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