Abbey Road

Abbey Road, Westminster/Camden

A musically famous street with contrasting social characteristics in its northern (Kilburn) and southern (St John’s Wood) halves

Abbey Road sign and grafitti

Abbey Road was cre­at­ed in 1829 from an exist­ing farm track called Abbey Lane as part of the devel­op­ment of St John’s Wood. Its name derived from the near­by pres­ence of Kil­burn Pri­o­ry.

In the 1840s devel­op­ers put up taste­ful vil­las in a vari­ety of Goth­ic-influ­enced styles, many of which sur­vive today. After 1851 slight­ly less exclu­sive prop­er­ties were built on the west side of the local­i­ty and the entire area was vir­tu­al­ly gap­less with a cou­ple of decades.

St Mary’s church and St John’s Wood syn­a­gogue were built on Abbey Road to serve the area’s two main reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties. The south­ern part of the road and its hin­ter­land gen­er­al­ly main­tained their high social sta­tus but towards Kil­burn prop­er­ties were sub­di­vid­ed and some suf­fered from neglect.

Terraced residences on Abbey Road opposite the junction with Abbey Gardens, seen just before sunset in winter
Ter­raced hous­es on Abbey Road oppo­site the junc­tion with Abbey Gar­dens

Wartime bomb dam­age exac­er­bat­ed the decline and the local and coun­ty coun­cils cleared a large area in the north-west and built the high-rise Abbey Road estate in the ear­ly 1960s. Lat­er in the decade the Greater Lon­don Coun­cil built the Ainsworth estate to the east of the road.

Fol­low­ing a schism with­in British Jew­ry, the New Lon­don syn­a­gogue was found­ed in 1964, at first hold­ing ser­vices in Laud­erdale Road, Mai­da Vale. All four mem­bers of the Bea­t­les attend­ed a memo­r­i­al ser­vice here for their man­ag­er Bri­an Epstein in 1967. The syn­a­gogue relo­cat­ed to Abbey Road in 1970.

The Abbey Road ward, which cov­ers the south­ern part of the street and its neigh­bour­hood, has a rel­a­tive­ly high num­ber of res­i­dents aged over 75. Many homes are pri­vate­ly rent­ed and the num­ber of sin­gle-par­ent house­holds is very low.

Fifty-five per cent of 16- to 74-year-olds in Abbey Road are qual­i­fied to degree lev­el or above. Forty-five per cent of res­i­dents are Chris­t­ian and 16.4 per cent are Jew­ish.

Abbey Road is best known for its recording studios – and for the Beatles’ album that took its name from the address. The album’s iconic cover photograph shows the band members on a zebra crossing in Abbey Road. The crossing has since been relocated. Occasional public events are held at the studios, which are nowadays especially involved with film scores.

Postal districts: NW8 and NW6
Population: 11,250 (Westminster’s Abbey Road ward, 2011 census)
Further reading: Brian Southall et al, Abbey Road, Omnibus, 2002 (history of the recording studio)