Cricklewood is an area in north-west London, England, situated 5 miles (8.2 km) northwest of Charing Cross. It lies between Willesden Green and Dollis Hill to the west, Brondesbury and Kilburn to the south, West Hampstead and Childs Hill to the south-east and east, and Brent Cross to the north. The area is split between three London boroughs: Barnet to the north-east, Brent to the west and Camden to the south-east.
Cricklewood was a small rural settlement around the Edgware Road (originally the Roman Road Watling Street) until the arrival of the railway and underground railway (tube) in nearby Willesden Green in the 1870s. The bustling shops on Cricklewood Broadway (as the Edgware Road is known here) contrast with quieter surrounding streets of largely late-Victorian, Edwardian and 1930s housing. The area has strong links with Ireland and a sizeable Irish population. The Crown pub (now The Crown Moran Hotel) is a local landmark. The 35 hectares (86 acres) Gladstone Park lies on its north-west border.
Cricklewood has two conservation areas, the Mapesbury Estate and the Cricklewood Railway Terraces, and in 2012 was awarded £1.65 million from the Mayor of London’s office to improve the area.
There was a small settlement at the junction of Cricklewood Lane and the Edgware Road by 1294, which by 1321 was called Cricklewood. By the 1750s the Crown (rebuilt in 1889) was providing for coach travellers, and by the 1800s it had a handful of cottages and Cricklewood House as neighbours, and was known for its “pleasure gardens”. By the 1860s there were a number of substantial villas along the Edgware Road starting with Rockhall Lodge.
Urban development east of Edgware Road
Childs Hill and Cricklewood station, later renamed Cricklewood, opened in 1868. In the summer of 1881 the Midland Railway Company moved its locomotive works from Kentish Town to the new “Brent Sidings”, and in October of the same year it was announced that new accommodation for its workers would be built, later the Cricklewood Railway Cottages. Mr H. Finch laid out a handful of streets directly behind the Crown Inn, (including Yew, Ash, and Elm Groves) in 1880. The station had become the terminus for the Midland Railway suburban services by 1884. The census of 1881 showed that the population had grown enough for a new church, and St. Peter's replaced a tin chapel in 1891. A daughter church called Little St. Peter's was opened in 1958 on Claremont Way but closed in 1983. The parish church on Cricklewood Lane was demolished and rebuilt in the 1970s. This church building was closed in 2004 although services for Anglicans are still held in Carey Hall on Claremont Road, which is the church hall of Claremont Free Church. The London General Omnibus Company commenced services to Regent Street from the Crown in 1883, and in 1899 opened a bus garage (Garage code W), which is still in use and was completely rebuilt in 2010.
By the 1890s, houses and shops had been built along part of Cricklewood Lane. Cricklewood Broadway had become a retail area by 1900 replacing the Victorian villas. The Queens Hall Cinema, later the Gaumont, replaced Rock Hall House, and was itself demolished in 1960. Thorverton, Caddington and Dersingham Roads were laid out in 1907, the year of the opening of Golders Green tube station.
Cowhouse Farm, latterly Dickers Farm and finally Avenue Farm, was closed in 1932. From 1908 to 1935, Westcroft Farm was owned by the Home of Rest for Horses; at its peak it could house 250 horses. The Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead opened the Westcroft Estate in 1935.
Urban development west of Edgware Road
Much of the land to the west of Edgware Road was part of the estate of All Souls College, Oxford. Much of the land was wooded and in 1662 there were 79 oaks in Cricklewood. The transformation of the area came with the opening of the underground station in Willesden Green in 1879, which was known as Willesden Green and Cricklewood station from 1894 to 1938.
A number of developers acquired land in the area and built houses in the 1890s and 1900s. George Furness laid out what he called Cricklewood Park between 1893 and 1900 on Clock farm. Roads in the area are named after trees (Pine, Larch, Cedar, Ivy, Olive). The name Cricklewood Park is no longer used. To the south of this, Henry Corsellis built Rockhall, Oaklands and Howard Roads from 1894; at the time he was also building in the Lavender Hill and Clapham Common area in Wandsworth. All Souls College built a group of roads named after fellows of the college; for example, Chichele Road is named after Henry Chichele, founder of All Souls College. Further expansion westward was blocked by the Dollis Hill estate, which became a public park, Gladstone Park, in 1901. To the north of Furness's Cricklewood Park estate, Earl Temple built Temple Road by 1906 and surrounding roads. To the south, the Mapesbury Estate was built mainly between 1895 and 1905 and is a Conservation Area of largely semi-detached and detached houses.
With the introduction of the tram system in 1904, and the motorisation of bus services by 1911, numerous important industries were established. The first of these was the Phoenix Telephone Co. in 1911 (later moved to the Hyde). The Handley Page Aircraft Company soon followed, from 1912 until 1917, at 110 Cricklewood Lane and subsequently occupying a large part of Claremont Road. The Cricklewood Aerodrome was adjacent to their factory.
The former aircraft factory was converted into Cricklewood Studios in 1920, the largest film studio in the country at the time. It became the production base for Stoll Pictures during the silent era. After later turning out a number of quota quickies, it closed down in 1938. Some years later, the property was redeveloped and currently hosts a Wickes DIY store.
A number of plans were drawn up around the turn of the 20th century to extend the developing London Underground network to Cricklewood. Several proposals were put forward to construct an underground railway tunnel under the length of the Edgware Road, including an unusual scheme to build a type of subterranean monorail roller-coaster, but these proposals were abandoned.
Cricklewood was home to Smith's Industries. This started in 1915 as S. Smith & Sons, on the Edgware Road, established to manufacture fuses, instruments and accessories. By 1939 it was making electrical motors, aircraft accessories and electric clocks. The large advertisement on the iron railway bridge over the Broadway next to the bus garage became a familiar landmark for decades. As the company grew it acquired other companies and sites overseas but Cricklewood remained the most important site, with 8,000 employees between 1937 and 1978. Coincidentally, Cricklewood also became the home for the first Smith's Crisps potato crisp factory, which replaced the omnibus depot at Crown Yard. Having moved into new premises in Cricklewood Lane, the yard was taken over by Clang Electrical Goods Ltd. From 1929 to 1933 the area was finally built over. Bentley Motors, builders of racing and sports cars, built a factory at Oxgate Lane in 1920, and Cricklewood remained the company's headquarters until it was bought out by Rolls-Royce in 1931.
From the 1960s, industry in the local area went into decline, and all the above-mentioned businesses have left.
There were two notable buildings on Cricklewood Lane, one of which survives. The first was Production Village, part of the British film-making scene and owned by Samuelsons, which towards the end was a pub with rehearsal rooms attached. On the same site was Clang's electrical from 1929 to the mid-1970s. Production Village was demolished in 2000, and is now a Virgin Active gym. Secondly, and a little further up the hill on the south side of the road, is a modern building, which was the factory that manufactured the revolutionary Stylophone handheld organ of the late-1960s to early-1970s – as demonstrated by Rolf Harris.
In June 2001, a lynx was captured in Cricklewood after 10 years of sightings by residents. The animal was originally nicknamed the "Beast of Barnet" by the local press following numerous sightings of a similarly sized animal around south Hertfordshire and the fringes of north London. A senior veterinary officer for the London Zoological Society arrived with the task of sedating the beast using a tranquiliser gun. It is believed that someone was keeping the animal illegally and it had escaped. The lynx was taken to London Zoo and named Lara.