Stonebridge

Stonebridge, Brent

A troubled but improving council-built estate and its vicinity, situated north-west of Harlesden


A tower block on the Stonebridge estate
A tower block on the Stone­bridge estate

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