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Saturday, 8-May-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Silver Jubilee: Willesden Green

Willesden Green station
Bench on platform
Opened: Monday 24th November 1879
Distance from previous station: 1.2 km
You are now entering: zone 2
Platform: exit to the right of the train
5 things I found outside the station: a yellow plastic box full of grit, Camerons Stiff estate agents (giggle), 10 piles of free magazines (mostly expat related), Dynamic dry cleaners, lots of laminated Wanted For Murder police posters.
Nearby: Cricklewood
Local history: Willesden has, over its 1000-year history, been known as Wellesdone, Willesdone, Willesdune and Wilsdon. The modern spelling is that chosen by the London & Birmingham Railway in the 1840s. Nothing really interesting seems to have happened round here, ever, but the local history society meets regularly so there must be something to talk about. Ray Davies of the Kinks liked the place enough to write a song about it.


Friday, 7-May-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Silver Jubilee: Dollis Hill

Dollis Hill platform
Station entrance
Opened: Friday 1st October 1909
Distance from previous station: 850m
Platform: exit to the right of the train
Fact file: There's no station building as such, just a ticket hall under the platform with two subways leading off in opposite directions beneath the tracks. A bronze plaque at the top of the station steps commemorates 'Timothy Desmond, employed at Dollis Hill 1965-1995.' What a life.
5 things I found outside the station: a 'Dollis Hill' mural, belisha beacons, a big tube sign on a brick column, wide avenues of suburban semis, a parade of shops.
Nearby: more endless suburban semis, Dollis Hill House (home to Lord and Lady Aberdeen in the 1880s and 90s), Gladstone Park (a pleasantly contoured woodland vista).
Local history: Victorian PM William Gladstone was a regular visitor at Dollis Hill House, so they named the new park after him. Mark Twain stayed here throughout the summer of 1900, saying "Dollis Hill comes nearer to being a paradise than any other home I ever occupied." Until 1982 all the UK's coin-operated telephones were made in Dollis Hill.
Local underground secrets: In the late 1930s the Government built a huge underground bunker in Dollis Hill. It was codenamed 'Paddock', a two-level concrete citadel planned as a standby to the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall. The War Cabinet met here only twice because Churchill hated the place (and because Hitler never invaded). A housing association now owns the site, and opens the bunker to the public on only two days a year (bugger, one of them was yesterday). Fascinating stuff.


Thursday, 6-May-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Silver Jubilee: Neasden

Neasden (long shot)
Neasden station
IKEA - Brent Park
Opened: Monday 2nd August 1880
Distance from previous station: 2.3 km
You are now entering: zone 3
Platform: exit to the right of the train
Station originally called: Kingsbury & Neasden
Fact file (1): Three railway lines (Jubilee, Metropolitan and Chiltern) run through Neasden (and the next four stations too), but only the Jubilee line trains stop.
Fact file (2): Just north of Neasden station lies Neasden Railway Depot, a vast shed with space to store 37 trains overnight. The Jubilee line Control Room is located in Neasden and they have a Jubilee train simulator too.
5 things I found outside the station: a pelican crossing, two giant billboards, Falcon Park RNIB centre, Adrian's Newsagent (a tiny kiosk), a pedestrian sign pointing towards 'Neasden Temple & Superstore' (I hope that's two different places).
Nearby (1): Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the huge Hindu temple off the North Circular Road. Devoted pilgrims come from miles around to pay their respects. Now that Wembley Stadium's been pulled down, this exotic landmark has the only towers and pinnacles on the local skyline.
Nearby (2): IKEA, the huge Swedish temple off the North Circular Road. Devoted shoppers come from miles around to buy their cheap household goods. Now that Wembley isn't the shopping mecca it used to be, this big blue warehouse is the only retail magnet in the local area.
Everywhere: The North Circular Road came to Neasden in the 1930s. It cuts through the area like an open concrete wound. Dual carriageways, underpasses and roundabouts are everywhere, clogged by traffic and making pedestrian life a daily challenge.
Local history: Neasden means 'nose-shaped hill' in Anglo-Saxon. In the 1850s the local population was only 110, but soon rocketed to become a dead ordinary London suburb (as mocked by Private Eye, published nearby). Twiggy grew up on the St Raphael's Estate and the area was also home to Mari Wilson, Neasden's Queen of Soul. Local history is chronicled at the Grange Museum, an unlikely building quarantined in the middle of a busy roundabout.


Wednesday, 5-May-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Silver Jubilee: Wembley Park

Wembley Park station
Looking up Wembley Way
Rebuilding Wembley Stadium
Opened: Saturday 12th May 1894
Distance from previous station: 2.8 km
Platform: exit to the left of the train
Change here for: Metropolitan line
You'd be quicker changing here: From here to Finchley Road by Metropolitan line takes 12 minutes. From here to Finchley Road by Metropolitan line takes 8 minutes.
5 things I found outside the station: a pelican crossing, that huge extra entrance/exit for use on days when there's a big event nearby, the College of Northwest London, Olympic Way, a big sign pointing towards 'Stadium tours' (unlikely at present).
Nearby: Wembley Stadium, a giant light industrial estate and retail park, Wembley Arena, a few crumbling remains of the British Empire Exhibition, the river Brent (I have never, ever, walked through so many flies).


Tuesday, 4-May-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Silver Jubilee: Kingsbury

Kingsbury station
Tree-lined platforms
The view from the street
Opened: Saturday 10th December 1932
Distance from previous station: 1.3 km
Platform: exit to the left of the train
Fact file: The station was designed by C W Clark (as were the previous three, and as was the station in Croxley where I grew up). Standing on the tree-lined platform amidst the birdsong you'd think you were in the middle of the countryside, not in the middle of built-up London with a busy high street outside.
5 things I found outside the station: A sign saying 'humps for 350 yards', a lot of local shops, a machine selling parking tickets, Jyoti Jewellers, a yellow box junction.
Local history: The area has a history stretching back over 1000 years, recorded as Kynes byrig in 1046 when the local manor was granted to Westminster Abbey by Edward the Confessor. Kingsbury grew hugely in the 1920s and 1930s thanks to the aircraft industry, the British Empire exhibition and the coming of the railway. John Logie Baird carried out the first combined sight and sound television transmission in 1930, live from from the stable block at Kingsbury Manor.


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