Harlesden has long been living in the shadow of its gentrified neighbours, Queens Park and Kendal, but after heavy investment in the town center and the approved HS2 and Crossrail projects, Harslesden is on the cusp of becoming the Clapham of North West London.
Similar to Clapham, Harlesden is a vibrant, multicultural community with a fusion of European cafés sitting alongside traditional English and Irish pubs, Caribbean and Asian restaurants.
The redevelopment of Harlesden is attracting plenty of first time buyers to the area along with young professionals and because of its great housing stock the area is certainly one to watch. Brent council has invested £4 million in a regeneration project, endorsed by local resident Louis Theroux, aimed at making the town centre greener and more pedestrian friendly with wider pavements and tree planting, as well as restoring the landmark Victorian Jubilee Clock.
Harlesden offers a diverse mix of historic Edwardian and Victorian properties along with new build developments and modern flats. Many of the Edwardian and Victorian terraces have been converted into apartments and have managed to retain their original features and charm, but sell for a fraction of the price of nearby terraces in Queens Park or Notting Hill.
Around Roundwood Park there are properties constructed in the 1920s and some newer developments. Many families opt for these properties around St Mary´s Road and Harlesden Gardens. There are also semidetached houses from the 1930s nearby in Monk´s Park.
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Harlesden has an “outstanding” primary school, St Josephs, who received the title following their 2013 Ofsted inspection. A Catholic primary situated on Goodson road, 98% of its pupils achieved level 4 grades in their key stage 2 tests giving it an excellent reputation in the area.
Leopold is also a well-known school in the area and was deemed “good” in its last Ofsted inspection in 2011. It´s head teacher Mrs Audrey Kendall is highly regarded in the area and attracts pupils to the school. John Keble CofE, Kenmont and St Mary´s CofE in Garnet Road also achieved “good” ratings from Ofsted in 2013 and consistently score well in the key stage 2 tests. For those who wish to go private, Maple Walk in Crownhill road and The Welsh School in Shakespeare road are also options.
There is a wide selection of secondary schools to choose from in Harlesden. The Catholic single sex schools, the Convent of Jesus and Mary (girls) and Newman Catholic College (boys) both received “good” ratings from Ofsted. There is also Capital City Academy in Doyle Gardens which received a “good” rating in 2015 and is a specialist sports and arts academy. The Swaminarayan School in Brentfield Road is also Europe´s first independent Hindu school.
Old Oak Common has received the go-ahead for the construction of the terminal for the connection of HS2 and Crossrail. Once completed, the terminal will be a commuter hub giving Harlesden quick and easy connection to the North of England, Heathrow and the East of the country and also faster connections within the city to Clapham Junction, Stratford and Richmond. The Deputy Mayor for Planning, Sir Edward Lister, has said the development will “make Old Oak one of the best-connected parts of London and a key driver for economic prosperity”. Included in the development plans is the construction of 24,000 homes, a school, cafés and restaurants.
As mentioned, Harlesden town centre has recently undergone vast renovations which improved traffic flow, pedestrianized the central shopping streets, provided more outside seating and planted more trees. Harlesden is certainly stepping out of its neighbours shadows as it begins to realise its full potential.
Originally a Saxon settlement in a clearing named Herewulf´s Tun, it grew into an agricultural village throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. The advent of the railway in 1841 triggered Harlesden´s development which brought new villas to the village and led to the construction of a sewerage system in 1871. By the turn of the century the Edwardian properties had begun to spring up and the construction of the high street took place between 1905 and 1910 when several cinemas and the Willesden Hippodrome were opened.
Once the electrified London and North Western railway line was extended to Harlesden in 1912, many small firms moved their factories to the area and their workers followed. Large housing estates were constructed for the workers between Harlesden and Church End. In the sixties, large numbers of immigrants settled in Harlesden from the Caribbean and Indian regions which served to give Harlesden the cultural diversity it still enjoys today.
Many commuters are drawn to Harlesden for its strong transport connections. Harlesden has two underground stops on the Bakerloo Line at Harlesden and Willesden Junction which provides quick access to the West End in around 20 minutes. It also lies within Zone 3 of the overground network connecting Richmond, Stratford and Clapham Junction. Neasden and Dollis Hill Stations are also not too far away providing access to the Jubilee Line and there are buses which serve Central London and the City.
The cultural diversity of Harlesden is reflected in its assortment of restaurants and cafés. Caribbean highlights like One Stop takeaway on the High Street, with its legendary brown stew chicken, sit neatly alongside traditional independent bakeries like Paul Tregeser Ltd. For Portuguese cuisine, try Louis Theroux´s personal recommendation of Tamariz, a café on Manor Park Road. Beit el Zaytoun on Barretts Green Road is also highly regarded amongst locals for its Mediterranean, Lebanese inspired cuisine and the gourmet burger establishment Habanero´s is also an excellently priced option with burgers for all tastes and levels of spice.
Harlesden´s streets sport charming independent shops which cater perfectly for the community’s needs. While there are chain stores to be found on the high street, the real gems are found in the independent boutiques which are abundant in the area. O´Farrell´s butchers prides itself on its free-range meat and Deli Beira is a small delicatessen which sells products imported from Spain, Portugal and Brazil. For a taste of the unusual head to Willesden Salvage, a real den of treasures where you can find anything from vintage clocks to whole fireplaces and mysterious old trunks. Mahogany is the home of vibrant carnival costumes and has some spectacular designs to peruse. Family-run Sparks Bicycle Shop has been a fixture on Harlesden High Street since 1993 and received the award for Harlesden´s Top Shop in 2012 ans is also worth a visit for their passion and enthusiasm about bicycles.
As a focal point for reggae in the seventies, no tour of Harlesden´s independent shopping scene would be complete without a trip to The Hawkeye Record Shop in Craven Park Road. It is the last remaining independent record shop in the area, and is dripping with nostalgia. The shop has seen a revival in recent years and specializes in Reggae, Soul, RnB and Jazz.
At the center of Harlesden´s community is the Victorian listed Roundwood Park. With an aviary, a bowling green, and a local wildlife area, there are plenty of things to do. The café in the park is also a local favourite, often holding craft fairs and markets. There are also many local walking routes in the area which go along the Grand Union Canal. Additionally, Elmwood Lawn tennis club is based locally and in Donnington Road at Willesden Sports Center there is the local council run swimming pool.