Kensal Green, also referred to as Kensal Rise is an area of London, England. It is located on the southern edge of the London Borough of Brent and borders the City of Westminster to the East and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the South.
Originally part of one of the ten manors within the district of Willesden, Kensal Green is first mentioned in 1253, translating from old English meaning the King’s Holt (King’s Wood). Its location marked the boundary between Willesden and the then Chelsea & Paddington, on which it remains today. It formed part of one of ten manors, most likely Chamberlayne Wood Manor, named after Canon Richard de Camera (of the Chambers).
In the 15th century the then Archbishop of Canterbury Henry Chichele (1414–1443), acquired lands in Willesden and Kingsbury. In 1443 he found All Souls' College, Oxford and endowed it with the same lands in his will. Resultantly, most of Willesden and Kensal Green remained largely agricultural until the mid-1800s, well into the Victorian era.
In 1805, the construction of the Grand Junction Canal passed through the district to join the Regent's Canal at Paddington. As the combined Grand Union Canal, this allowed passage of commercial freight traffic from the Midlands to London Docks, and hence onwards to the River Thames.
There were two dairy farms in Kensal Green by the early 1800s, which expanded greatly after the 1864 Act of Parliament which made it illegal to keep cattle within the City of London. Although by the late 1800s residential development had greatly reduced the farmland, still in the 1890s many sheep and pigs were raised in the district. One of the farms later became a United Dairies creamery, supplied by milk trains from Mitre Bridge Junction.
In 1832 Kensal Green Cemetery was opened. This led to a revaluation of the surrounding lands, and in 1835 ecclesiastical commissioners were appointed by the Crown, who reported in 1846 that: "the larger portion of the Prebendal Estates possess, in our opinion, a value far beyond their present agricultural value."
With enough people living locally to create a new parish, in 1844 St. John the Evangelist Church in Kilburn Lane was consecrated. The 1851 census records just over 800 people living in the new parish. In the 1860s, Kensal Green manor house, situated where Wakeman Road joins Harrow Road, was demolished. Rapid increase in residential development followed, firstly with land west of Kilburn High Road, followed by the sale of Banister's Farm leading to the development of Bannister Road and Mortimer Road.
The rapid residential development led to local commissioners reporting in 1880 that there was inadequate drainage and sewerage facilities, with most houses having only improved access to what were the old agricultural drains. In that same year, All Souls' College started to develop its lands north west of Kilburn Lane, including All Souls' Avenue and College Road, with adjacent roads being named after leading Fellows of the college, and the installation of new sewerage facilities across the district. The college donated lands on which to build Kensal Rise Reading Room, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, in 1897. Opened by United States author Mark Twain in 1901, it was later extended and renamed Kensal Rise Library.
The construction of the Great Western Railway started in 1835, with the first of line, from Paddington station to Maidenhead Bridge station, opened on 4 June 1838. In 1901, its major carriage washing and servicing facilities and locomotive depot were developed at Old Oak Common, bringing further employment and more immigrants to the district. The first major immigrant population had been Irish people post the Potato famine, and then post World War I. In World War II, due to the railway facilities, the district suffered greatly from German Luftwaffe bombing.
After the war, the area became a refuge for the first Afro-Caribbean born contingent. In the 1960s the College disposed of many freeholds, while retaining land in Willesden. This led to a growth in crime in the district, a reputation that led author John Preston to note:
Since the 1980s, the Irish-born community has reduced in size, although the legacy of their presence remains, not least in the number of Irish pubs and organisations and the many thousands with Irish ancestry that continue to populate the area.
According to statistics from the 2001 census, the area has a very high proportion of young residents (28.4% 25–44 years old) and a very high educational level (30.7% hold a first degree or better).
The area has seen significant gentrification over recent years. In 2009, Chamberlayne Road in Kensal Rise was named by Vogue as the hippest street in Europe and the area is now home to a number of noteworthy residents including actress Thandie Newton, singer Lily Allen, model-turned-author Sophie Dahl, author Zadie Smith, handbag designer Bill Amberg, David Cameron's ex-strategy guru Steve Hilton, footballer-turned-media personality Ian Wright and Sienna Miller. The area also now boasts Britain's first independent boutique cinema and social enterprise, The Lexi Cinema. It is staffed by local volunteers and all its profits go to an eco-village in South Africa.