistan.
The children at Our Lady of Grace include the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these settlers, alongside children who have arrived more recently from Eastern Europe, South America, and Africa. And many children have mixed heritage, as blended families share Irish, English, African, and European roots. They are the latest chapter in the on-going story of Britain.
Until 1870, when the new railway station opened, Cricklewood was a small village, with a number of large mansion houses on the outskirts.
The Cricklewood area was identified as a London postal district including Cricklewood, Dollis Hill, Childs Hill, parts of Golders Green and Brent Cross, Willesden (north), and Neasden (north). (This only changed after the borough re-organisations in 1965, but the area is still covered by the familiar NW2 postcode.)
In 1879, a second station opened at Willesden Green. As commuting into central London to work became possible, the area began to develop, with thousands of new homes being built between 1880 – 1930. The ‘tree roads’ – Pine, Larch, Ivy, Olive and our own Ashford Road – were part of the Cricklewood Park development constructed between 1893-1900.
Local amenities included the well-known Crown Hotel, rebuilt in 1889, and the shops along Cricklewood Broadway built between 1910 and 1914. There was a new school and a cinema and skating rink for entertainment. Three synagogues were built for the new Jewish communities. Several churches were built for the growing population, including St Agnes Roman Catholic Church, built in 1883 to cater to the growing number of Catholics, many of whom were Irish migrants.
Gladstone Park was completed in 1901 and the swimming pool was opened in the park in 1903. Elders we have interviewed as part of the Generations of Learning project have fond memories of swimming there in the summer.
In the years following the start of the First World War in 1914, light industry grew, with factories making use of the transport links along the A5 (aka Cricklewood Broadway). One of the best known factories was Smiths Industries, which opened in 1915. By the 1960s the company employed some 8,000 people. This and other factories attracted many migrants into the area. In the years after the end of the Second World War in 1945, people from the former British Empire colonies were invited to help rebuild the UK. Elders speaking as part of the project recall the Ascot Gas Water Heaters company had a notably large number of workers from Pakistan.
As England’s close neighbour, migration from Ireland had been long established, and in the 1950s and ’60s, thousands of young men and women came to build new lives. Many enjoyed the freedom of the big city after quiet lives in the rural countryside, and Cricklewood was famed for its ballrooms; the Galtymore and Burtons.
Migrants from Pakistan also came from the rural areas, many coming to Cricklewood from the Punjab, which had strong links with Great Britain.
The Punjab was a key recruitment area for the British army in pre-Partition India and many Punjabi men fought for Britain in the First and Second World Wars. Those who came to Britain in the 1950s and ’60s often left families at home, thinking they would only stay a few years before returning themselves.
If you have memories of Cricklewood in the 1950s or 1960s as part of the Irish or Pakistani community, we would love to hear from you! Please call Sorcha on 020 8208 8590.
Our interviews with the Pakistani community got off to a great start as Mr Tariq Dar spent the morning sharing his memories of his life in Cricklewood.
The young Tariq came to Cricklewood from the Punjab in 1965. He joined his father and his uncle who had been working in London since the 1950s. Tariq recalled his days at John Kelly Technical College (now Crest Boy’s Academy), playing cricket in Gladstone Park, and watching movies at the State Cinema in Kilburn. The cinema had special weekend showings, often on a Sunday, of the hit movies from Pakistan and India. Films were often shown alongside newsreels from home, and the wrestling results were eagerly awaited.
As an adult, Mr Dar has made a significant contribution both to the Pakistani community and the wider Cricklewood community, from supporting fund-raising for the first purpose-built mosque in the area, to tree planting in the park he played in as a boy, to improve the environment for future generations.
The interview was filmed at the Pakistan Community Centre, next door to the Central Mosque of Brent. The centre developed from the workers organisations of the 1950s, set up to support the early migrant workers who came to Cricklewood from Pakistan. It now hosts everything from women’s meetings to community events.
During the interview, Tariq recalled: “The way the community works has changed. We are thinking more outside the box now. We still do cultural events in the community, but we are well integrated into British society. We are part and parcel of the community.”
We are looking forward to organising some fun events with the PCC over the summer, so keep an eye on our events page!
Mr Dar’s interview will feature in the Generations of Learning exhibition this summer, and will be given to Brent Museum and Archives to form part of the permanent archive. We are continuing to interview people to capture their stories. If you came to London from Pakistan or Ireland and have memories of Cricklewood in the 1950s or 1960s, we would love to hear from you.
With the first oral history interviews recorded*, we are starting to plan the ways we will be sharing the stories with local people.
We are really looking forward to working with Saira Niazi, founder of Living London and leader of fun explorations of hidden London. Saira will be working with the project to develop walking tours around Cricklewood, decorating the modern landscape with the memories of our Elders.
Details of the tour dates will be published on our Events page.
An International Studies graduate from Goldsmiths, Saira has over ten years experience in community engagement, project leadership and creative communications. She’s worked with communities across London from Nepalese gardeners in Plumstead to urban skaters in Fulham on various oral history, film and heritage projects. Through Living London, she has explored photographed, and written about over 1500 hidden London gems, and regularly leads guided tours across different areas of London.
Saira loves discovering new places, collecting stories and connecting communities. We can’t wait for the summer!
*Come back next week for news on the stories that have started to emerge.
Every year the Catholic church celebrates a World Day of Migrants, which this year took place on 14 January.
The event encourages a more welcoming attitude towards migrants, recognising their achievements. With increased migration as global conflict forces people to leave their homes in search of peace, safety, and a better life for their families, ‘migrant’ is in danger of becoming a dirty word.
Migrants and migration is frequently blamed for social problems, accused of ‘stealing’ jobs, or for creating pressure on UK housing, schools, and healthcare.
However, in the years after the end of the Second World War, migrants were invited to the UK from former Commonwealth nations, asked to help rebuild the nation.
Representatives from major organisations such as London Transport, British Rail, and the National Health Service travelled to various countries to recruit people to migrate.
[This well-known image was taken at a London Transport recruitment event in Barbados: London Transport Museum collection: 1998/83757]
Migrants from Pakistan and Ireland worked in the schools, they worked alongside British people in factories and shops and offices, helping to rebuild the economy and adding to the overall prosperity of the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s.
By the 1970s, Irish nurses made up 12% of the workforce in NHS hospitals and more than 18,000 medics came from Pakistan and India in the 1960s.
Over the next few months, we will be recording the stories of some of the migrants from Pakistan and Ireland. We will be sharing them here and in our travelling exhibition, celebrating the contribution of migrants to the recent local history in Cricklewood.