Walk 2: QUEEN’S PARK walk to WEMBLEY CENTRAL
2 1/2 hours
The train line opened in 1838 as part of a long-distance connection between London and Birmingham. Because of congestion issues, an additional set of tracks was built in 1879. When the line was electrified, the suburban tracks were provided with a specific system that was compatible with the Underground power supply and this enables both trains and Underground carriages to use the line since 1915. It is one of only two extended sections of track that is used by both types of services (the other one is between Gunnersbury and Richmond). On the section described here, the line is now served equally by London Underground Bakerloo line or by suburban trains from Euston.
A short loop is being built between Kensal Green and Willesden Junction in order to serve a new interchange at a future Old Oak Common station. This loop will only be served by the Bakerloo line while trains from Euston will remain on the line I describe here.
Routing note: This walk connects in Queen’s Park with Euston walk 1 and will connect there with Underground Bakerloo line walk 2. It connects in Willesden Junction with Overground walks 7, 8 and 18.
Finally, it connects in Wembley Central with Euston walk 3.
The train station was opened in 1879.like South Hampstead and the original name was “Queen’s Park (West Kilburn)”. The station opening may have been linked to a popular agricultural show held in what is now Queen’s Park in that year.
The present name is in use since 1954. Since 1915, the train tracks and the station are also used by London Underground (Bakerloo Line). Like in Kilburn High Road, traffic trebled in the course of 4 years on the train line while the Underground passenger traffic is stable.
The station building looks like the original Victorian building and looks a bit like a large brick cottage with a modestly pointed roof. The front to the street was covered later on (1970 ?) with glazed bricks, ugly aluminium frames and a massive cornice. The result is downright ugly.
Exit the station and turn
L Salusbury Road
L Harvist Road
R into Queen’s Park, visit and exit the park at the NW corner
The ground belonged to the Church and was used in 1879 for a popular agriculture show. This prompted the owner to offer the grounds to the borough in 1886 and an Act of Parliament confirmed this after the borough got confirmation that charitable funds would contribute to maintenance costs. The park opened in a rural area and attracted suburban development in the following years, the opposite (and more sensible) solution to the more frequent scramble by boroughs to save whatever they could from greedy speculators. The park owes its name to the Queen’s Jubilee while the original name was just Kilburn Recreation Ground.
The park has a very special design that is a copy of the original 1887 concept (it had been destroyed during World War II and has been rebuilt in 1999). The alleys make a figure of 8 leaving room in the corners and in the center for embellishments. Like in most Victorian parks, there were also a bandstand, a refreshment chalet, sports grounds (called at the time “children’s gymnasium”), glasshouses and a large number of small formal flower beds. The glasshouses have disappeared along with the smaller flower beds, but there is now a “woodland walk”, taking advantage of mature trees in the NW corner of the park, and tennis courts.
The flower beds are now concentrated in the SE corner where they build a beautiful display. This is typical for the borough of Brent, one of the few London boroughs that try to have beautiful formal gardens in many parks rather than in just a few flagship locations. The bandstand is from 1891 and is little used nowadays but is quite impressive.
L Peploe Road
R Keslake Road
L Chamberlayne Road
R Mortimer Road
L College Road passing
The station opened in 1916 shortly after the start of Bakerloo line services.
The original station building was demolished in 1980. The replacement is a very peculiar building that I actually always found rather nice. The lower level is a normal brick rectangle while the upper level is clapboard painting black, looking a little like a chalet in European mountains.
R Harrow Road
Just before crossing the railway tracks, the road passes (on the left) Kensal Green cemetery. I don’t include a visit of the cemetery on the present walk because I comment on it at length in my Marylebone walk 1. This being said, the cemetery is definitely very interesting to visit. You may need up to 1 hour to enjoy it and it adds quite a bit of walking.
Just after the bridge over the tracks, there is a green space on the right that looks nice on my picture but is actually really small.
Harrow Road is a busy main road but has some interesting details such a new development with corners built a little like sails. This reminds a little of a style very popular in the 1930s, stressing the vertical lines and combining them with rounded sections.
Further along the road, I noticed an interesting sign on a church announcing “miracle hour” every Monday evening. I will refrain from commenting too much but it is indeed peculiar to announce miracles on demand.
L Trenmar Gardens
turns R as Waldo Road
The nice glazed brick house front on my picture is obviously salvaged from a demolished pub. Charrington Brewery was located in Bethnal Green and was one of the oldest names in London with the founder being already listed in 1737. Charrington was one of the partners and bought the two others out in 1783. Very little is left of the original buildings and the brand had long disappeared. The company turned later into a huge corporation including Bass plc (later bought by Anheuser Busch-Inbev), the pub operator Mitchells & Butler and Intercontinental Hotels.
R Scrubs Lane
L Harrow Road
L footpath between train tracks to the station
This must be one of the most unusual station accesses in London, running for such a long time between sets of tracks with the station being hardly visible from the road bridge.
The station replaced the original Willesden station that had opened in 1841 on a site about 1/2 mile further west. The original station closed in 1962 because the platforms slowed down fast trains on the long-distance tracks.
The replacement station actually opened as early as 1910, so that Willesden had two stations. The reason was that the original Willesden station did not provide interchange with the Overground line (connecting Hampstead with Richmond) although the Overground did stop at an appropriate place. The Overground served Willesden Junction High Level and the new station was therefore Willesden Junction Low Level – it is actually much lower than the other train line, providing for a spectacular view from the Overground viaduct.
The building for the low level station was rebuilt in the 2000s and is now a plain glass and concrete shed cleverly improved by a curved roof and decorative sailing canvas elements. Good combination.
Ahead Station Approach
R Station Road
R Honeywood Road
L Avenue Road (looks more like a footpath)
L High Street Harlesden
The town clock is the core of Harlesden. It was a reasonably distinguished suburb in the 1880s, the improving train connections making it attractive for people working in central London or in Kensington. The town clock is one of the numerous examples set up on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897 and boasts the usual, somewhat garish and overloaded decoration so popular at the time.
Harlesden became increasingly working class in the 20th century due to the vicinity of very large industrial premises along the railway line and in Acton. With the closure of most factories in the 1970s and 1980s, it became a deprived borough with serious issues of petty crime and tension between immigrant communities. This improved in recent years because the borough was able to make use of the reasonably good quality of the housing stock to encourage renovation.
The crossroads is also dominated by the massive presence of the parish church. All Souls church was built in 1879 in dark yellow bricks typical of the time. But the architect did not copy a gothic basilica as usual, he seems to have been inspired in part by Carolingian churches like the palace chapel at Aachen, which was itself inspired by byzantine churches and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The church is therefore primarily an octagon, giving an opportunity to the architect and to the carpenters to showcase their skills with an unusual structure. The apse is not very well thought through, being very massive; churches in Burgundy show that adding low chapels in each arm of the apse would pleasantly break the flat walls.
R fork Acton Lane
You reach very soon the Roman Catholic parish church for Harlesden, Our Lady of Willesden (after a nearby pilgrimage chapel). The church is nearly as impressive as the Anglican church and is interesting to compare. It is in red bricks typical for the time when it was built (1931). It has the classical basilical shape, but there are no pointed windows of conspicuous buttresses. Instead, you get plain shapes stressing heavily the vertical axes, as usual in the 1930s. The rounded arch of the façade is Romanesque rather than neo-Gothic, the Roman Catholic church preferring to refer to the early Middle Ages when Christendom was one single religion.
The road turns L passing
The station opened in 1912 as part of the plan to introduce Bakerloo line services as the Underground was able to stop more frequently than most suburban trains (the power system enables faster acceleration and deceleration than for trains). In addition, the new station made it possible to close the old Willesden station, where stopping trains inconvenienced long-distance services – although the old station actually only closed much later.
The station building is inconspicuous because it is down steps from the road, but is rather nice. The ground plan is a plain rectangle but you see easily that it was built in Edwardian times because it uses the signature design of the time, the red brick and white stone combination. The complex window frame is inspired by medieval buildings. I also like the fact that the pointed roof reminds more of a cottage than of a utilitarian shed.
Continue on Acton Lane until you cross the canal
The corner is marked by a very large pub building. They would be larger in such places because they had significant traffic from boatmen and workers from the many companies lined along canals.
R and down a flight of steps to the canal towpath
The elegant little garden around the steps is unusual for a London canal, but is very popular at lunchtime with people working in the nearby light industrial estate and therefore very sensible.
L (westwards) on the canal towpath
This canal is the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, opened in 1801. The main canal had been opened a little earlier in order to link the collieries and factories in the Midlands with the clients in London. As the original link reached the Thames at Brentford where the river is tidal, the Paddington Arm promised a more reliable access for factories wishing to develop new activities. The new canal soon gave access to an extension, the Regent’s Canal, that bypassed central London on the way to the harbour and became extremely busy.
Canals had become much less important by the early 20th century because transportation was much slower than with railroads, but they continued to be attractive for bulk goods like coal and building materials. This led to many factories set up in the 1930s still appreciating the canal access, something companies don’t consider at all nowadays (they pay attention primarily to motorways). Most companies that have taken over the premises along this canal are specialised in logistics or building and use the cheap ground rather than the canal access.
At the next road bridge R Abbey Road
R just before the dual carriageway on a cycle path leading to a footbridge
The motorway is a section of the North Circular Road, a typical traffic concept from the 1960s. The idea was that everyone would wish to travel by car or carry goods in lorries (which did happen) and that motorways were much more important than preserving the one or other Victorian suburban terrace. As usual in Britain, haggles about budgets and land ownership caused the planned ring motorway to remain a very patchy project (the M25 became the replacement solution as land was easier to buy). As a result, Paris has an inner city ring motorway and London does not – both cities have traffic jams though. The particular section you cross in Harlesden is reasonably long but both ends are on roads with traffic lights.
Cross the dual carriageway
R Cycle path crossing under numerous train tracks
The number of bridges is rather surprising. It is due to the fact that you are crossing the main depot for Euston terminal.
The cycle path merges into a road, continue ahead under the last bridges
L Argenta Way passing
The station opened in 1912 like Harlesden station.
The station building suffered lots of mishaps over time. It was bombed during World War II and burned down twice later on. But the train company, who was responsible for the stations until 2007 independently of Bakerloo line services, tried to keep the original style to some extent. As a result, the general shape is pleasantly reminiscent of a cottage, but two of the windows have been filled in with bricks and the result is a bit sad.
You might notice something extremely unusual on the picture: the building had no sign advertising it as a station at that time.
R Point Place
L across a barrier into Tokyngton Avenue
At the end L into the marked footpath towards Lyon Park Avenue.
The footpath leads along Wembley Playing Field and then over a footbridge across the railway tracks
Part of the playing field is something of a wilderness meadow and is nice in summer. The rest is your normal football open space. The public footpath along the open space is also a bit wilder than you expect in a zone 4 suburb. The path provides also a rather good view of the large arch above Wembley Stadium. This was a rather controversial project with many problems, extremely high costs and some strange circumstances. This walk does not pass closer to the complex and I comment on it in Marylebone walk 1.
R Lyon Park Avenue
R marked public footpath towards Station Grove
L Station Grove
The road is a mixed bag with some of the buildings looking rather tired but redevelopment having started. The cars parked in front of the newer buildings show that this is not a deprived suburb.
R at the end for
The station opened in 1842 as “Sudbury” and was one of the stops introduced when the train company who operated the line since 1837 decided to offer stopping services. At the time, Wembley was a minor hamlet due to the lack of a well and Sudbury was a more important village. The name was changed to “Sudbury & Wembley” in 1882. By 1910, conditions had changed enough to warrant the new name “Wembley for Sudbury”. The final changeover was achieved in 1948 with “Wembley Central” with Sudbury disappearing completely from the name.
The station was an important interchange and still offers services on a little used line connecting directly Watford with Earl’s Court via Wembley. Unfortunately, the way the station is built causes long-distance trains to create a dangerous wind tunnel effect and it would therefore be unsafe to have many passengers waiting for trains on the long-distance platforms throughout the day, so that only few such services are allowed to stop.
The station building was replaced several times and the current version is a 2008 redevelopment. There is a huge and somewhat dismal concrete open space between towers and a minor steel and glass entrance in a corner, the station being more or less completely underground. It is surprising to see such a concept chosen so recently as it reminds much more of a council estate in the 1960s.