New history book chronicle’s Brent’s beguiling history

Some 150 images tell the story of Brent over the past century and a half

The charms and quirks of Brent life over the past 150 years is presented in a new photographic book.

Nationally, it was a time of mammoth industrial and technological change which swept the borough along with it.

Once filled with rural fields and described by one 19th century commentator as “a peaceful country area, ideal for the retirement of citizens”, Brent was transformed into an urban community built along the new railroads.

A new book by two Brent historians entitled ‘The London Borough of Brent in Old Photographs’ charts this fascinating history from 1860 to 1982, through around 150 never before published pictures which they uncovered while working at Brent’s archives.

It takes you on a tour through the industrialisation of Brent, and the waves of immigration it brought with it. First, from the North West, from which many nonconformist railroad workers hailed, and after the Second World War from Ireland and the West Indies who still thrive in Kilburn, Harlesden and Cricklewood.

For Malcolm Barres-Baker, who co wrote the book with Rosamund King, works like this are an important expression of a borough’s heritage.

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He said: “London boroughs want their identity to be identified as much as possible, and so in that respect to produce a book about a particular borough rather than a specific area, is a good way of going about it.”

Among these is a photograph of an Evening Standard paper seller stood outside the old Wembley Stadium where QPR and Tottenham Hotspur are battling it out to win the FA Cup.

He is clutching two copies of the paper- one with the headline ‘Rangers win their Spurs’ while on the other states ‘Spurs home on the Range’ depending on which team wins.

But the picture is more than a charming piece of nostalgia.

The Falklands war had begun the month before and two of Spurs’ best players at the time were from Argentina – Ricardo Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles. Nationalism was on the rise, and many felt that both players should be left on the bench because it was ‘unpatriotic’ to play them. Villa left English football shortly afterwards.

Another photo encapsulates the emotions of a very different war. On October 20 1915 a joint funeral was held for Charles Tarrant and Charles Rogers, a bus driver and conductor who were killed in a bombing raid by a German airship in Hendon garage.

Thousands of people flocked to the funeral in Cricklewood, which came to epitomise the sorrow and anger the community felt towards these new methods of warfare.

“There were such huge crowds they had to call in the police”, Malcolm Barres-Baker said.

“People felt so passionately about it partly because they were local men who had been killed, but also because they were considered to have been killed in an ungentlemanly way. There was a genuine outpouring of feeling against this method of killing, although newspapers like the Daily Mail encouraged it.”

Pointing to a tiny badge on the side of the bus, he added: “The garage card is upside down and the reason is that putting something upside down is a symbol of death.”

The popularity of TV programmes such as ‘Who do you think you are?’ have led to an explosion of interest in local history, and anyone with a desire to know a little more abut the borough they have come to call home will be beguiled by this book.

The London Borough of Brent in Old Photographs by Rosamund King and Malcolm Barres Baker costs �12.99 and can be brought at the Willesden library in High Road, Willesden.