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.