With long-established Irish and Caribbean communities and newer arrivals from Brazil, Portugal and Somalia, the north-west London suburb of Harlesden is one of the most diverse in London.
A great fan of this cultural melting pot is broadcaster Louis Theroux, who settled in Harlesden 15 years ago and likes to bang the drum for his neighbourhood at every opportunity, whether celebrating improvements to the town centre or opening a new clinic at The Mayhew Animal Home in Trenmar Gardens.
Harlesden was the home of British reggae in the Sixties and Seventies and still thrums to the beat in Craven Park Road, where Hawkeye is the area’s last reggae record shop. On the side of the Methodist church hall in Tavistock Road is a plaque to The Cimarons, the first British roots reggae band, who came together in the hall and whose guitarist, Locksley Gichie, still lives locally. Now Harlesden stands on the edge of London’s largest regeneration project, Old Oak and Park Royal.
With its own development corporation, it is promising to build a new town on the site of an industrial wasteland currently crisscrossed by railway lines.
South of Harlesden town centre, a major new transport hub will open at the point where HS2 and Crossrail meet, making it one of London’s best-connected new neighbourhoods with as many as 25,500 new homes and 65,000 new jobs planned over the next 20 to 30 years.
First off the drawing board is Oaklands, a £750 million 605-home development in Old Oak Common Lane, a joint venture between housing association Genesis and Queens Park Rangers Football Club, which at one point earmarked the land for a new stadium. Some 40 per cent of the homes will be affordable with some shared ownership. The development breaks ground soon and it will be ready to move into in 2019.
Next up is Old Oak Park on a 47-acre site in Hythe Road with a frontage along the Grand Union Canal. A joint venture between Cargiant and London & Regional Properties, plans for 6,500 homes, including a 45-storey tower block, will go before the planners this time next year.
Harlesden is on the Harrow Road, the A404, between Kensal Green and Wembley with Willesden Green to the north and White City and Shepherd’s Bush to the south. Six miles north-west of central London, it attracts families who cannot afford a house in far pricier Queen’s Park and Kensal Green.
Harlesden has many roads of attractive three- and four-bedroom Victorian terrace houses, while in the roads off College Road and All Souls Avenue there are Twenties terraces and Thirties semis. Stonebridge Park, a large area of social housing west of the town centre, has gradually been rebuilt over the last 20 years, with Sixties tower blocks demolished and replaced with lower-rise houses and blocks of flats.
There are two new four-bedroom houses built in traditional style in Letchford Gardens. Prices start at £1,175,000. Through Camerons Stiff (020 8459 1133).
Help to Buy is available on some units at Honeywood Heights in Honeywood Road, a scheme of nine flats. Two-bedroom flats start at £548,000. Call Hamptons (020 3451 1544).
There is one remaining two-bedroom shared-ownership flat at award-winning Canal Quarter in Hillside at New Stonebridge Park, part of a £225 million regeneration of the Stonebridge Estate.
The price is £154,000 for a 40 per cent share of a flat with a market price of £385,000. Call Hyde New Homes on 0345 606 1221.
The rental market in Harlesden isn’t large, and it is predominantly made up of one- and two-bedroom flats in converted houses, with three times as many flats available to rent as there are houses.
There is a large supply of studio flats at The Stay Club in Nicoll Road which can be rented for the short or long term.
The Stay Club has three London developments that offer a student vibe with on-site cafés. The others are in Camden and Colindale.
For some, Harlesden is a staging post until they can afford to move out to the country or back to Queen’s Park or Kensal Green. But many — including TV’s Louis Theroux — come and decide they love the place.
Harlesden is in the large NW10 Willesden postcode that takes in Willesden, Kensal Green, Stonebridge, Old Oak Common and parts of North Acton, Neasden and Park Royal.
The Victorian terraces off Wrottesley Road are spacious. The Victorian houses overlooking Elmwood Green in All Souls Avenue, Holland Road and Buchanan Gardens are favoured, but most people here would say they live in Kensal Green.
Up and coming
The recently completed Hyde New Homes development, Spring, in Hillside, New Stonebridge Park, is an award winner.
Designed in brick by Cullinan Studio architects, second-hand units are beginning to come up for sale.
There’s a total of 117 homes including a mews, villas facing Hillside and a round tower block known as the rotunda.
Willesden Juction is the main station serving Harlesden town centre, with Bakerloo line Tube trains to central London and Overground trains to Richmond, Clapham Junction, Euston and Stratford via Highbury & Islington.
The station is in Zone 2/3 and an annual travelcard is £1,296. Harlesden and Stonebridge Park are also on the Bakerloo line and there are trains to Euston. The stations are in Zone 3 and an annual travelcard costs £1,520.
The most useful commuter bus is the No 18 which goes to Euston via Baker Street. The No 226 takes shoppers to Brent Cross.
Brent council is Labour-controlled. Band D council tax for the 2017/2018 year is £1,425.18.
Shops and restaurants
Harlesden’s shopping centre is along the High Street, Park Parade and Craven Park Road. Tesco is the main supermarket and there are branches of Argos and Iceland but most shops and restaurants are locally run independents, including many Brazilian and Caribbean restaurants.
The beer garden at the Grand Junction Arms in Acton Lane, overlooking the Grand Union Canal, is popular on sunny weekends. Rubio in Park Parade, which describes itself as serving “coffee, eats and beats”, has a wall of vinyl record covers and specialises in pizza. Also in Park Parade, Alma’s café has a Swedish-influenced menu, while textile conservationist Janie Lightfoot has a charming arty window display. Tche Tapas in Station Road is a smart Brazilian café and tapas restaurant.
Families on the eastern edge of Harlesden make for the enclave in College Road, Kensal Green, which has a yummy-mummy vibe with Gracelands Café, The Island pub, L’Angolo delicatessen and café and lifestyle store Verandah.
Roundwood Park, a listed Green Flag park in Harlesden Road, has a bowling green, an aviary and a very popular café.
Leisure and the arts
The nearest cinema is the Lexi in Chamberlayne Road and the local council swimming pool is at Willesden Sports Centre in Donnington Road. The Elmwood Lawn Tennis Club is in All Souls Avenue.
Harlesden has one state primary school rated “outstanding” by Ofsted — St Joseph’s RC in Goodson Road — while all the rest are “good”, and they are: John Keble CofE in Crownhill Road; Furness in Furness Road; Harlesden in Acton Lane; Kenmont in Valliere Road; Leopold, on two sites in Hawkshead Road and Brentfield Road; Donnington in Uffington Road; Stonebridge in Shakespeare Avenue and Our Lady of Lourdes RC in Wesley Road. Maple Walk (co-ed, ages four to 11) in Crownhill Road is a popular private primary school.
The two Catholic state comprehensive schools — the Convent of Jesus and Mary Language College (girls, ages 11 to 18), in Crownhill Road and Newman Catholic College (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Harlesden Road — are both judged “good” by the schools watchdog, as is Capital City Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Doyle Gardens, the first academy school, opened in 2000 in a Sir Norman Foster building and sponsored by advertising executive Sir Frank Lowe.
The College of North West London (co-ed, ages 14 plus) off Dudden Hill Lane, is the local further education college and is judged to be “good”. Bales College (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Harrow Road is a local private secondary school.