A troubled but improving council-built estate and its vicinity, situated north-west of Harlesden
The estate’s name derives from the stone bridge of 1745 that carried the Harrow Road over the River Brent. Until very late in the 19th century this was the site of Stonebridge Farm and of Willesden’s first sewage works but it was then rapidly built over, although some earlier large houses survived for a while. After the First World War Willesden council built houses west of Brentfield Road as part of its response to Lloyd George’s call for ‘homes for heroes’.
During the 1950s the council planned a massive redevelopment covering almost 100 acres of Stonebridge. More than 2,000 units were built, mostly in high-rise blocks, the first of which opened in 1967. Many existing streets were erased, together with the shops on Hillside. Despite the council’s good intentions, the Stonebridge estate soon proved flawed in its design and execution, and residents felt that little interest was shown in their welfare. The body of elderly tenant John Sheppard was discovered in 1993 after he had lain dead in his flat for three years.
The Stonebridge Housing Action Trust took over management of the estate in 1994 and has done its best to make improvements, replacing some of the blocks with less austere terraced housing as part of a multi-million pound effort to enhance the quality of life here.
The Fawood Children’s Centre opened in 2005. Designed by Will Alsop, it is one of the most striking buildings of its kind in London.
A number of refugee families have been placed on the Stonebridge estate, many from sub-Saharan Africa. Stonebridge has the second highest proportion of black and black British residents of any ward in London, after Peckham.
Stonebridge provided the setting for the Channel 4-backed film Babymother (1998), a largely affirmative black musical by Julian Henriques with a cast of local people.
Postal district: NW10
Population: 16,903 (2011 census)
Further reading: MC Barrès-Baker, Stonebridge, Grange Museum of Community History and Brent Archive, 2001
William Hogarth’s ‘little country box by the Thames’ in Chiswick is now a museum and gallery.
Camley Street Natural Park is a miniature ecological wilderness just north of St Pancras station.
Junction Road has a gastropub that was restored in 2010 with help from English Heritage.
You can’t go inside Debenham House but even from the street it’s a remarkable sight.