History of Kenton
Kenton is situated in the northwest of Brent, bordering on Harrow.
Kenton (‘the farm of the sons of Coena’) probably began as a Saxon settlement in a forest clearing. It was near a prehistoric track, the modern Honeypot Lane.
The Wealdstone Brook, which originates in neighbouring Wealdstone, runs through Kenton and was an early part of the landscape in the Kenton area.
‘Keninton’, as it was then known, is first mentioned in 1231. Rumours that a chantry chapel was founded there in the 14th century are false.
The modern spelling of Kenton is first recorded in 1596, by which time the Page family were important landowners.
The North family, another well-known family, had acquired Harrow Manor in 1545. In 1630, the Rushout family obtained these estates, with Sir John Rushout MP becoming the first Baron of Northwick in 1797. In 1912, the land passed to Captain E.G. Spencer-Churchill.
Enclosure in the 16th to 18th centuries (which allowed farmers to fence off farms and claim common land) encouraged changes in land holding. New farms appeared in the area until the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1721, Kenton consisted of a house, seven cottages and a blacksmith’s shop. Records show that, by 1751, there was a Plough pub (there is still a Plough pub today, but it is not the original building). No major highways went through the village. However, by 1759, there were local roads to Kingsbury, Preston and Edgware, though they were in poor condition.
In 1803, John Lambert built a house called Kenton Lodge. The surrounding land became known as Kenton Grange, which still exists today, separated from Woodcock Park by the Wealdstone Brook.
The Graham family owned a great deal of the local land, but they were in serious decline by 1800. In the 1850s, a Scottish family, the Loudons, leased local farms and improved them by using Scottish farming methods. Around the same time, the Grimwade family produced some of the earliest dried milk at Sheepcote Farm. They supplied their milk in large quantities to troops in the Crimean War (1853-56).
In 1837, the London & Birmingham Railway (L&BR) constructed a line that ran through the Sheepcote Farm land, but as they did not build a station in Kenton, the railway had little effect on the area.
In 1831, the population of Kenton was 83; in 1841, it was 99; and in 1859, it was 109. Most of these people had jobs connected with agriculture.
In 1852, the village consisted of Kenton Farm (demolished in 1965/66), four houses, 11 cottages, the Plough pub, a blacksmith’s, and the National School.
A beer shop opened in 1873. In 1880, the Metropolitan Railway extended the line through south-western Kenton, but again no station was built.
In 1905, Harrow School Trust acquired 192 acres (0.8 km²) of Sheepcote Farm to prevent development near the school. This became a golf course in 1907. In 1936, Wembley Council bought this land and, in the 1950s, closed the Northwick Park Golf Club. In 1959, Harrow Technical College (today part of the University of Westminster) was built on the site. Northwick Park Hospital followed in the 1970s.
The owner of the rest of the land, Captain Spencer-Churchill, intended to develop it as a high-class estate, Northwick Park. The focal point of this new development was to be a tennis and social club.
In 1912, Kenton Station and North Wembley Station opened on the L&NWR’s ‘New Line’, connecting the suburbs with central London. The first suburban buildings south of Kenton Road were railway cottages. By 1914, three roads of Spencer-Churchill’s estate were built, but no houses.
During the First World War, anti-aircraft positions were set up near Kenton Road, on Churchill Avenue and the present Mayfield Avenue.
After the war ended in 1918, Spencer-Churchill’s extravagant plans were watered down, the land was split up, and less expensive houses were built, many by a building firm called Costin’s.
A huge amount of new housing was built in the area in the 1920s.
In 1923, Northwick Park Station opened on the Metropolitan Line. This, along with the success of the 1924-25 British Empire Exhibition in nearby Wembley Park, further encouraged suburban growth.
Between 1921 and 1933, Christ Church College, Oxford sold off the estates it owned in the area, and other landowners did the same. At this time, private builders built most of the houses in the area, rather than large firms.
From 1924, the shopping centre began to develop. By 1927-30, a number of coal merchants had set up shop in a row next to the station. Meanwhile, between 1925 and 1933, Kenton Road, from Plough pub to Woodcock Hill, drastically changed.
Although in 1933, when South Kenton station was opened, Preston and Kenton ‘still [retained] some of their rural charms’, by 1938, all trace of the original village had vanished.
Kenton’s population rose from 268 in 1921 to 6,171 in 1931. In 1933, the Rest pub was rebuilt and became the largest pub in Middlesex. Then, in 1935, the ‘village’ got its own Odeon cinema (it was demolished in 1961).
The new suburb of Kenton was divided between local authorities. From 1934, the southern part was in Wembley Urban District (from 1937, Wembley Borough), while the northern part was in Harrow Urban District. In 1936, Wembley bought the 192-acre (0.8 km²) Northwick Park Estate for use as an open space.
As the community grew in the 20th century, places of worship and schools were built to serve it.
In 1927, several Kenton parishes formed to create one new parish. From 1929, various non-conformist churches opened, followed by the Roman Catholic Church of All Saints on Kenton Road in 1932.
During the 1930s, many Jewish people moved into Kenton. In 1949, Kenton Synagogue was set up on Shaftesbury Avenue, as an affiliate of the United Synagogue. It became a district synagogue in 1959.
In 1953, the Palaestra, built in 1923 as the social centre at the heart of Spencer-Churchill’s original plan, became a Masonic Centre.
Harrow School had provided ‘school dames’ to teach local children as early as 1660, but the first true schools in Kenton were Kenton Lodge and an infants’ school. In 1841, Kenton Lodge had 13 students. A National School opened in 1852. Kenton College, a private school, was set up in 1927 and ran until 1957. More schools opened in the 1930s and the 1950s.
In 1996, the Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple moved to Westfield Lane, Kenton from Vaughan Road, West Harrow, because of the growing congregation in the area.
Kenton continued to grow after the war. By 1951, the population was 27,680. It has since declined slightly.
Much of the information you have read on this page came from the following resources, some of which are held by Brent Museum and Archives, and available to look at. For more information, contact us by phone 020 8937 3600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anand, S. – Dancing in the Rain (Harrow News, 5 January 2007)
Brett-James, N.G. – Middlesex (Robert Hale, 1951)
British History Online – A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4 (Victoria County History, 1971)
Day, J.R. – The Story of London’s Underground (London Transport, 1974)
Field, J. – Place-Names of Greater London (Batsford, 1980)
Hewlett, G. – ‘From Hamlet to Thriving Suburb’ (Wembley Observer/News, Aug 15-Sept 26 1976)
Hewlett, G. (ed.) – A History of Wembley (Brent Library Service, 1979)
Jewish Communities & Records – Kenton Synagogue (10 October 2006)
Mills, A.D. – A Dictionary of London Place Names (Oxford University Press, 2001)
Snow, L. – Brent, A Pictorial History (Phillimore, 1990)
Spencer, A. – Britain in Old Photographs: Wembley & Kingbury (Alan Sutton, 1995)
Wadsworth, C. – Traditional Pubs of Brent, Volume 2 Wembley (CAW Books, 1999)